Alstom Plans Open Access Rail Service in England and Wales

Alstom and SLC Rail have partnered to deliver a new open access rail service between North Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and London.

This service will be known as Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway (WSMR).

It will provide new direct connections to and from North Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and London, with an envisioned five trains per day in each direction Monday to Saturday and four on Sundays.

Trains will stop at Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Telford Central, Wolverhampton, Darlaston, Walsall, Coleshill Parkway, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes between Wrexham General and London Euston. This will mean that Telford will no longer be the largest settlement in the UK without a direct rail service to London.

WSMR Route Map
The WSMR Route Map

With these new connections, WSMR is estimated to serve a core catchment area of around 1.5 million people outside London.

Huw Merriman, Rail Minister 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.”

A formal application to launch this service is being submitted to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) today, with plans to commence passenger service from 2025.

In the West Midlands, the WSMR trains would avoid Birmingham, which is one of the most congested parts of the British rail network. Instead, it would use the Sutton Park line, which is currently only used for freight services.

This alternative allows for direct connections from Wolverhampton and Walsall to Nuneaton for the first time.

Ian Walters, Managing Director at Midlands-based 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.”

Through open access operations, WSMR will be wholly commercial and will not receive financial support from the government’s franchised rail operations.

Details regarding WSMR’s fleet, brand and services will be announced at a later date.

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.”

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