Rail hub could create 8,500 jobs

Rail hub could create 8,500 jobs

Plans have been submitted for the creation of a major strategic rail freight interchange which could create around 8,500 jobs in the West Midlands.

The plans include a freight interchange with warehousing and other associated development that would be built on land west of Junction 12 of the M6 in southern Staffordshire.

The West Midlands Interchange would be linked directly to the West Coast Mainline, one of the country’s principal freight routes, and will be well placed to serve Birmingham, the northern M6 corridor, Staffordshire and parts of Warwickshire.

Four Ashes Ltd, the developer behind the West Midlands Interchange scheme, will be talking to nearby communities, residents, businesses and regional organisations to work up plans over the next year and a half.

The firm intends to develop a masterplan which will be the subject of a full public consultation this summer. This will help develop more detailed proposals for a second round of consultation next year.

Four Ashes managing director, Peter Frost, said: “A strategic rail freight interchange is something that has been long identified as essential for the future prosperity of the West Midlands region.

“The region’s strong logistics and manufacturing industries will need faster, more reliable transport links in future to attract global business and investment.

“The government too, strongly encourages what is known as modal shift meaning the transport of goods from road to rail, to help reduce transport’s carbon emissions and to provide economic benefits.

“It sees strategic rail projects like the proposed West Midlands Interchange as an important way to reduce the costs of moving freight and reduce HGV trips on the national and regional road network.”

Commenting on the project, Guy Bates, head of freight development at Network Rail said: “Network Rail recognises the importance of appropriately located intermodal terminal developments in achieving greater modal shift nationwide.

“To this end Network Rail is supportive of the West Midlands Interchange proposal and is engaged with the Four Ashes team in progressing the associated matters of rail infrastructure design.”

Frost added: “This site has been identified because of its exceptional location with direct connections to the M6 and the West Coast Main Line. 

"These factors, together with its size which is in the region of 250 hectares, make the site ideal for a strategic rail freight interchange.

“We are at the early stages of designing the scheme and are assessing layout options. Talking to the local community about the project to help us shape the proposals is very important to us and will therefore form a significant part of the design process.”

Due to the project’s scale, it qualifies as a nationally significant infrastructure project and will require a Development Consent Order, which needs approval from the Secretary of State for Transport.