Walsall to Wolverhampton Line
|Walsall to Wolverhampton Line|
Diagram of the line (in green) in relation to the other railways in the area.
West Midlands (region)
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Walsall to Wolverhampton Line is a railway line in the West Midlands, England. It connects the town of Walsall to the city of Wolverhampton. The complete line does not currently have any regular scheduled passenger services: The line's local passenger service was withdrawn in 1965, it was restored in 1998, only to be withdrawn again in 2008. At present, the main use of the line is by freight trains, and it is also used as a diversionary route when engineering works are carried out on the West Coast Main Line.
Most of the present route was opened in 1837 as part of the original Grand Junction Railway (GJR), one of the first railway trunk routes. Built as a long distance trunk route, the original GJR line did not directly serve either Walsall or Wolverhampton, instead running around the outskirts of both of them. A station on the original line called Wolverhampton was opened at the edge of the town centre, this was later renamed Wednesfield Heath in 1855 after the centrally located Wolverhampton (High level) station on the Stour Valley Line was opened, Wednesfield Heath was then closed in 1873. A station called Walsall (also known as Bescot Bridge) was also opened, located some distance from the town, this station was closed in 1850, shortly after the present Walsall station opened on the South Staffordshire Line, it was reopened as Wood Green, in 1881 and then closed in 1941.
The GJR amalgamated with other railways to form the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) in 1846. The present line was completed in 1881, when the LNWR constructed two spurs from the GJR at Wolverhampton and Walsall. The Wolverhampton spur diverged south from the original line and linked to Wolverhampton (High Level) station. The spur at the Walsall end diverged north from the GJR and linked to the South Staffordshire Line at Pleck Junction, where it gave access to Walsall station. A station was opened on the Walsall spur called Pleck, this later closed in 1958.
The line's strategic use as a freight and diversionary route led to it being electrified with overhead wires in the 1960s, as an offshoot of the West Coast Main Line electrification, along with the connecting Walsall Line. However the local passenger service was withdrawn in 1965 as part of the Beeching Axe, and the line's remaining intermediate stations at Darlaston James Bridge and Willenhall were closed.
A passenger service was reintroduced 1998, however this was not a success and was withdrawn again in 2008. The service, which was funded by Centro and operated by Central Trains (later London Midland), operated hourly, and was reintroduced to the line on 24 May 1998. However, in 2005 the Strategic Rail Authority proposed the withdrawal of the service, citing low passenger numbers and a lack of rolling stock. Centro opposed this, and the service was given a temporary reprieve. There were also proposals to reopen the stations at Willenhall Bilston Street and Portobello to increase passenger numbers and the viability of the service. During the early-mid 2000s, the line was used as part of an hourly service between Walsall and Wellington. But these services were withdrawn in 2006 and the service was reduced to an hourly service between Walsall and Wolverhampton, with only one or two trains per day in each direction extending to Wellington in the early morning and late at night.
It was announced in July 2008 that the government was withdrawing funding for this service, and as a result the local service was mainly withdrawn as of December 2008. However the line remains open for freight trains, and the section between Wolverhampton and Darlaston Junction continues to be used by certain trains between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and will also be used as a diversionary route when the West Coast Main Line is closed for engineering works. Between 2008–2011 this section was also used by the now defunct Wrexham & Shropshire passenger services to London.
The full service was withdrawn on 13 December 2008, although there is still a 'Parliamentary train' – initially, one train per day ran directly from Walsall to Wolverhampton on weekdays, leaving Walsall at 19:36, but this was replaced in the 19 May 2013 timetable by a Saturdays-only train from Wolverhampton to Walsall leaving Wolverhampton at 06:38. Centro still have ambitions to reinstate the service and reopen stations at Willenhall Bilston Street and Portobello, but its plans have been put on hold until the next West Midlands franchise award is made in 2016-17.
A service calling at all stations via Birmingham New street now operates, taking over 1 hour, compared with 12 minutes for the direct service, and London Midland advise passengers to use the 529 bus service instead.
The West Midlands Combined Authority have announced their intention to restore a passenger service to the line using either conventional trains or tram-trains. Along with new stations at Willenhall and Darlaston James Bridge.
- Boynton, John (1996). Rails Around Walsall. Mid England Books. ISBN 0-9522248-3-6.
- "Walsall-Wolverhampton TRAINS". South Staffs Railway. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- "Fight to save under threat rail service". Walsall Observer. 2008-07-11. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- "Funding for rail service removed". BBC News. BBC. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- GB National Rail timetables December 2012, May 2013 & May 2016 Editions, Table 70
- "Plans to reopen rail line are put on hold"Express & Star news article 20 October 2012; Retrieved 24 May 2016
- "£4 billion of transport infrastructure over coming decade". West Midlands Combined Authority. Retrieved 23 July 2016.