China Railway Group has confirmed interest in a scheme to reopen a line in the West Midlands that would provide new and important links to other transport infrastructure in the region, including HS2 and Birmingham Airport.
News of the Chinese interest — which includes designing, building and financing the project — is disclosed in the January edition of Railnews, the national newspaper for Britain’s rail industry.
The project attracting Chinese interest is the proposal, put forward six months ago, to restore the 11.7 kilometres (7.3 miles) Stonebridge Railway, together with a link to the planned HS2 Birmingham Interchange station and people mover connections to Birmingham Airport, the existing Birmingham International Station and the National Exhibition Centre.
The scheme – put forward last June by Railnews editorial director Alan Marshall and specialist quantity surveyor and construction economist Michael Byng — would restore a route originally opened in 1839 between Hampton-in-Arden, near Solihull, and Whitacre Junction, in North Warwickshire, but closed in the 1930s. It would cost an estimated £240m, or £280m with full electrification.
The idea has attracted considerable interest from businesses and local authorities in surrounding areas, including Coventry, the Black Country, Leicestershire and Staffordshire.
Part of this plan aims to improve access to Birmingham Airport, where a major runway extension is nearing completion to enable the largest aircraft with full payloads to operate directly to destinations such as major cities in China.
The proposed Whitacre Link would enable many more direct journeys to be made by rail – and in less time – from such places as Leicester, Nuneaton, Derby, Burton-on-Trent, Tamworth, Walsall and Sutton Coldfield.
The Whitacre Link proposal has also gained the interest of Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, who has asked for a business plan to be brought forward.