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Costs to bring railway stations to Willenhall and Darlaston soar by £15m after delays

Costs of bringing two new railway stations to Walsall are set to rocket by £15 million with the project delayed by more than a year following the collapse of the original contractor.

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Work under way to build a new railway station in Willenhall. PIC: West Midlands Combined Authority

Hopes for bringing rail services to Willenhall and Darlaston for the first time in over 50 years were left in some doubt earlier this year when Buckingham Group collapsed and went into administration.

The scheme was saved when Kier Transportation bought Buckingham’s rail division and confirmed work on the two new stations could proceed.

But the suspension of work to the projects, and agreeing a new deal with Kier  has led to the need for a revised budget.

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) had already agreed an increased budget of £69.84 million back in June to cover pressures brought about by land remediation works and changes to fire safety requirements.

Now, the WMCA Board, which meets on Friday, will be asked to approve an increase of up to £15.43 million to the overall budget.

A report to members also states that both stations are likely to be opened in winter 2025/2026 rather than summer next year as previously hoped.

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) said the increased costs will be accommodated through additional funding it has received and added they remain committed to delivering the project.

The scheme aims to link Walsall and Wolverhampton directly by passenger train for the first time in more than half a century.

Two trains per hour will call at the new stations, including an hourly service between Walsall and Wolverhampton, and an hourly service between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton.

The report to Board said: “The schedule impact of the administration of (Buckingham) and novation to Kier means that the new stations are likely to be operational in winter 2025 / 2026.

“This is currently subject to a full assurance exercise however this forecast date is based on an initial contractual programme submission from Kier.

“Programme mitigations are under investigation to understand how this date can be bettered.

“The cost impact of the novation and programme prolongation result in additional cost pressure with anticipated project costs to further increase to a total ranging from £81.27m to £85.27m, £11.43m to £15.43m over and above the pressure notified in June.”

A TfWM spokesperson said: “Following the collapse into administration of the previous building contractor work on Willenhall and Darlaston Stations was temporarily suspended for several months.

“TfWM moved swiftly to appoint the new contractor, Kier. As a result construction work has already resumed.

“The opportunity was also undertaken to carry out a full a review, looking at the scope of the project and the extensive ground remediation works required.

“This downtime and subsequent remobilisation has had a significant impact on the projected timescales and costs.

“However we will continue to work with our partners to seek opportunities to accelerate the delivery of Willenhall and Darlaston.

“The opening of new stations and restoring passenger rail services to Darlaston and Willenhall will be transformative for the area for generations to come  – better connecting residents with direct links to Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

“It will also attract investment and assist in regenerating this part of the Black Country. That is why, despite the recent difficulties, the WMCA and partners remain committed to delivery of these two stations at the earliest opportunity.

“The WMCA is able to accommodate the cost increases as a result of receiving more than £1 billion infrastructure funding through the current round of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, as well as been allocated further significant funding for the second round.”