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Huge support' for Midlands Connect rail upgrade plan in two polls

The Censuswide poll saw 91% of the 800 Black Country residents questioned back proposals to make trains faster, electrify the line and add new services. The plans, put forward by transport body Midlands Connect, involve speeding up journeys and allowing diesel-powered trains to be removed and replaced by electric ones, reducing carbon emissions.

Analysis by Midlands Connect suggests that upgrading the route could be worth £500 million to the economy and unlock an extra 2.4 million extra seats for passengers along the corridor each year.

Jane Stevenson, MP for Wolverhampton, MP for Wolverhampton North East said: "We need to make it easier and more attractive for people to leave their cars at home – this is what these improvements will do, creating more train seats and faster journeys for people travelling to and from Wolverhampton. This plan will benefit commuters, students and leisure travellers alike by opening up better links to local destinations such as Birmingham, Telford, the international airport and beyond. Public support for the scheme is huge, we must now work together to make it happen."

Midlands Connect says line speeds along the route would be increased to 90 miles per hour, reducing journey times from Shrewsbury to Birmingham from 56 to 45 minutes.

It maintains that once Phase One of HS2 from Birmingham to London is up and running - current estimates suggest this will be from 2029-2031 - trains on the route could also increase from three to four an hour, linking travellers in Wolverhampton to destinations including Dudley Port, Sandwell, Birmingham and London.

It is thought that line speed improvements could be implemented first to bring benefits to local travellers sooner, with the extra service added later once HS2 is up and running alongside electrification of the line. By using the space the new high-speed line will free up on the conventional network, the plan is to introduce a new, frequent and direct rail link from Shrewsbury, Telford and Wellington to London every hour.

Midlands Connect is currently completing a Strategic Outline Business Case for the route, due for completion by the end of 2021.

Maria Machancoses, CEO of Midlands Connect, said: "The people of Wolverhampton need fast, regular and green rail connections. These plans will make local connections quicker, while electrification of the line will make travelling by train an even more sustainable choice, allowing us to replace diesel trains with electric ones. We believe that good transport links have the power to level up communities by opening up access to job opportunities, further education, and cultural experiences. We know that securing rail improvements can be a complicated process, which is why we’re keen to maintain momentum for this scheme and develop the plans so they can be delivered as soon as possible.”

In a second poll, Shropshire residents have also thrown their weight behind the plan. Fresh survey details show nearly two thirds of people in the county see the Midlands Connect project as having potential for 'levelling up the county'.

The survey, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Midlands Connect, questioned more than 700 Shropshire residents. It measured attitudes towards plans to make trains faster, electrify the line and add new services. The results show 86% of those questioned said they were behind the scheme as a whole, two in three (66%) backed line speed improvements and 62% thought the proposed changes were an example of ‘levelling up’.

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