- The West Midlands Interchange is a proposal for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) and in the region of 743,200 square metres (sq m) of warehousing and associated development.
- The proposed location is expected to total in the region of 290 hectares in size, either side of the West Coast Main Line, immediately west of M6 Junction 12 and south of the A5
- A Strategic Rail Freight Interchange is something that has long been identified as essential for the future prosperity of the West Midlands region as part of a national network
- The project promoter is Four Ashes Limited, led by Kilbride Holdings, a company specialising in rail infrastructure to serve business and industry. Kilbride Holdings has developed projects for Jaguar Land Rover in Halewood and Castle Bromwich. Kilbride Holdings is one of three partners in Four Ashes Limited, along with privately owned international property group Grosvenor Group and Piers Monckton.
Q. What is the project?
The promoter proposes to build a strategic rail freight interchange, warehousing and associated development. Subject to demand, the project could also provide premises for rail served manufacturing industry.
Q. What are the benefits of the project?
The project will boost the West Midlands economy by:
- Strengthening the logistics and freight industry and its supply chain
- Connecting key local markets with the ports and a national network of rail served distribution centres
- Unlocking wider commercial opportunities
- Encouraging inward investment to the region.
The project will create a broad range of well-paid and skilled new jobs across the West Midlands, as well as opportunities for lower skilled employment by:
- Creating up to 8,550 jobs in South Staffordshire
- Securing existing manufacturing, logistics and freight jobs in the region
- Generating additional jobs across a broad spectrum of business sectors
- Strengthening businesses and boosting prosperity in the region.
The project promotes regional sustainability by:
- Connecting national road and rail freight networks to Staffordshire and the north of Birmingham
- Making freight distribution more cost-effective and productive
- Removing thousands of HGV journeys from the M6 and the strategic road network, thereby saving carbon, easing congestion and increasing safety
- Improving resilience to meet 21st century market demands.
Q. Who is the promoter?
The project promoter is Four Ashes Limited, led by Kilbride Holdings, a company specialising in rail infrastructure to serve business and industry. Kilbride Holdings is one of three partners in Four Ashes Limited. The others are Grosvenor Group and Piers Monckton.
Q. Why is the project needed?
The Government has identified a compelling need for a national network of strategic rail freight interchanges in view of the benefits they bring to the economy and to the sustainable movement of goods.
SRFIs have long been identified as essential for the future prosperity of the West Midlands region and the UK as a whole but the West Midlands lags behind other regions in providing high quality facilities. The region’s roads are already heavily congested, the West Midlands’ strong manufacturing and logistics industrial base is growing, and there is a shortage of suitable quality development land for large scale rail-served logistics warehousing. Without fast, reliable transport links the region may not be able to take full advantage of the global business and investment opportunities predicted in the future.
Q. Why rail?
The Government’s vision is for the UK to have a transport system which drives economic growth and social development, and sees the transport of goods by rail freight as a good way to help meet environmental goals and improve quality of life. It is encouraging the shift of goods from road and aviation to rail to help reduce carbon emissions and provide economic benefits. Tonne for tonne, rail freight produces 70% less carbon dioxide (National Networks NPS, 2014) than road freight, up to 15 times less nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly 10 times less particulates, as well as de-congestion benefits.
Q. Why not just use existing rail terminals?
The forecast growth in rail freight, together with the need for sites large enough to accommodate continuous working arrangements and large structures – being not only locations for freight access to the railway but also locations for businesses to use the railway – means it is neither viable nor desirable to rely on existing rail freight interchanges, road based logistics or on a larger number of smaller rail freight interchanges.
Q. What will it mean for jobs?
As well as helping secure existing manufacturing, logistics and freight jobs in the region, the WMI will create thousands of skilled and varied jobs through the distribution chain and additional jobs across a broad spectrum of business sectors. If approved, the project could create up to 8,550 jobs about half of which will be skilled or semi-skilled. This will help boost prosperity in the region.
Salaries in the logistics industry are above the national average and rising faster than the national average. Companies in the logistics sector invest substantially in their workforce, often training individuals for engineering roles and offering apprenticeships.
Q. Where exactly is the site?
The site lies immediately west of Junction 12 of the M6 and south of the A5. It is in the region of 260 hectares. It is sited either side of a branch of the West Coast Main Line, which brings all the connectivity benefits of the main line but without the capacity constraints imposed by the greater train numbers and train speeds on the main line itself.
Q. Why have you chosen this site?
This area was identified as one of the best locations in the West Midlands for an SRFI as early as 2007. This site is one of very few in the UK with the right road and rail access to allow the bigger sized 9’ 6”containers to be moved on the rail network to the rail terminal and is considered the best place for the West Midlands Interchange because:
- It is close to a major rail route, major trunk roads and the business and consumer markets it needs to serve;
- It has the space needed for large structures, freight access and locations for businesses to develop; and,
- It meets specific pressing local needs for rail-served facilities and warehousing across the West Midlands, particularly Birmingham, the northern M6 corridor, Staffordshire and parts of Warwickshire.
