Midlands Connect has released its ‘Marches Road and Rail blueprint’ at a virtual conference, with the aim of unlocking the full economic potential of the Marches and Mid and West Wales. The proposals include upgrades for the rail network in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, and counties in Mid and West Wales. The plans have been created in collaboration with the Welsh Government and prioritise road improvements in the region.
The Marches Transport Summit, held today, saw the release of the blueprint, outlining a series of plans to enhance the transport network across the region.
For the Chester to Shrewsbury rail line, Midlands Connect has proposed securing faster and more frequent trains, with greater direct connectivity between Telford and Chester. Additionally, the body is reviewing the accessibility of train stations to eliminate barriers to their usage for the “first and last mile” of a journey.
Regarding the Welsh Marches rail line, Midlands Connect is aiming to cut journey times from Hereford to Cardiff to under 60 minutes, as well as cross-border integration of the bus network. This would give residents in Herefordshire easier access to rail at Abergavenny, which is closer than Hereford, and provide direct rail access to rural communities along the Herefordshire/Monmouthshire border.
For the Heart of Wales line, Midlands Connect is proposing faster and more frequent trains, with a focus on enhancing the interchange at Shrewsbury. The body also plans to integrate bus and rail services for rural communities along the line.
On the Cambrian line, Midlands Connect aims to cut journey times and maintain direct services to Birmingham, optimising connections at Shrewsbury. The body is also recommending government support for upgrades on the Birmingham – Black Country – Shrewsbury rail line, with a focus on speeding up the line to 90 mph from Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton.
Midlands Connect is also proposing road upgrades for the A5, with the aim of improving local safety and enhancing its longer-distance role in connecting England to Holyhead and beyond. The body is also pushing for the delivery of the Pant – Llanymynech bypass and the A49 corridor, which is crucial for moving people and freight in and out of Wales.
Maria Machancoses, CEO of Midlands Connect, said: “This document outlines a series of road and rail projects that we believe could unlock the full economic potential of the Marches and Mid and West Wales.” The blueprint will be taken to government for funding, specifically for the rail schemes, in conjunction with the Welsh Government.
Commenting on the proposals, Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire, said: “Communities across the Midlands and Wales are being held back by a lack of public transport, particularly in rural areas like North Shropshire. It’s vital that rail and bus routes are expanded, integrated, and made accessible.”
Sonia Roberts, chair of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, welcomed the proposals, stating: “An efficient, effective, and reliable transport network is essential if the Marches is to fully realise its potential.”
Midlands Connect’s ‘Marches Road and Rail blueprint’ marks a significant step forward in enhancing the transport network of the Marches and Mid and West Wales, providing residents with improved connectivity and accessibility to services and jobs. The proposals will be presented to government for funding, and with government support, the full economic potential of the region could be realised