Plea to get Wolverhampton to Walsall rail link back on track
A rejuvenated plea for a direct train line between Walsall and Wolverhampton has been made by rail passengers.
The 12-minute link was reintroduced in 1998, but closed in 2008 after funding was withdrawn. Proposals to reopen stations at Willenhall Bilston Street and Portobello were also dropped.
Today, rail passengers wanting to get between Walsall and Wolverhampton have to go via Birmingham, taking more than an hour.
At a Government rail consultation held at Walsall Railway Station this week, passengers called for the rail link to be returned. The event attracted dozens of people.
Ray Butler, aged 71, from Wednesbury, said: "If you want to travel to Wolverhampton you have to go via Birmingham. There used to be a station right in Willenhall town centre too but that closed a number of years ago.
"I also think if they reopened the Darlaston line and put in a park and ride it would also take off. It would create a circular route and there would be a better connection for everyone."
The West Midlands rail franchise is currently operated by London Midland but a new deal is due to start in 2017.
It will happen in the same year an electrification project between Walsall and Rugeley Trent Valley is expected to be completed.
The project on 15 miles of railway will provide a cleaner` and more regular train service for passengers on the Chase Line. Trains will speed up from 45mph to 70mph.
Semi-retired Mike Ballinger, aged 64, from Aldridge, said he thought services had improved but also called for a more direct link between the two major Black Country destinations.
He said: "The service from Walsall to Birmingham has improved over the last few years and I think the electrification of the Chase Line will also help.
"But there is still the problem of having to go through Birmingham just to get into Wolverhampton.
"I've also heard rumours the Aldridge station could possibly reopen, and that closed in 1965.
"Over all the services have improved but it can still be very crowded during peak times.
"London Midland had a lot of staffing issues and that meant it struggled to give a decent service on occasion."
Representatives from West Midlands Rail, Department for Transport and Walsall Council were on hand to answer questions and provide information about the sorts of improvements that could be seen under the next franchise during the consultation, called 'have your say'.
The improvements include measures reduce delays and cancellations, tackle overcrowding and bringing in benefits such as free on board wi-fi.
John French, aged 77, and his wife, Ann, from Lee Road in Walsall, said if the direct service to Wolverhampton was reinstated trains should run twice an hour.
Mr French said: "If ever we go into Wolverhampton we get the bus but we'd much prefer to get the train. It used to be so quick."
The campaign for a direct line was struck a blow when last year, Walsall Council's deputy leader Councillor Adrian Andrew withdrew support for a Metro route from Walsall to Wolverhampton.
The proposed '5 Ws' line would take the trams from Wolverhampton, through Wednesfield, Willenhall, Walsall before reconnecting to the Birmingham line at Wednesbury.
But, while Centro funding has been made available for other transport schemes in the region over that period, the idea has never got off the ground.
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