First passenger train travels on newly-electrified Chase Line
The first passenger train has travelled between Walsall and Rugeley on the newly-electrified Chase Line.
As a result of the six-year project, faster Chase Line trains will soon run locally every half an hour and be more environmentally friendly than before.
The project, which has cost more than £200 million according to Network Rail project sponsor Martin Tiller, will also lead to trains travelling direct between Walsall and London for the first time.
The first train travelled from Walsall to Rugeley and back again today with politicians and rail executives onboard but the electrified line will not be available for the public for another nine days.
After the service a plaque was unveiled at Walsall's station by Rial Minister Andrew Jones with Valerie Vaz, MP for Walsall South, and Amanda Milling, MP for Cannock Chase.
The electric trains will be start running when a new passenger timetable comes into force on May 19.
6,000 more seats
Andrew Jones MP said there will be an extra 6,000 more seats every day on the line between Walsall and Rugeley and that journey times between the two stations would be reduced by six minutes.
He said: "It's exciting because it's a proper landmark for this line.
"Passengers will be able to commute with significantly more comfortable, shorter journey times.
"It should be seen as part of a big project, the Government is spending £48m in five years on the trains.
"We're going to see more success right across the country, more seats and more services."
The scheme involved erecting overhead wires on 51km of track and completely reconstructing six bridges on the line, which runs between Rugeley, Hednesford, Cannock and Walsall.
The more efficient service is expected to create 1,600 new jobs while also freeing up diesel trains to operate elsewhere, Network Rail said.
Station platforms have also been extended to accommodate the new longer trains, which will be able to run faster along the line than before.
Amanda Milling, MP for Cannock Chase, added: "This is a really really big day, after years of campaigning to get the investment in the line, but also making sure it was delivered.
"It's going to make such a huge difference for my constituents.
"It's now a half hourly service with more capacity, and they're very comfortable – I can guarantee."
Rail Minister Andrew Jones joined Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, the managing director of West Midlands Trains, Malcolm Holmes, the executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive and director of rail at Transport for West Midlands and Martin Tiller from Network Rail at the event launch today.