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Lichfield MP “unconvinced” by Transport Secretary’s reassurances over future of West Coast Main Line

Lichfield’s MP says he is “unconvinced” by promises that West Coast Main Line services from the city will not be hit once HS2 is built.

A Virgin Trains service passing through Lichfield Trent Valley. Pic: Matt Buck

A Virgin Trains service passing through Lichfield Trent Valley. Pic: Matt Buck

His comments come after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling revealed that the high speed rail project would free up capacity on the existing route for freight.

Mr Grayling told the House of Commons that he could “see the potential for significant increases” in freight transport.

The city’s Conservative MP Michael Fabricant raised concerns over the potential to clog up the West Coast Main Line for passengers in areas without a HS2 station and mean no additional services would call at Lichfield Trent Valley.

But the Transport Secretary replied: “I think there will be room for both.

“The benefit of HS2 is that it provides an opportunity for more commuter trains, more intermediate trains and more services to places that do not currently receive them.

“By taking the fast trains off the West Coast Main Line – trains that go straight up to places such as Manchester and Liverpool – more opportunity is provided for better services in places such as Lichfield and the Trent valley, which the current mix of services makes it difficult to achieve.”

Michael Fabricant MP

But Mr Fabricant said he remained unconvinced by the future for Lichfield travellers.

He has since met with the Transport Secretary over the issue, but says he is still concerned over the future for passengers using Lichfield Trent Valley.

“I have now had a meeting with Chris Grayling and I have expressed my concern with his answer,” Mr Fabricant said. “I asked him what he meant by ‘intermediate trains’ and asked whether that means that Lichfield won’t have access to fast Pendolino services.

“Chris Grayling told me that by the time HS2 comes into operation, the Pendolinos may be too old and taken out of service.

“With Pendolinos offering an 75 minute service down to Euston, I do not want to see that service diminished by no replacement fast trains.

“Chris assured me that the services from Lichfield won’t be any worse after HS2 starts, but I am unconvinced.”

Mr Fabricant said the country couldn’t afford for the West Coast Main Line to be treated as a branch line.

“Although the completion of HS2 is many years off and, no doubt, there will be many Transport Secretaries between then and now, I shall be monitoring the situation very closely to ensure we have fast, tilting trains serving Lichfield after the Pendolinos are taken out of action,” he said.

“The present ‘intermediate’ trains take around 100 minutes to get down to London from Lichfield.

“I want to see more fast services to London and the north from Lichfield once line capacity becomes freed up after the opening of HS2 – not fewer services,

“And it won’t just be Lichfield affected if they don’t replace the Pendolinos. All stations along the West Coast Main Line will be affected if the Government starts to treat it as a branch line.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.