Q. Have you looked at other sites for the project?
Before bringing forward these proposals, a thorough review of potential sites for a SRFI in the West Midlands was carried out. This review showed that the Four Ashes site was the most suitable location for a new SRFI serving the area.
- The need for a SRFI or a rail served logistics site in this area has been identified by the planning authorities for more than 10 years, but no suitable sites have been found;
- The particular need was identified by the authorities in South Staffordshire and the Black Country. The Black Country Local Plan has confirmed that there are no suitable sites there;
- The promoters of WMI investigated the potential of a wide range of sites before confirming their proposals for a location at Four Ashes;
- A further independent review of the decision by the project team reached the same conclusion;
- FAL is not aware of any other site which meets the requirement for a large-scale rail freight interchange to serve the West Midlands, the Black Country and the Staffordshire corridor;
- A draft Alternative Sites Assessment has been prepared for Stage 2 Consultation.
Q. When will you be talking to the community and other stakeholders?
Four Ashes Limited is keen to involve the wider community, local residents and businesses in shaping the plans as they evolve and has started contacting people about its plans already. The first stage of consultation was held in June and July 2016 and focused on our master plan options. The second stage of consultation will run from 5 July 2017 and 30 August 2017; more information about Stage 2 Consultation can be found here.
Q. Who will give permission for the project?
Due to its national significance, the West Midlands Interchange will require a specific type of planning permission known as a Development Consent Order or DCO from the Secretary of State for Transport.
There will be an extensive consultation process and once we have finalised our proposals, we will submit an application to the Planning Inspectorate. If they accept it, the Planning Inspectorate will carry out an examination of the DCO in which the public can participate. They then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who makes the final decision.
Q. What’s happening now?
Stage 2 Consultation will run from Wednesday 5 July 2017 to Wednesday 30 August 2017. We will consider all feedback received to consultation before finalising our proposals.
Q. What happens next?
We are carrying out Stage 2 (Statutory) Consultation on the detailed project proposals from 5 July 2017 to 30 August 2017. We then intend to submit an application for a Development Consent Order application to the Planning Inspectorate (PINs) around the end of 2017 or early 2018. Subject to the application being accepted, PINs would examine the proposals over a six-month period.
Following the examination, PINs will submit a report and recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport. The Secretary of State then has a further three months to decide whether to approve the application or not. As such, the earliest a decision on the project is likely to be made in 2019.
Q. When would the project be built?
The earliest a decision by the Secretary of State for Transport on whether the project has been approved is early 2019. Details of the potential construction and delivery timescales for the project will be provided during the next stage of public consultation.
Q. Who decides whether or not the project can go ahead?
The West Midlands Interchange Project is classified a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’, as defined by the Planning Act 2008. This classification means that neither South Staffordshire Council nor Staffordshire County Council determine the planning application for the project. Instead, an application for a ‘Development Consent Order’ will be made to the Planning Inspectorate and determined by the Secretary of State for Transport.
More information about National Infrastructure Planning can be found here.
Q. What does this mean for local roads?
The main road access to the West Midlands Interchange will be from a new junction on the A5, west of Junction 12 of the M6. This may involve some road improvement works to the area.
A second access road to the West Midlands Interchange will be from the A449, providing easy access to the M54 and Wolverhampton without using Gailey roundabout.
There will also be a third access point from Vicarage Road, primarily as an additional option for employees. There would be restrictions on vehicles travelling west to Station Drive.
Potential transport impacts on the local area and how such an impact can be reduced or removed is a key part of our proposals. You can read our draft Transport Assessment here.
An illustrative diagram showing the potential impact of the proposals on traffic flows can be found here.
Q. Will the existing road network be able to cope with additional traffic near the site?
Our initial traffic assessments are based on independent data from Highways England, who are consultees in the process.
Highways England’s current data shows that there is capacity in the trunk road network (major A roads and motorways) around the site.
We are still at an early stage in the development of our proposals. We will be conducting extensive traffic studies and we will need to satisfy both Highways England and Staffordshire County Council that the measures we propose will be adequate.
As part of our proposals, we do expect to commit to improving the local highways network to meet the extra demand from our proposals.
Q. What are the projected HGVs trips per day to the site?
Our draft Transport Assessment has been published as part of Stage 2 Consultation. Trip generation and distribution is covered in Chapter 6 of the report.
Q. Is this a done deal?
The application will be determined by the Secretary of State for Transport following a recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate. The Planning Inspectorate will consider all relevant matters regarding the project during the examination process, including evidence from interested parties, before making its recommendation.
We must demonstrate that the project is in line with the relevant National Policy Statement and that this site is uniquely suited for an SRFI in order to justify development on the Green Belt.