A planning application to build a railway sleeper facility in Bescot has been submitted by Network Rail.
The final submission follows extensive engagement with local people and politicians, including briefings, public information events and meeting with residents at their homes to discuss the plans.
Much of the feedback received from these engagement sessions has helped shape the final planning application.
The changes made include the relocation of the proposed site 600m to the east, further away from local properties, building a new link road to improve access and remove the impact of vehicles on adjacent homes, and developing a one-way traffic management plan which halves the number of lorry movements past any one location.
The new facility is a key part of Britain’s Railway Upgrade Plan. It will create 150 construction jobs locally, and up to 100 permanent jobs at the site and in the local supply chain if approved by Sandwell Borough Council. It is estimated that 90 per cent of construction spend on the project will be through local businesses.
Anthony Marley, programme director at Network Rail, said: “We have met with, listened to and taken on board the feedback we have received from local people regarding our plans. They have helped shape the application we have made.
“This new facility will bring millions of pounds to the local economy and support hundreds of jobs in the West Midlands. We have already seen significant interest in these jobs, with approximately half of respondents welcoming these new employment prospects. We will continue to work with Sandwell council as our application progresses.”
The proposed facility will provide up to 600,000 railway sleepers every year, 60 per cent of Britain’s annual requirement.
Sleepers are currently manufactured at two locations in Britain – Doncaster and Washwood Heath in Birmingham. The imminent closure of the Washwood Heath site has prompted the need for a new facility.
It will be possible to view the entire application and supporting documents by visiting Sandwell Council’s planning portal once the planning application has been validated. This may take up to two weeks.
Network Rail will release details of the planning portal reference after Sandwell Borough Council confirm this. The application is expected to be determined by members of Sandwell council’s planning committee in November this year.
Between March and April 2019, around 200 residents attended public exhibition events, a further 50,000 residents viewed the proposals on social media, and 7,000 leaflets were distributed to local residents.
To maintain our tracks, we rely on sleepers to ensure the safety-critical geometry of the rails. This enables us to safely use the railway. At present, sleepers are sourced from two locations in Britain – Doncaster and Washwood Heath. However, due to the upcoming closure of the Washwood Heath facility to accommodate an HS2 hub – in turn boosting the West Midland's economy – we must urgently establish an alternative facility to make up for the shortfall in production capacity. Delivering a new sleeper manufacturing facility is therefore crucial to our ability to deliver Britain’s Railway Upgrade Plan. You can find out more about this by visiting our website www.networkrail.co.uk.