West Midlands franchise award a ‘step towards golden era for local trains’

A computer generated image of how trains operating only in the West Midlands could be branded under the franchise. Credit: West Midlands Rail.
A computer generated image of how trains operating only in the West Midlands could be branded under the franchise. Credit: West Midlands Rail.

The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded the West Midlands franchise to West Midlands Trains, a joint venture between Abellio and its minority partners East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co.

Current incumbent London Midland, which is owned by Govia – which itself is made up of Go-Ahead Group (65 per cent) and Keolis (35 per cent) – has operated services across the West Midlands – as well as service from London to Liverpool – since 2007.

West Midlands Trains’ contract on the franchise, which covers services across the West Midlands, as well as trains from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham, will begin in December 2017 and last until March 2026. The new franchise was meant to start in October but the government missed its own deadline for the award.

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Other shortlisted bidders included: London and West Midlands Railway (Govia) and MTR Corporation.

Trains running only in the West Midlands area will be jointly managed by the DfT and a consortium of 16 local councils known as West Midlands Rail, which will have its own livery (pictured above).

West Midlands Rail includes: Birmingham City Council, City of Wolverhampton Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley MBC, Herefordshire Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Sandwell MBC, Shropshire Council, Solihull MBC, Staffordshire County Council, Telford and Wrekin Council, Walsall MBC, Warwickshire County Council and Worcestershire County Council, as well as two affiliate members: Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Cheshire East Council.

Under the new deal, almost £1 billion will be invested into services on the West Midlands network.

The DfT has said that 400 new carriages will be rolled out on the West Midlands network by 2021, creating space for an extra 85,000 passengers on rush hour services in Birmingham and London.

Free wi-fi will be available on all main line services by the end of 2019, the Delay Repay compensation scheme will kick in at 15 minutes rather than 30 minutes, and disability access will be improved.

Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth said: “We are delighted to have been announced as preferred bidder for the West Midlands franchise, driving growth in one of the most exciting regions in the country.

“We will be investing nearly £1 billion into the network, delivering new trains, better stations and a whole host of other benefits for passengers.”

West Midlands mayor Andy Street added: “We want to see a new golden era for our local trains and today’s announcement is an important step towards that.

“Having the ability to use our local knowledge and understanding to shape what West Midlands Trains will deliver for passengers under this franchise has also been a game changer.

“I believe the deal secured today will help create a railway that can not only improve people’s journeys but keep our economy growing and we look forward to working with West Midlands Trains in making that happen.”

London Midland managing director Patrick Verwer congratulated the consortium on winning the franchise and said that it will work with West Midlands Trains and the DfT to ensure a smooth transition.

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