Plans to bring rail services back to Darlaston and Willenhall after an absence of more than half a century have taken a major step forward.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street announced today (Tuesday August 14) that seven acres of land in Cemetery Road, Darlaston had been secured – completing another piece of the land jigsaw required for the new station.
The land has been sold by property developers and investors St Francis Group to the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The new stations at Darlaston and nearby Willenhall are part of a wider £3.4 billion investment in new transport schemes to be delivered by the WMCA over the coming decade.
This includes new suburban rail lines and stations, extensions to the Midland Metro tram network, ‘Sprint’ bus rapid transit services, new cycle routes and motorway improvements.
The Mayor was joined by Cllr Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council and WMCA portfolio holder for land and housing and Gareth Williams, development director of St Francis Group, to announce the land deal on the site of the planned station at Bentley Point.
The Mayor said: “This is another important step towards restoring rail passenger services to a community which hasn’t had a station now for over half a century.
“With ambitious housing and investment taking place on brownfield sites across the Black Country, this is a vital piece of infrastructure which will make a huge difference.
“The work is currently underway to establish what we need to do to get the Wolverhampton to Walsall line usable for passenger services again and we expect an announcement about this soon.”
The original stations at Darlaston and Willenhall were closed in 1965 and were located on the Walsall to Wolverhampton rail line which saw regular, direct services withdrawn more than a decade ago.
But the WMCA’s recent Housing Deal with government will see a Land Fund of £100M to buy and clean up land, much of it focused on the Walsall to Wolverhampton corridor, delivering at least 8,000 new homes.
That regeneration, together with the new stations, is expected to generate the additional passenger demand to sustain the return of services to the rail line.
Cllr Bird said: “Improving transport access is vital to our ambitions for making Walsall a vibrant and commercially successful destination.
“This land acquisition is another important part in that overall plan.”
The two new stations are expected to cost around £18m in total and could be open by 2021.
A business case for the stations will need to be submitted to the WMCA board for approval but work has already been commissioned to look at possible future timetables for the line.
The aim is to start with an hourly service between Walsall and Wolverhampton and another hourly service between Birmingham and Wolverhampton calling at Tame Bridge, Darlsaston and Willenhall.
Gareth Williams added: “We are very pleased to have concluded this deal with the WMCA.
“Although we had plans to develop the site we were pleased to be able to assist in the delivery of such a key piece of infrastructure. We own other land in the area so the spin off benefit of a new rail station is obvious.
“We look forward to seeing how proposals for the new station progress alongside the continued regeneration of the area.”