New Electric Train Depot Development

New and longer electric trains are being built. These trains need somewhere that’s big enough to keep them well maintained and clean, which is why we would like to build their home in Wednesbury at the former Bescot freight yard.

What is this all about?

New, longer electric trains are being built. These trains need a home that’s big enough to keep them nice and clean. We would like to build their home in Wednesbury at the former Bescot freight yard.

We want to make train services better by running more trains in the West Midlands and beyond. Travel by train is now more popular than ever and the demand continues to grow. New electric trains are being built to make transport services better.

These new trains are much longer and will increase the amount of space for passengers in the future. The new trains are quieter, faster, cleaner and are more kind to our environment. We are in the very early stages of plans for the development of a new depot that will house our brand-new electric train fleet.

No decisions have been made, this is the start of a process and we are beginning to prepare a planning application. All planning is subject to approval from Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council.

Where will this be built?

The proposed site is at the former Bescot freight yard in Wednesbury, which has been a rail site for almost 200 years and remains a strategic freight site, handling all the rail freight traffic around the West Midlands and accommodating the Traction Maintenance Depot (TMD).

This depot development is an essential part of our £1 billion investment programme, and the benefits of this change will make train services better by running more trains in the West Midlands and across the wider network.

The new depot will bring brand-new employment opportunities to the Sandwell area introducing around 100 permanent jobs to run the site. Positions will be at all levels such as engineers, technicians, cleaners and administrative staff.

Here is an artistic impression of what an aerial view could look like:​

Artistic impression of aerial view

We want to emphasise that at this stage, residents and local people have the chance to have a say in the look of the depot design and we are open to receiving all local people’s views. None of this is set in stone and we want people to share their thoughts and ideas.

Is this the same as the Network Rail development?

Our development is in no way connected with the Network Rail sleeper facility proposal, which we are aware has caused public concern and anxiety, we will address community concerns regarding our development through local public engagement.

What will be built?

Unlike the proposed Network Rail sleeper facility, our development does not involve any manufacturing process. We just need somewhere we can keep our new trains, nice and clean and well maintained. This will include three main buildings, an administrative building, a maintenance building and a cleaning shed.

The buildings will be developed sensitively with careful screening and we want local people to get involved in what the buildings could look like and the types of trees that need planting to form a screen. It is hoped the presence of these buildings will provide a noise screen against the traffic noise levels from the nearby M6 motorway.

Our initial scoping suggests that any noise associated with maintenance or cleaning of the trains will take place inside the depot buildings, which should mean residents living closest to the depot buildings will be less affected by noise.

Will the site run 24/7?

Yes, the site will operate 24 hours a day over 7 days a week but levels of site activity, once the depot is up and running will fluctuate, Staff will work shifts, so not all staff members will be onsite at any one time. We anticipate there will be train movements in and out of the depot during the day and into the evening, with the final train vehicle movements around 11pm. In comparison to the diesel freight trains that currently use the site, the noise levels from our trains will be a lot less. The electric trains are quieter, cleaner and greener.

What about lighting?

The site will need to be lit during times of operation when it is not light. The existing old, enormous lighting towers will be removed and replaced with less intrusive, lower level lighting. This should hopefully mean residents will notice less localised light pollution from the new depot.

What about access?

Access to the site is being scoped and explored in detail. The historic vehicular access to this site has been via Westmore Way on the Friar Park estate and we know that this is a worry for residents. We are looking at possible alternatives, and no decisions have been made on this. We will work to find a way to ensure the impact of traffic, congestion and possible increased pollution in the local neighbourhood is kept to the absolute minimum.

What about the environmental harm?

A thorough and detailed environmental impact assessment will be completed. This will make sure that any possible development work does not cause any unwarranted harm or compromise people’s health or the environment quality of the local area including managing and reducing any flood risks. This will include addressing and managing any traffic, pollution, noise or wildlife concerns.

We also recognise the importance of sensitive management of any impacts on the ecology and wildlife habitats. Should any protected species be identified during this work, we will avoid harming any wildlife and restore habitats to how they were before the development. We will work with experts to ensure harm to any habitats identified in the proposed development area, particularly for bats, badgers or newts, is avoided.

We know air quality, pollution and environmental impacts are very important and we want to hear any concerns that residents may have about this possible development in relation to these aspects.

Why here and not elsewhere?

Other sites considered for this were ruled out as unsuitable due to:

  • Bletchley, Bedfordshire: this site, whilst large enough, is too difficult to access from rail mainline network. Also, it is too far away from the West Midlands area, where the train services that the fleet has been intended for are operated. This would mean trains would not be able to start on time so would not be able to offer a reliable service.
  • Soho, Smethwick: this site is too small and is unable to accommodate the new fleet of trains, so this would not meet the required development.
  • Duddeston, East Birmingham: the site is too small, meaning that greenspace parkland would have to be purchased to make the site large enough and this has been ruled out because it would reduce greenspace, and the layout there cannot accommodate a new modern depot. Access from the rail mainline into the site is too difficult and the power supply is insufficient for the new trains.

How long will this take?

The planning application process is quite lengthy, and we anticipate this will take more than a year. If planning permission is granted, the depot will take around 2 years to build, during which time there will be employment opportunities for local people for construction of the site buildings.

What happens next?

Local households will receive a letter to inform them of this proposed plan. This will take place by the end of January 2020. You can see the letter here.

Our first public meeting is on Wednesday 5 February 2020 at Walsall Football Club from 6.30pm – 8:30pm. There is no need to book, just turn up. You can register your interest in the event here.

We welcome any suggestions for better or alternative ways to engage with local people, particularly people who live in the Friar Park ward.

We want to address any concerns you may have as we develop our plans and we encourage local people to be part of shaping the future of transport services.

Meetings and events will be held locally and advertised online at www.wmr/newtraindepot.

You can email us any time at [email protected], get in touch via social media through Facebook or Twitter and come along to any of our events.

Feedback Form

We want your valuable feedback on our very early plans to develop a new train depot near Friar Park in Wednesbury.