SLC Rail is working in partnership with Alstom, global leader in smart and sustainable mobility, on plans to operate a new passenger rail service across England and Wales. The open access operation will be known as Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway (WSMR).

WSMR is seeking to introduce direct connectivity to and from North Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and London that doesn’t exist today, linking growing communities and businesses, and making rail travel more convenient, enjoyable and affordable.

WSMR offers passengers in Wrexham, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Walsall and Coleshill a direct link with the capital, alongside Darlaston once its new station opens. Meanwhile, journey times between Shrewsbury and Walsall will be dramatically reduced from the current alternative.

“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.”

Sarah Atherton, MP for Wrexham said:

“I am excited that plans are progressing to deliver rail services that will improve Wrexham’s connectivity to the Midlands and London. Wrexham deserves better than the current rail options from Transport for Wales and Avanti. These services would mean choice for customers and a boost for our city’s economy – more investment, tourists, and jobs.

“As one of the UK’s newest ‘Investment Zones’, bolstering connectivity both to and from Wrexham will enable our city to take full advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead, and these plans will undoubtedly help in facilitating that. I am pleased to be working with Wrexham, Shropshire, and Midlands Railway and partners to make this happen.”

It is anticipated that WSMR services could begin as early as 2025 and it is expected the new operation will create around 50 new jobs, with roles mostly based in North Wales and the Midlands.

“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,” said Nick Crossfield, Managing Director UK and Ireland at Alstom.

He added: “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.”

The proposal envisages a service of five trains per day in each direction Monday to Saturday, with four travelling both ways on Sundays. Trains will stop at Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Telford Central, Wolverhampton, Darlaston, Walsall, Coleshill Parkway, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes on their journey between Wrexham General and London Euston.

WSMR estimates it would serve a core catchment area of around 1.5 million people outside London, a population which is set to grow by 16 per cent over the next decade.

“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,” said Ian Walters, Managing Director at Midlands-based SLC Rail.

He added: “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!”

In the West Midlands, WSMR trains will avoid Birmingham – one of the most complex and congested parts of the British rail network – by utilising the Sutton Park line, which is currently only used for freight services. This would enable Wolverhampton and Walsall to serve Nuneaton directly for the first time, offering new travel options across the West Midlands, North Warwickshire and beyond.

As an open access operator, WSMR is a wholly commercial operation, which remains separate from the Government’s franchised rail operations. WSMR will submit a formal application to add its services to the UK network to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) on Thursday 14 March. Details regarding WSMR’s fleet, brand and service provision will be announced at a later date.

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