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Five trains a day linking Wolverhampton, Walsall and London proposed as new operator submits plan

Five trains a day could soon be linking Shropshire, the Black Country and London if bosses of a planned new service get their way.

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The full application for Wrexham, Shropshire & Midlands Railway (WSMR) to start operating from as early as next year is due to be submitted today to regulators at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

If approved, it would reinstate Shropshire's direct link with the capital after it was announced last month that Avanti West Coast's daily train from Shrewsbury would be stopping in June.

After leaving Wrexham, WMSR trains would stop at Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Telford Central, Wolverhampton, Darlaston (once the station has opened), Walsall, Coleshill Parkway, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes on their way to London Euston. Five trains each way from Monday to Saturday are proposed, reducing to four on Sundays.

There had been calls for Wellington to be included, with a leading councillor calling the decision to skip the station "disappointing and short-sighted" after plans first emerged a few months ago. However, the station doesn't appear to have been included in the final application.

Darlaston station will be served once the station is built

WSMR will be run by Alstom, traditionally a train manufacturer that also has a depot in Wolverhampton where it services Avanti West Coast's Pendolino trains, and is now operating its first UK service, and advisors SLC Rail.

Bosses estimate a core catchment area of around 1.5 million people outside London, with the population expected to grow by 16 per cent over the next decade.

Ian Walters, managing director at SLC Rail, said: “From the Welsh borders to the Midlands, our routes will forge new connections, linking overlooked regions of England and Wales with direct services to and from London.

"Passengers will benefit from more competitive fares and new technology to simplify ticket purchasing for our new services. Delighting the customer will be at the forefront of what we do; we want WSMR passengers to experience a new excellence in customer service onboard our intercity trains."

An open access operator with no government subsidy, WSMR has said the service will "dramatically reduce" journey times between Shrewsbury and Walsall, as well as offering new direct links for multiple towns along the route.

After running from Wrexham to Wolverhampton via Shrewsbury and Telford, trains will avoid Birmingham by heading towards Walsall via a route currently used only by freight trains. From there they will go across to Nuneaton and down to London, in a route that will 'offer new travel options across the West Midlands, North Warwickshire and beyond'.

“These exciting proposals could see better connections for communities across North Wales and the Midlands, including direct services to London from Shrewsbury, Telford and Wrexham,” said Huw Merriman, rail minister.

He added: “Competition delivers choice for passengers and drives up standards, which is why we continue to work with industry to help make the most of open access rail.”

Bosses hope to start operating trains as early as next year with 50 jobs being created. Most of those will be in North Wales and the Midlands.

Nick Crossfield, managing director UK and Ireland at Alstom said: "As the country’s leading supplier of rolling stock and train services, it makes perfect sense that we now move into operating our own fleet to serve passengers directly. Having been part of the fabric of UK rail for two centuries, we’re excited to enter this new era as an open access operator.

"Alstom is also committed to embedding sustainability into every element of our organisation, and WSMR will help drive a modal shift from road to rail by offering a greener alternative for travellers across England and Wales.”

WSMR has said details about its train fleet, branding and service provision will be announced at a later date.

The Wrexham & Shropshire Railway ran from 2008 to 2011

If approved, it will be the most intensive service linking Shropshire and London since the similarly named Wrexham & Shropshire Railway service, which ran into Marylebone from 2008 to 2011.

Another open access operator, it also ran five trains a day Monday-Saturday and four on Sundays.

In 2014 Virgin West Coast, Avanti's predecessor, introduced a two-train service from Shrewsbury to Euston. This was reduced to one during the pandemic, running only on weekdays. This service will cease after June 2.

Last week, the ORR approved an application by Grand Union Trains to launch new services between London Euston and Stirling in central Scotland from June 2025, calling at stations such as Milton Keynes Central, Crewe and Preston.