No cash for long-awaited Wolverhampton station rebuild
A new deal for Virgin Trains to carry on running the busiest rail line in the country has come under fire after the company confirmed the franchise did not include any funding to rebuild Wolverhampton's run down rail station.
The company confirmed it would carry on running the West Coast Main Line until March 2017 and promised 'significant improvements' including more seats and free wi-fi internet access.
But MPs and councillors had been pushing for the Government to make re-building Wolverhampton rail station part of the franchise obligation.
Tory transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin previously told the Express & Star he thought the station looked 'awful' but no deal has yet been done to rebuild it or make a long-awaited £111 million revamp and investment scheme happen.
Ken Gibbs, spokesman for Virgin Trains, said: "Plans for Wolverhampton station are outside the scope of the franchise deal that was announced last week.
"There is a larger interchange scheme involving tram extensions and mixed use development which is being worked up by Centro and Wolverhampton City Council, with the involvement of Network Rail and Virgin Trains."
Work on a £15m extension is set to start next year in Wolverhampton, which will see new tracks laid at the junction of Bilston Street and Piper's Row, close to Wolverhampton Crown Court. However, trams will not be able to go from St George's to the bus station.
Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East, said the Government must act.
She said: "Patrick McLoughlin, on a visit to Wolverhampton, described our train station as 'awful' but he is not willing to put his money where his mouth is.
"The government has failed to even mention the station in the new franchise agreement and for the time being has not been open to bids and initiatives of Wolverhampton City Council and other organisations such as Centro to rebuild the station.
"I will ask the transport secretary why hasn't the government required Virgin Trains to deliver a rebuilt train station as part of the new franchise and why does the government think that the people of Wolverhampton should have to put up a station that Patrick McLoughlin thinks is awful.
"I will also stress that rebuilding Wolverhampton train station is vital to the economic future of our city and its continued regeneration."
Mark Langford, spokesman for transport authority Centro, said it was still hoped that work could begin on a new rail station next year.
He said: "The redevelopment of Wolverhampton station forms part of the wider Wolverhampton Interchange project to regenerate the eastern side of the city centre.
"The railway station is a key part of the project which will see a new concourse and passenger facilities fit for the 21st century. Dialogue continues with the Department for Transport and other railway industry bodies as to the exact detail of the schemes funding and delivery. Centro and its partners remain committed to delivering the project at the earliest opportunity, with initial works proposed to commence in 2015 and being delivered in phases in subsequent years to keep the station operational throughout.
"When complete the Interchange project will represent more than £111 million of investment, deliver 35,000 sq m of commercial floor space and leisure facilities, a new station building, extended car parking, Midland Metro extension and create in excess of 1,500 jobs."
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