Plans have been unveiled for a new open-access rail service connecting North Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and London.

Rail stock manufacturer Alstom is partnering with rail advisor and project delivery firm SLC Rail with the goal of launching services under the Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway (WSMR) brand.

A formal application is being submitted to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) with plans to launch passenger services from next year.

Proposals call for a service of five trains per day in each direction Monday to Saturday, with four travelling both ways on Sundays. The service would depart Wrexham General, stopping at Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Telford Central, Wolverhampton, Darlaston, Walsall, Coleshill Parkway, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes before arriving into London Euston.

Alstom said that the service would avoid Birmingham – “one of the most complex and congested parts of the British rail network” – by utilising the Sutton Park line, which is currently only used for freight services.

The group said that this would enable Wolverhampton and Walsall to serve Nuneaton directly for the first time, “offering new travel options across the West Midlands, North Warwickshire and beyond”.

If successful the move will see Alstom operate its own rail service in the UK for the first time, under open access rules which fall outside of the government’s franchised rail operations.

Alstom said that “WSMR offers passengers in Wrexham, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Walsall and Coleshill a direct link with the capital, alongside Darlaston once its new station opens”, adding that “journey times between Shrewsbury and Walsall will be dramatically reduced from the current alternative”.

The group estimates it would serve a core catchment area of around 1.5 million people outside London, with this figure set to grow by 16 per cent over the next decade.

Avanti West Coast currently operates between Wrexham General and London Euston, calling at Chester, Crewe and Rugby.

Some readers will also recall open access operator Wrexham and Shropshire, which ran services between Wrexham and London Marylebone station between 2008 and 2011.

Fellow prospective open access rail operator Grand Union was granted permission to operate services between Carmarthen in southwest Wales and London Paddington in 2022.

The firm had originally planned to launch services in 2023, but its website currently states that “The planned start of 2025 is not currently achievable with the long lead times on new build trains, and Grand Union is exploring various options to deliver this important service as soon possible”.

Grand Union wants to boost rail links between South Wales and London

Grand Union was also recently granted permission by the ORR to operate services between Stirling and London.

Commenting on the news Nick Crossfield, Managing Director UK and Ireland at Alstom, said:

“As the country’s leading supplier of rolling stock and train services, it makes perfect sense that we now move into operating our own fleet to serve passengers directly. Having been part of the fabric of UK rail for two centuries, we’re excited to enter this new era as an open access operator.

“Alstom is also committed to embedding sustainability into every element of our organisation, and WSMR will help drive a modal shift from road to rail by offering a greener alternative for travellers across England and Wales.”