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Train Frequency: Birmingham-Telford

Volume 607: debated on Thursday 10 March 2016

5. What steps his Department is taking to increase the frequency of trains between Birmingham and Telford. (904020)

Telford serves more than 1 million passengers each year, and I was pleased to negotiate services with Virgin Trains in 2014 from Shrewsbury to London via Telford and Birmingham.

We are currently running a public consultation to help to specify the next west midlands franchise and will launch a public consultation on the new west coast franchise in June. I encourage my hon. Friend and her constituents to make their views known through that process.

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply, for which my constituents will be grateful. Telford is a rapidly growing new town that is 26 miles from Birmingham, yet it takes 51 minutes to get there. Will he continue to work with me to ensure that we have a 21st century rail system for Telford?

I most certainly will. I recognise the growing importance of connectivity between cities. My hon. Friend’s point about Telford and its relationship with Birmingham is important.

The Secretary of State knows Wolverhampton well because of his youth and his fighting a parliamentary seat there, so he will know that trains from Telford to Wolverhampton to Birmingham to London are far slower than trains from Stafford to London because of the bottleneck in the urban west midlands. When will the Government get around to quad-tracking the Coventry to Stafford corridor?

The hon. Gentleman is right that I know the area incredibly well, but we have seen major investment in the west midlands, including the re-establishment of the service from Shrewsbury via Telford, to which I referred in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Telford (Lucy Allan), which has been welcomed. He is right that there is always demand for extra investment, but that must be measured against the record investment that we are putting into our railways.

Cannock Chase, like Telford, is connected to Birmingham via a local line. It is a service that my right hon. Friend knows incredibly well. Unfortunately, users of the Chase line report multiple issues, such as late, overcrowded and cancelled trains. Will he confirm that the electrification project, which will mean that users will have a much better and frequent service, is on track for completion by the end of 2017?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. I was in her constituency just a few weeks ago and noticed that electrification work had already started on the line that runs through Hednesford to Cannock, not least at Stafford Lane and down by Brindley Heath where new bridges have been put up. I happen to know the area very well; it is where I grew up.