8,500 new jobs on way in £8m Staffordshire rail plan

Around 8,500 jobs will be created when a £8 million rail freight interchange is built in Staffordshire.

8,500 new jobs on way in £8m Staffordshire rail plan

Ambitious plans for the West Midlands Interchange have been revealed for the first time.

Under the plans, a rail freight interchange will be built on 618 acres of land west of Junction 12 of the M6.

The interchange will be built alongside warehouses and other associated developments.

Bosses from Four Ashes Limited say the scheme will create thousands of jobs, boosting manufacturing, logistics, freight and other areas of the region's economy, as well as reducing the number of HGVs on roads across the West Midlands.

It will also link directly to the West Coast Mainline, one of the country's principal freight routes.

The managing director of Four Ashes Limited, Peter Frost, said: "A strategic rail freight interchange is something that has been long identified as essential for the future prosperity of the West Midlands region.

"The region's strong logistics and manufacturing industries will need faster, more reliable transport links in future to attract global business and investment.

"The Government too, strongly encourages what is known as modal shift meaning the transport of goods from road to rail, to help reduce transport's carbon emissions and to provide economic benefits.

"It sees strategic rail projects like the proposed West Midlands Interchange as an important way to reduce the costs of moving freight and reduce HGV trips on the national and regional road network."

The proposed need for such a development was first mentioned in the West Midlands Regional Logistics Studies of 2005 and 2009, with bosses identifying Staffordshire and the Black Country as a 'priority location' for such a scheme.

Developers will be looking to gauge public opinion on proposals over the coming months with a view to submitted a complete plan next year.

Residents living across Staffordshire, Birmingham, parts of Warwickshire and near the northern M6 corridor will be consulted ahead of a full public consultation in the summer.

A second round of consultation will get under way next year after initial results are compiled.

Due to the project's scale, it qualifies as a nationally significant infrastructure project and will require a Development Consent Order, which needs approval from the Secretary of State for Transport.

A similar scheme for the East Midlands was approved by the Secretary earlier this year.

Bosses say that if plans for the West Midlands Interchange are approved, it could create between 6,500 and 8,500 new jobs.

Mr Frost continued: "This site has been identified because of its exceptional location with direct connections to the M6 and the West Coast Main Line.

"These factors, together with its size which is in the region of 250 hectares, make the site ideal for a strategic rail freight interchange.

"We are at the early stages of designing the scheme and are assessing layout options.

"Talking to the local community about the project to help us shape the proposals is very important to us and will therefore form a significant part of the design process."

The project will be led by Kilbride Holdings, a partner in Four Ashes Limited, which specialises in developing rail related infrastructure projects.

The company is working in partnership with privately owned international property group, Grosvenor Group, which is providing funding, and Piers Monckton, the majority landowner.

Guy Bates, Head of Freight Development, Network Rail said: "Network Rail recognises the importance of appropriately located intermodal terminal developments in achieving greater modal shift nationwide.

"To this end Network Rail is supportive of the West Midlands Interchange proposal and is engaged with the Four Ashes team in progressing the associated matters of rail infrastructure design." The ambitious plans are in line with Government policy to encourage the shift of goods from road to rail to help reduce carbon emissions and provide economic benefits.

Bosses believes a network of strategic rail freight interchanges across the UK will help realise its vision.

Rail freight produces 70 per cent less CO2 than road freight, up to 15 times less nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly 10 times less particulates, as well as de-congestion benefits.

This area was identified as one of the best locations in the West Midlands by developers due to being one of very few in the UK with the right road and rail access to allow larger containers to be moved on the rail network to the rail terminal.

It is also considered the best place for the West Midlands Interchange because it is close to a major rail route, and major trunk roads.

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