Alstom unveils open access plan for Wrexham

Alstom has published proposals to run a new open access service between London, Shropshire and Wrexham, echoing the former Wrexham and Shropshire operation which closed in January 2011.

Alstom, which is one of the world’s major builders of rolling stock, has formed a partnership with SLC Rail and is submitting a formal application to the Office of Rail and Road today.

Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway services would start from Wrexham General and call at Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Telford Central, Wolverhampton, Darlaston, Walsall, Coleshill Parkway, Nuneaton, Milton Keynes Central and London Euston. The trains would avoid central Birmingham by using the freight line through Sutton Park between Wolverhampton and Water Orton.

If it went ahead, WSMR would be the second open access operator on the West Coast Main Line, because it is only a week since the ORR approved an application from Grand Union Trains to run four trains a day between London Euston and Stirling, starting next year.

The Government has made it clear that it is in favour of open access. Rail minister Huw Merriman said: ‘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. 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.’

Like Grand Union, WSMR could be launched next year. It is proposing to run five trains a day on Mondays to Saturdays, and four on Sundays. Alstom said the new company would serve a catchment area of about 1.5 million people outside London and employ about 50 people.

So far Alstom has not revealed what rolling stock could be used, but the Sutton Park route to Wolverhampton is not electrified, although that does not rule out bi-mode trains, which would also need to use a non-electric mode between Wolverhampton and Wrexham.

Alstom’s managing director for the UK and Ireland Nick Crossfield 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.’

SLC Rail managing director Ian Walters added: ‘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.

‘Our proposal will support sustainable housing growth, nurture communities, and unite business, leisure, and commerce along the corridor. This will enhance economies and bring a positive impact to both communities and the environment – and we can’t wait to get started.’

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