'Not in our back gardens': Anger over electric train depot plans in Wednesbury

Residents have vowed to fight plans for an electric train depot in Wednesbury, declaring: "Not in our back garden."

An artist's impression of the depot
An artist's impression of the depot

West Midlands Trains is proposing to build the site at Bescot Freight Yard, where separate plans for a sleeper factory were thrown out just weeks ago.

A public meeting was held at The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, where residents voiced concerns about noise pollution, lorries driving through residential areas and the depot’s close proximity to homes.

One man, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "If you bring the fight to us, like Network Rail did (over the sleeper factory), well, you can get all your consultants and experts, because we will fight you. Bring it on guys."

He added: "If the sleeper factory goes through as well, you will have a bigger fight on your hands."

Meanwhile a 59-year-old woman who wished only to be known as Julie, from the Woods Estate in Wednesbury, said: "Lorries would get access through our estate. We don't want it in our back gardens."

Another man said: "We don't want both plans. Would you want that (electric train depot) 50 metres from your house?"

Neil Bamford, the company's engineering director, who was hosting the meeting, replied: "No."

The depot would be used to house and maintain 81 new electric trains, which are currently on order by West Midlands Trains from Bombardier in Derby at a cost of £700 million.

It would be built closer to the Wednesbury end of the freight yard, across the M6 from The Banks's Stadium. About 100 permanent jobs would also be created to run the site.

At the meeting, it was revealed West Midlands Trains will make a planning application, regardless of whether an appeal will be made by Network Rail, over Sandwell Council's ruling on its sleeper factory.

The sleeper factory was rejected by planning bosses after a strong campaign by residents, who raised the same concerns as to the ones over the proposed depot now.

It could mean two new rail sites end up operating at the Bescot yard.

Although residents are opposed to the depot plans, West Midlands Trains argues it would have long-lasting benefits for the West Midlands region.

The new trains would boost the number of train services available to passengers from West Midlands Trains. Its services have suffered delays, cancellations and overcrowding, leading to strong criticism from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who threatened a takeover in December if services didn't improve, which they have since.

Mr Bamford told the meeting: "More carriages are needed. We have got to keep up with demand by putting more carriages on.

"It is embarrassing sometimes (the delays for passengers)."

A planning application has been earmarked for the end of this year with hopes the depot, if it gets green-lighted, will be built by 2023.

Meanwhile, Network Rail is still deciding over whether to appeal against Sandwell Council's ruling.

Residents at the meeting told the company's representatives that they would be less hostile towards the depot plans, if the proposed site was moved further up or down from the current proposed location, so it was further away from homes. Mr Bamford said those suggestions will be taken on board.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News