The Department of Transport has appointed West Midlands Trains a new rail franchise to deliver nearly £1bn of investments across services in the region, including major connections to London and the north west.
The new operator, a partnership between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd, will oversee a number of improvements between December 2017 and March 2026. It is hoped that the measures will benefit passengers, support economic growth in the region and usher in what Birmingham Mayor Andy Street is calling “a new golden era for our local trains”.
The planned improvements include new carriages and longer trains, creating space for some 85,000 extra rush hour passengers between London and Birmingham, as well as increased weekend services between Birmingham and Liverpool. Trains will have free wifi, more power sockets and improved access for those needing special assistance, while stations will benefit from smart ticketing, live passenger information screens, thousands more car and bicycle parking spaces, refurbished waiting rooms and more seating. In addition, passengers will be able to claim compensation for services delayed by 15 minutes or more.
Trains running only within the West Midlands will be managed by a partnership between the Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail, a consortium of 16 local councils chaired by Councillor Roger Lawrence, leader of Wolverhampton Council, and vice-chaired by Councillor Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for economic growth.
The plans have been welcomed by many transport and business leaders, including Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner, who said: “It is great to see local franchises given the chance to use their local knowledge to implement improvements and a form a transport strategy which will … help to attract new investment to the area and unlock the region’s true economic potential.”
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “This shows we are delivering on our commitment to build a railway that works for everyone.”
For more details about the planned improvements, read the Department for Transport’s announcement.