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Direct Black Country to London train services could be lost, top engineer warns

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Direct train services to London could be lost from the Black Country unless council bosses can prove they are needed, a top railway engineer has warned.

Andrew McNaughton, technical director of the proposed north-south high-speed train line HS2, said it was essential councils acted now to make the case why fast services to the capital from their towns should be kept.

It has been a major concern among opponents to HS2 that stations such as Wolverhampton and Dudley/Sandwell will lose their fast services to Euston because they will be replaced by high-speed service from Birmingham.

Mr McNaughton said the government has said towns should expect 'broadly similar services' to the ones they currently have when HS2 is set to be completed in 2026.

"It is not like playing Thomas the Tank Engine," said Mr McNaughton.

"You can't make promises now. The start of this process is long-term planning and the West Midlands needs to get involved now. The Midlands are good at this.

"Ultimately, Network Rail and the Department for Transport will decide but local government has a key role to play.

"They need to start making the case now. It is not 'yes sir I want trains to London every five minutes'. Those who want a provision need to be part of the planning process.

"Wolverhampton, Sandwell/Dudley, and Coventry, want to enjoy fast services to London.

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"And we are also very aware the growth around Rugby, Northampton and Milton Keynes - there is also a huge desire to have services to London.

"There is also a desire to have more freight run on the West Coast Main Line.

"It is about finding a middle way and there may be some trade-offs such as people in Lichfield may decide to go to Stafford because of its HS2 service."

HS2 will cost £50 billion and run from London to Manchester and Leeds, slashing journey times and increasing services between Britain's biggest cities.

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The Midlands will be served by a new station in central Birmingham at Curzon Street and a second near Birmingham Airport.

Stafford train station will also have high-speed trains serving the town via a spur onto the new line.

From Birmingham there would be three trains an hour to London, two to Leeds, two to Manchester, one to Newcastle and one to Edinburgh/Glasgow with the train splitting.

Toby Rackliff, the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority's rail policy and strategy manager, said: "The capacity released by HS2 offers a unique and exciting opportunity to re-shape the West Midlands rail network so it better serves local people and businesses.

"The Authority has identified a number of potential improvements including more services between the Black Country and London and between Wolverhampton/Walsall and Birmingham International and is already working closely with Network Rail, the Department for Transport and train operators on these proposals.

"This on-going work, which includes improved cross-regional connectivity, aims to create the network we need to achieve our future ambitions for economic growth and jobs."

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