Stoke & Staffordshire

New rail track to increase capacity in Stafford area

A stretch of track could be built under a planned £400m scheme to improve rail journey times in the Stafford area.

Network Rail said it needed to separate the paths of fast and slow trains and proposed up to three miles of track in the Norton Bridge area as a fly-over.

Consultation is to be held into three potential routes.

The preferred route is due to be chosen next year and Network Rail said it was hoping work would start in 2014 and be finished in late 2016 or early 2017.

Trains from Birmingham and Manchester currently have to cross two fast lines of track to switch between the West Coast main line and the Stone branch.

Demand increasing

This has meant high-speed services between London and the North West cannot pass through Norton Bridge whilst Birmingham to Manchester trains switch tracks, Network Rail said.

It added separating the paths of fast and slow trains would create additional capacity and improve the performance of all train services through the area.

Demand for passenger services between London and Staffordshire, Liverpool and Manchester was expected to increase by up to 60% over the next 15 years, Network Rail said.

It added demand for freight services was expected to increase by 2% year on year over the next 20 years.

Dominic Baldwin, Network Rail senior project manager, said: "What we've got at Norton Bridge is the equivalent of a set of traffic lights in the middle of the M6.

"This project will remove that constraint."

Improved signalling has been proposed under the plans.

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