A train service between two of the biggest urban centres in the West Midlands has been given a stay of execution, rail bosses have announced.
But the Walsall to Wolverhampton route will be operated by buses after October 2007 if local transport officials cannot persuade the Government to make the reprieve permanent.
The poorly used service was to be axed following a review by the Strategic Rail Authority earlier this year - one of the body?s last acts before it was broken up in August.
However, an extension to the Central Trains franchise while Department for Transport officials continue to work out a new West Midlands service map has created time for new efforts to make the service more reliable and attractive to passengers.
The Passenger Transport Authority and its executive Centro have lobbied for the service to be spared and have now launched a new marketing campaign.
This has been helped by the introduction of three morning rush hour trains and a more reliable timetable. Before, passengers shunned the services because they ran at infrequent intervals.
PTA councillors told the Government that bus journeys would take much longer than the 12-minute rail trip.
?We have always said that the best approach is to invest in local rail services as part of an integrated public transport system,? said PTA chairman Coun Gary Clarke (Con Walsall Streetly).
?It would be wrong to wield the axe until the Walsall to Wolverhampton service is up to scratch and passenger demand can be properly assessed.
?Ideally we would like to see half-hourly service. That is for the future, but at least these recent changes are moving in the right direction.?
Meanwhile, Central Trains has announced a new winter timetable, starting on December 11, which will see the introduction of Class 350 Desiro trains on services from Rugby to the North-west.
Other improvements include Walsall to Birmingham New Street services extended to Birmingham International, providing Walsall passengers with direct train services to the Airport and the National Exhibition Centre for the first time.
Train services will be partially restored on Trent Valley local routes with five train and five bus services operating daily between Stafford, Rugeley Trent Valley, Lichfield Trent Valley, Tamworth, Atherstone and Nuneaton.
The full six-trains-an-hour Cross City Line timetable will resume following the ?leaf fall timetable?, which involves reduced services and reduced train speeds because of the safety risks posed by leaf mulch on the tracks.
Steve Banaghan, Central Trains managing director, said: ?Passengers tell us that the punctuality and reliability of train services continues to be their number one priority.
?These important changes to the Central Trains timetable will consolidate and build upon recent improvements in operational performance.?
The SRA had earmarked the Walsall to Wolverhampton line as one of the least used in the region in its Route Utilisation Strategy and believed resources could be better employed to ease overcrowding on trains to and from Birmingham.
In March, just 2,000 people used the service, compared with 4,000 during the same period in 2004. Critics of the SRA plan argued patronage on the line was so low because people could not rely on it.