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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Black Country railway stations back on track after contractor takeover

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The development of two new railway stations on the Walsall to Wolverhampton line can continue following a deal with a new contractor.

Ground preparation works on both the Willenhall and Darlaston railway station sites was paused last month after the main construction contractor Buckingham Group went into administration in August. Kier, a leading UK infrastructure services, construction and property group, has since acquired the Group’s rail contracts.

So Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), is leading the project, has reached agreement with Kier to continue the development – meaning work can now resume.

When complete the new stations will give the communities of Willenhall and Darlaston direct access to the rail network for the first time since the 1960s, offering services to Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

Access to convenient public transport is a crucial part of the region’s #WM2041 plan to achieve net zero over the next two decades. It will also act as a catalyst for investment, helping to unlock sites along the line for commercial, industrial and residential development.

An update on the project will be presented to the WMCA Board on Friday (13 October). The pause in work and refresh of the construction contract following the takeover means that both the budget and timescales for completion will be revised following a detailed review over the coming weeks and months.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “For Buckingham Group staff who were working on Willenhall and Darlaston stations, the last few weeks have understandably been a difficult time.

“That’s why it’s great news that we will see many of them back on site now that we have reached agreement with Kier. We wanted any pause or disruption in works to be kept to an absolute minimum and we worked closely with Kier to resolve this matter swiftly.

“Most importantly of all for residents right across our region, this means we can now get on with delivering these railway stations – providing the better transport connectivity that local people in Willenhall and Darlaston want to see.”

The project is being led by TfWM and the West Midlands Rail Executive in partnership with Walsall Council, West Midlands Railways, Network Rail and the Department for Transport.

Cllr Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council and WMCA portfolio holder for transport, said: “Although there have been a difficult few weeks on site we can now look ahead with renewed enthusiasm. This will not only offer local people easy access to the railways, it will make Willenhall and Darlaston more attractive to investors and businesses, creating regeneration opportunities and new jobs for locals.

“This is why it is vital we get back to work at the earliest opportunity.”

Joe Incutti, group managing director, Kier Transportation, added: “We’re pleased that the contract novation for the Willenhall and Darlaston station projects has been completed, following our acquisition of parts of the Buckingham Group. We can now remobilise the team and continue our work on this important project. 

“Connecting people is our common goal in Kier Transportation. We are therefore delighted to be working with West Midlands Combined Authority on this project, and to have the opportunity to build an enduring relationship with the authority to support its ambitions in the region.”

Two trains per hour will call at the new stations, an hourly service between Walsall and Wolverhampton and an hourly service between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton.

Image credit: WMCA

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