The original proposals, first announced in early 2018, have been amended following initial feedback from the local community last year.
The proposed facility is a key component of Network Rail’s multi-billion-pound Railway Upgrade Plan, the biggest investment programme in the railways since Victorian times.
It is being brought forward following the closure of a similar facility at Washwood Heath, to make way for a new HS2 depot which will employ over 500 staff when completed.
If approved, the new facility at Bescot will provide a much-needed secure supply of sleepers for Network Rail, producing up to 600,000 sleepers a year, accounting for 60% of Britain’s supply.
It will secure 100 jobs for local people in the manufacturing, logistics and support industries and there will also be opportunities for the service sector to support the operation of the facility.
Additional business rates will also be generated by the development each year, which Sandwell council can use to spend on other services locally.
During the initial round of consultation in 2018, concern was expressed regarding the impact that increased traffic could have on the local area. In response to this issue, Network Rail has confirmed that it now plans to build a new link road between Sandy Lane at the A4031, Walsall Road, to enable site traffic to avoid using residential roads.
Furthermore, a revised traffic management plan has been developed, which will route vehicles arriving at the site via M5 J1 and vehicles exiting the site via the M6 J9. This is expected to halve the number of vehicles using each part of the route and minimise any potential impacts.
In response to concerns raised about the distance between the facility and existing residential properties, the proposed facility has also been moved around 600 metres away from its original location. It will now be at least 250 metres from any residential property, minimising the visual impacts and the amount of noise that can be heard by local people.
Anthony Marley of Network Rail said: “The feedback we received in 2018 prompted us to pause and reflect on the proposals and consider how they could be revised to accommodate the suggestions of residents. We believe this new plan, which addresses key transport issues and the facility’s location, takes those suggestions on board, whilst maintaining the aspects of the development that make the Bescot site the best choice for the location of this facility.
“Bescot has been identified as the preferred location for the facility to make up for the anticipated shortfall in production capacity for sleepers in the coming years. It’s connectivity with rail and road networks, and status as a brownfield site is why it was selected by independent agents before the proposals were first prepared. We are committed to working with the local community as our plans progress and encourage residents to view these new plans and send in their comments.”
Network Rail is inviting local people to view the plans before submitting the final planning application to Sandwell Council and will be distributing a flyer relating to the plans to over 7,000 properties in the local area in due course. A project website advertising the proposals and ways to provide feedback is available at https://consultations.networkrail.co.uk/communications/bescot-sleeper-facility/.
Residents are also invited to attend two public information days at The Banks’s Stadium (Bescot Stadium) on Friday 29 March from 2pm – 8pm and on Saturday 30 March from 10am – 2pm where the plans will be on display. Members of the development team will be available during each session to answer any questions.
Residents are invited to provide their feedback by Monday 15 April to ensure that their comments can be considered before the final planning application is submitted to the council.