Council calls for urgent action as railway closure sparks concern for residents and businesses

The Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Shaun Davies, is calling on the Department of Transport to take urgent action following a landslip on a railway embankment which has led to the closure of the only line linking Telford, Wellington and Oakengates to major destinations such as Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

Council calls for urgent action as railway closure sparks concern for residents and businesses

According to the latest update from Network Rail, the railway is expected to remain closed until the end of the day on Sunday 31 March. 


The closure has prompted urgent calls for accelerated repair efforts to minimize disruptions to commuters and businesses alike.


In response to the closure, Network Rail has implemented rail replacement services in the form of buses. However, residents have reported challenges with these replacement services, including issues with frequency, capacity, and travel time. 


Additionally, concerns have been raised regarding the lack of an 'express service' option to serve primary stations efficiently.


The situation with the replacement bus services was further exacerbated when one bus struck a low bridge in Albrighton in the initial days of operation. While there were no injuries reported, passengers are understandably alarmed and questioning the safety and viability of the replacement services.


Today, Monday, March 11, marked the first commuter test of the replacement services, which was met with numerous challenges. Residents reported significant delays, overcrowding, and inadequate provision for onward travel at Telford Central station.


Furthermore, residents have expressed difficulty in accessing up-to-date information regarding the situation and the latest travel updates. 


Council Leader, Shaun Davies (Labour) said: “Whilst I welcome the work taking place to fix the issue, residents and businesses from Telford and Wrekin need an effective alternative means of transport and regular communication from Network Rail so that travel options are clear. 


“People have been in touch with me to express their dismay at the impact of the closure. They are saying that the replacement bus service takes too long and cannot cope with the number of people who need to use it.


“This morning, residents told me that the replacement bus was 30 minutes late and almost full on arrival – leaving around 30 passengers at Telford Central with nowhere to go and no option for onward travel.


“This is completely unacceptable.


“I have written to the Transport Secretary to urge him to use all available resources to reopen the railway line at the very earliest opportunity. I have also detailed the need for urgent reconsideration of the replacement bus service to ensure it is fit for purpose and disruption to passengers is minimized.


“I look forward to prompt action and resolution of these issues to lighten the burden on residents and businesses who have quite literally been stopped in their tracks.”


The letter to the Secretary of State for Transport


The Rt Hon Mark Harper MP

Secretary of State for Transport

Department for Transport

Via email

mark.harper.mp@parliament.uk

dft@dft.gov.uk  


11 March 2024


Dear Secretary of State 



Failed railway embankment near Oakengates, Telford


I am sure you aware of the embankment failure near Telford that occurred on Friday 8 March. This failure has seen immediate closure of the only railway linking Telford, Wellington and Oakengates to Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and beyond.


The latest update from Network Rail confirms that the railway will be closed for at least two weeks with the possibility of it remaining closed until Monday 25 March. 


Whilst we welcome the work taking place to fix the issue, residents and businesses from Telford and Wrekin need an effective alternative means of transport and regular communication so that travel options are clear. 


As a result of the line closure, Network Rail is currently providing rail replacement services in the form of buses.  These hourly services operate in both directions between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton and call at all eight stations on the way – something that not all rail services do currently.  It would appear that little to no thought has been given on the frequency, capacity or travel time involved for these replacement services.  There is no option of an ‘express service’ serving primary stations much in the same way as the rail service does.  


It should be noted that in the first few days of the replacement bus service, one has struck a low bridge in Albrighton. Fortunately there were no injuries but those on the bus tell me of their shock and are left questioning how this can continue or indeed how it occurred.


Today, Monday 11 March, the first commuter test of the replacement services has been fraught with challenges.  This morning, residents tell me that the replacement bus was 30 minutes late, almost full on arrival and left around 30 passengers at Telford Central with nowhere to go or no option for onward travel.  


Residents are also finding it difficult to find up to date information on the situation and the latest travel information. As a council, we are ready to work with the Department and Network Rail to share updates with our residents and businesses. 


I urge the Department to use whatever powers and resource necessary to rectify the closure and reopen the line as soon as possible. Replacement services also need an urgent rethink so that they are fit for purpose and limit disruption to passengers.


I look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency. 



Yours sincerely






Cllr Shaun Davies

Leader- Telford & Wrekin Council

Councillor for Malinslee & Dawley Bank 

(Labour)

Chair of the Local Government Association

 








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