Delight as Willenhall and Darlaston railway stations plans approved

It’s full steam ahead for plans to reopen railway stations in two Walsall areas for the first time in more than 50 years.

An artist's impression of what the new Darlaston Railway Station will look like. PIC: West Midlands Rail Executive
An artist's impression of what the new Darlaston Railway Station will look like. PIC: West Midlands Rail Executive

Walsall Council’s planning committee has given the green light to applications by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) for new facilities in Willenhall and Darlaston.

The decision, taken at a meeting on Thursday, has been met with widespread delight, with hopes that it could help revitalise both areas.

Original stations in both Darlaston and Willenhall were shut in 1965 and the lines have only been used by through trains ever since.

The new Darlaston station will be constructed on the old A B Waste Management site in Cemetery Road and will feature a new station, two platforms, a footbridge, steps and a 300 space car park.

Willenhall’s new facility will see old industrial buildings in Bilston Street and Rose Hill demolished to make way for the station two platforms, footbridge and a 33 space car park was well as improved pedestrian crossing facilities in Bilston Street.

Walsall Council leader and committee chairman Mike Bird said: “It is a huge investment here by both the combined authority and the Government in Walsall – money allocated to actually bring back into the life the railway system that was unfortunately shelved back in the 1960s.

“It is a great time for Walsall, this is probably one of the biggest regeneration schemes we’ve seen to make people able to connect to the wider region.”

Labour group leader Aftab Nawaz added: “I welcome this. It’s really important for the economy in Walsall.

“Many people have dreamed about this happening over the years and have supported it. It is huge for the people of the town.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said said improving the transport links will boost industrial and housing developments in the area.

He said: “We are now looking to get work under way as soon as possible, and our search for a construction contractor has already begun.

Catalyst

“People have been waiting a long time to see services restored, and these better connections will be a catalyst for regeneration in this part of the Black Country.”

Earlier this year, bosses said two new hourly services would call at the stations once they have been opened

One will be a direct Walsall to Wolverhampton route while the other will be a Wolverhampton to Birmingham service, calling at the existing Tame Bridge Parkway station as well as Darlaston and Willenhall.

At the meeting, Darlaston ward councillors Angela Underhill and Walsall Mayor Paul Bott raised concerns about potential flooding issues but backed the plans.

Councillor Underhill said: “It is going to be hopefully a prime employment area so I think it is going to be absolutely brilliant for Darlaston and I’m really thrilled about it.

“I hope it is going to be looked after and be something for the people of Darlaston to be proud of.”

Adam Hicken, who represents Willenhall North, said: “This will put Willenhall and Darlaston back on the map, quite literally in the case of the railway network.

“This is going to boost opportunities for probably over 60,000 people.

“It will help people to find new jobs further away, be able to travel to work more quickly, boost income for local businesses and make our two towns more desirable for homebuyers and renters.”

For former Walsall Council leader Sean Coughlan, who sat on WMCA two years ago, this has been a long time coming.

The Willenhall South councillor said: “Our story goes back to 1998 when we convinced Centro to buy the land. So it has been a long journey.

“There was previous criticism about it being the wrong thing for Willenhall but it’s about the connectivity for people to jobs.

“I’m really pleased it has come to fruition. I still believe it is a massive plus for the area.

“It could potentially bring in new businesses and I think it gives us a real opportunity to reinvent Willenhall.”

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