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Shropshire council leader supports plans for direct rail link to London

Wrexham Guildhall (Pic: Google Maps)

THE LEADER of Shropshire Council has written to the UK Transport secretary to add her backing for plans to reinstate the county’s direct rail link to London.

Councillor Lezley Picton has outlined her support for a plan by Wrexham, Shropshire & Midlands Railway (WSMR), backed by French firm Alstom, to operate a five-a-day rail service from Wrexham to London Euston.

The move comes following Avanti West Coast’s decision to withdraw its service linking Shrewsbury and Telford to the capital earlier this year, citing “very low” passenger numbers as the reason for scrapping the route.

The Shrewsbury service had been running since 2014, but is set to end in June.

“You will be aware that Avanti has recently cancelled Shropshire’s only direct train to London and this decision was met with great disappointment by businesses and residents across Shropshire,” she wrote in a letter to Mark Harper, the Secretary of State for Transport, on behalf of the Shropshire Economic Partnership.

“However, we were delighted that the Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway (WSMR) put forward plans last year to introduce a new daily train service between Wrexham and Euston, and Shropshire will benefit enormously from this new ‘open access’ train operator if it is successful in its application to the Office of Rail and Road.

“This service will link Shropshire to London, but in addition will also provide a service to the east of Birmingham, an area which is difficult to reach without several changes.”

She also described a new railway station in the east of Shrewsbury, a scheme outlined in the recent Shrewsbury transport strategy which is currently in consultation, as a “long held ambition” for the county – and confirmed the local authority was speaking to rail operators about the possibility .

“Shropshire Council is also in discussions with the operator regarding the possibility of a parkway station for Shrewsbury. This has been a long-held ambition not only for Shropshire Council but also for the West Midlands Combined Authority,” she added.

“These proposals, which have now been submitted to the ORR, will bring faster and more direct journey opportunities to our region. This is a must for Shropshire and our surrounding areas as to fully exploit our growth potential we need far better transport links.”

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WSMR submitted an application to Office of Rail and Road in March to commence the new service, and the company says it hopes to begin services in 2025.

WSMR is a new venture jointly backed by Alstom and rail consultancy firm SLC Rail, and it says the new service, if approved, could create up to 50 new jobs.

They say further details about rolling stock, brand and service provision will be announced at a later date.