High-speed rail will drastically reduce the number of train services through the Black Country and Staffordshire, the boss of Virgin Trains has warned.
Services through the region along the West Coast Main Line would halve if the HS2 scheme goes ahead, believes Tony Collins, chief executive of Sir Richard Branson’s company.
Mr Collins, who lives in Sedgley and runs the multi-billion pound West Coast line, has hit out at the design of the planned £33 billion HS2 scheme. He also voiced doubts that the controversial project will ever be built.
It comes after the National Audit Office also said it was unclear how the new train line would deliver economic growth and suggested there was a £3.3 billion funding gap.
In an exclusive interview with the Express & Star Mr Collins said that Virgin Trains had a ‘real concern about HS2’ which is due to start operating 225mph trains between London and Birmingham from 2026. The West Coast Main Line connects London and Scotland through Birmingham, Sandwell & Dudley, Wolverhampton and Stafford stations.
Mr Collins said: "We need the extra capacity on the rail lines. Unfortunately the way that HS2 is being done is an engineering solution looking for a problem.
"If it carries on it won’t properly integrate with the railway system.”
He said high speed trains will be able to go onto ordinary lines but trains such as Virgin’s Pendolino services would not be allowed to go onto high speed lines, forcing passengers to change trains. Mr Collins said: "When the high speed trains come off the high speed line they can only go half their speed. They will take up the capacity on the classic line.”
He said the problem with switching trains was an issue: "It would halve the number of West Coast services unless they allow us to use the high speed line after Birmingham.”