LONG-TERM plans for the region’s railways will see greater control handed to local councils.
The contract to run the railways on behalf of West Midlands Rail – the company set up by local authorities to improve passenger services – is up for tender and three new operators are in the running.
London Midland is the current operator, but the franchise will be handed to another supplier in 2017.
The deal, however, will involve the ‘devolution’ and breaking up of the railways to hand power to the local authorities – in our region’s case the West Midlands Combined Authority.
This would essentially see the prospective elected mayor taking the reins of power.
The new franchise will see West Midlands Rail Ltd (WMR) working with the Department for Transport (DfT) to manage the new franchise within the West
Midlands region. At present responsibility rests solely with the Government.
The three firms slected in the final three are:
* London and West Midlands Railway Ltd:
A subsidiary of UK-based firm Govia Ltd, which in turn is owned jointly by French company Keolis and a Newcastle-based business called the Go-Ahead Group. Govia is the owner of London Midland, the firm which currently manages the franchise.
* West Midlands Trains Ltd:
A subsidiary of Dutch firm Abellio Transport Group. Japanese businesses the East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd are minority partners in this bid.
* MTR Corporation (West Midlands) Ltd:
A subsidiary of MTR Corporation (UK) Ltd, which is owned by Chinese firm MTR.
WMR’s Programme Director, Malcolm Holmes, said: “The successful train operator will be working in an exciting new environment in which the
West Midlands will have real influence and responsibility over its local services.
“We believe this partnership offers a major opportunity for the West Midlands to develop the network in a way that underpins economic growth, job creation and carbon reduction while delivering significant benefits for passengers.”
Rail Minister Claire Perry added: “The West Midlands franchise serves both commuters and long distance passengers and we are confident these companies will create high quality bids that can deliver better journeys for all.
“Today’s announcement marks a key step forward in giving passengers improved services across the region and beyond.”
The government and West Midlands Rail expect the next operator of the franchise to provide significantly better journeys for passengers, with measures to tackle overcrowding and reduce delays and cancellations as well as bringing in benefits such as free on board Wi-Fi.
The operator will also be expected to support planned infrastructure improvements during the next franchise, including the completion of the Rugeley Trent Valley to Walsall electrification, upgrades at Birmingham, and enabling works at London Euston for HS2.