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Public consultation on strategic rail freight hub: a boost for the ‘Midlands Engine’

People are being urged to have their say on plans for a new state-of-the-art strategic rail freight interchange in South Staffordshire which could create more than 8,500 new jobs.
The strategic West Midlands Interchange is being proposed for a 297-hectare site at Four Ashes, near to Junction 12 of the M6 and adjacent to the West Coast Main Line.

A public consultation starts today, Wednesday 5 July and will run until Wednesday 30 August 2017.

The scheme, unveiled by Four Ashes Ltd last year, will help make freight distribution more cost effective and productive in the West Midlands and supports both the ‘Midlands Engine’ and the Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy, which together aim to help deliver a high-skilled, competitive economy that benefits people in the West Midlands and throughout the UK.

As well as helping attract more global business and investment, it will create more than 8,500 new direct jobs, boosting opportunities for people in South Staffordshire, the Black Country and other surrounding areas. It will also generate around £420m of local economic activity each year and, through the supply chain, create up to £1.35bn of economic activity nationally.

More than 300 people commented on initial plans for the interchange last year and their feedback has been taken into account in drawing up detailed plans. It is these plans that Four Ashes Ltd want people’s views on this time around.
The project team will be on hand to talk to people, explain the scheme and show them maps and plans at a series of public exhibitions starting next week. These are:

  • Tuesday 11 July: Calf Heath Village Hall, 3pm to 8pm
  • Wednesday 12 July: Brewood Jubilee Hall, 2pm to 7pm
  • Thursday 20 July: Haling Dene Centre, Penkridge, 3pm to 8pm
  • Friday 21 July: Calf Heath Village Hall, 2pm to 7pm
  • Saturday 22 July: Coven Memorial Hall, 10am to 2pm

To download a larger version please click here

Peter Frost of Four Ashes Ltd says that the views of the local community are essential to making sure the project delivers the best outcome for as many people as possible:

“Following our first round of consultation last year we have refined our plans. As well as creating community parks to give local people access to more green space, we are proposing a new through road that will be open to the public, and offers an alternative to the Gailey roundabout for traffic travelling between the A5 to the east and the A449 to the south. We are also inviting the local community to comment on the proposals for local job creation, training and enhancements to the canal area as part of the wider application.

“We believe the West Midlands Interchange could be truly transformative for the local economy as well as unlocking growth in the West Midlands as a whole.”

Due to a shortfall of rail-served warehousing, the North Black Country and South Staffordshire has been identified as an area in need of a strategic rail freight interchange by the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy Stage Two Study for a decade. Its role in boosting economic growth for the area is backed by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership. Access to the right road and rail links means the Four Ashes site is ideally located for a rail freight interchange in this part of the West Midlands.

From a national perspective, the West Midlands Interchange supports Government policy to create an expanded network of strategic rail freight interchanges. The policy aims to encourage more freight off motorways and trunk roads and onto rail, as rail freight distribution produces 70% less carbon and other noxious emissions than road freight.
The Four Ashes site is one of the few sites in the UK that can accommodate the transfer of larger freight containers between road and rail. This national significance means that the proposed West Midlands Interchange will need a special type of planning permission known as a Development Consent Order from the Secretary of State for Transport.

All the Stage 2 Consultation documents can be accessed here.