Stafford 'HS2 hub' set to slash journey times from Black Country to London
Stafford railway station will become a 'HS2 hub' linking Staffordshire and the Black Country to the super-fast network it was revealed today.
Sir David Higgins, chairman of the controversial high-speed rail project, confirmed a link connecting the county town with the £55.7 billion track will be built despite suggestions it would be axed under cost savings.
It will allow special hybrid trains to travel between Stafford and London at speeds up to 225mph, slashing the journey time to Euston to just 53 minutes.
But it is also being described as a 'gateway' to the Black Country with Wolverhampton only around 15 minutes away by a connecting train, knocking up to an hour off times to the capital.
Walsall and Shropshire were also deemed as winners from the scheme with plans also in the pipeline to electrify the line between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton and further proposals to extend that route directly to the new hub in Stafford.
Travellers in Dudley and Sandwell will also benefit.
From Sandwell & Dudley, Tipton and Coseley stations passengers will have two options – either get the train to Stafford to join HS2 there or get the train into Birmingham New Street and walk around 10 minutes to the HS2 station at Curzon Street.
Wolverhampton council leader Roger Lawrence, who is also the West Midlands' leading transport boss, said: "For the northern part of the Black Country this gives us a lot of opportunities.
"Rather than go into Birmingham and change stations, we will be able to jump on a short journey to Stafford and link up with high speed services and make substantial savings on journey times not just to Euston but also Birmingham Airport too."
Civic leaders today said HS2 would boost the Staffordshire economy and help create thousands of new jobs with new businesses looking to come to the county.
Sir David, who today launched a 56-page report into how HS2 will benefit Midlands and northern towns, said: "Two years ago, local leaders asked me to make sure that HS2 was fully integrated into the existing transport and local economies.
"It's an aspiration we've sought to realise, but even I underestimated how far that that principle would take us. Much of the early focus on HS2 has been on journey times to London.
"However, as my report and the work by Stafford and surrounding areas proves, it is the inter-regional benefits and early planning from councils and local authorities to harness these which will transform areas such as Staffordshire in the longer term."
It is currently planned for one high-speed train an hour to run from Stafford to London on the new network with 8,800 extra seats in each direction per day.
A junction will be built between the new line at Lichfield linking with the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre.
Staffordshire has been one of the most vocal opponents to HS2 with the line cutting a 45-mile diagonal swathe through the countryside from south of Lichfield to Stone.
It is also planned for the Black Country to keep direct train routes to London.
Both Staffordshire County Council and Stafford Borough Council have backed calls for the project to be scrapped but today welcomed the news Stafford would become a 'high-speed hub' station.
Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: "The Stafford stop is hugely important as it will not only benefit Stafford, but is the gateway to open up the economic benefits and opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of people living in Staffordshire, the Black Country, Shropshire and Stoke-on-Trent."
Patrick Farrington, leader, Stafford Borough Council, said: "We are having huge interest from developers and businesses alike who want to be a part of the exciting developments and changes happening in Stafford.
"The rate of growth across our borough is phenomenal and the message is out there that this is the place to invest in.
"We are perfectly placed to take full advantage of the introduction of HS2 as we are located in the centre of the country and will be less than an hour away from London, with great links to other major cities like Birmingham and Manchester."
The line from Stafford is planned to open in 2026.