DEVELOPER FOUR Ashes Ltd has begun a second round of consultation on plans for a new strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) next to the railway between Wolverhampton and Stafford.

The West Midlands Interchange is proposed for a 297-hectare site near the village of Four Ashes, close to Junction 12 of the M6 motorway. Consultation on the plans runs until 30 August. The proposed development includes an intermodal freight terminal with connections to the West Coast main line capable of accommodating up to 10 trains per day of up to 775 metres in length. This would be accompanied by up to 743,200 square metres of warehousing and ancillary service buildings. The plans have been refined following the first round of consultation, including the addition of a new road.

Development of the site is planned in two phases. The first would see four full-length sidings and a single rail-linked warehouse siding provided. Trains up to 375 metres long could be unloaded, with longer trains split into two halves for loading and unloading. Future phases would see the terminal handling and storage area expanded to accommodate 775-metre trains without the need to be split, using wide-span overhead gantry cranes. Extra siding capacity would then be installed, including passive provision for overhead electrification.

The developer says the scheme will create more than 8,500 new direct jobs and generate around £420 million of local economic activity each year. It adds that the North Black Country and South Staffordshire area has been identified as an area in need of an SRFI.

Four Ashes Ltd is led by Kilbride Holdings, in conjunction with property group the Grosvenor Group and primary landowner Piers Monckton. The intention is to submit a development consent order application in late 2017 or early 2018, which would be examined between May and October next year by the Planning Inspectorate. From this point the Secretary of State would have three months to decide on the application.