Trains could be running directly between Walsall and Wolverhampton by 2021
Passenger trains could be running directly between Wolverhampton and Walsall by the end of 2021, mayor Andy Street has announced.
It comes as new images of Darlaston and Willenhall railway stations have been released, with the public asked to have their say on the plans.
Currently only freight trains run on the Wolverhampton to Walsall line. The line was open to passengers in 1998 but there was not enough patronage and the line was subsequently closed in 2008.
West Midlands Railway, which will run the trains, hope by having Darlaston and Willenhall stations open will increase the popularity of the line and make it financially viable.
Current aspirations are that the stops would form an extension of the current Birmingham New Street to Walsall line rather than a separate Wolverhampton to Walsall service.
Transport chiefs hope instead of the train turning around at Walsall and returning to Birmingham, it would carry onto Darlaston, Willenhall and then Wolverhampton, before heading back the same way.
And the plans have moved a step closer after new images released showing how the two stations could look, including a 300-space car park at Darlaston and 150 spaces at Willenhall. Other planned features of the two-platform stations include pick up/drop off areas, secure cycle storage and a footbridge between platforms.
The next steps involve getting the plans for the stations approved by Walsall Council's planning committee before construction gets underway and the line reopened.
Mayor Andy Street said: "Our current programme says that we will have trains running on this line with passengers on by December 2021, which is pretty quick in terms of a major development like this. The land has been purchased and there's lots of work going on behind the scenes with network rail about timetabling these services to make sure there's slots for the stations and existing services won't be disrupted.
"I am confident of no major hiccups but there are still things to do. The planning committee must have its view, obviously we've got to finalise the business case but if you ask me, do I think this will happen? Yes I do."
Asked about what the stations would bring to Walsall, the mayor added: "It is all about economic regeneration. Existing residents will be able to travel easily to Birmingham and Wolverhampton and the wider West Midlands. We also hope the direct links will act as a catalyst to bring new businesses here. It is all about regeneration. We hope the ease of commuting will see land values rise and developers will come in and build new homes. There are lots of plans for homes along the Wolverhampton to Walsall corridor."
Councillor Adrian Andrew, the deputy leader of Walsall Council, added: "This is fantastic news for the people of Darlaston and Willenhall who have been waiting to see passenger services resorted.
"Alongside the new station will be a 300 space car park which can play a major part in tackling the congestion on our streets and keeping the region moving."
Willenhall station would be sited next to the Bilston Street railway bridge close to the town centre, while Darlaston's would be sited on derelict land next to the Kendricks Road bridge.
A public consultation on the stations is being launched on Monday, with public drop-in events taking place across Walsall throughout March. Events, lasting most of the day, include Saddlers Shopping Centre on Monday March 18 and Darlaston Town Hall on Tuesday March 26.