WEST Midlands passengers are being promised more and new trains from a takeover of services announced today involving the region’s councils.
West Midlands Trains Limited has been awarded the franchise, currently operated by London Midland, to run services for the next ten years, starting in December.
It includes operating trains between Coventry, Solihull, Leamington and the planned new Kenilworth station.
The new company pledges £1billion investment.
The franchise will be overseen by West Midlands Rail Ltd, owned by 16 councils across the region – including Coventry City Council, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Warwickshire County Council.
It means the region now has a monitoring and overseeing role alongside government. West Midlands Rail played a role in what services were sought from the new franchise for the West Midlands region.
West Midlands Rail Ltd is a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd.
A package of improvements in the franchise agreement also includes 20,000 more seats for passengers using rush-hour services in and out of Birmingham.
Other pledges include
· 80 new carriages for the Snow Hill line, which includes Coventry, Solihull and Leamington stations
· 100 new carriages on the Cross City line
· Compensation if services are delayed by more than 15 minutes
· Free WiFi on all main line services
· A roll out of smart ticketing and live passenger information
· Trains and stations branded in a locally specified West Midlands Railway livery
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “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 and businesses has been a real game changer.
“When it comes to our local train services we have not had this level of local influence and management before and it fits with the wider powers and responsibilities currently being transferred from Whitehall to the West Midlands.
“The result of this influence is that we will see West Midlands Trains deliver more of the services that passengers want including earlier and later weekday services and more trains on Sundays.
“I believe this deal for the West Midlands will 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.”
Councillor Roger Lawrence, chair of WMR and leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We have spent many months working closely with the DfT on developing a franchise deal that can bring tangible improvements for passengers, particularly in terms of the frequency and capacity of their services.
“This deal, together with the significant transport infrastructure set to be built in the West Midlands, will help ensure we have efficient train services that connect with the rest of the wider bus and tram network and, of course, the forthcoming high speed rail line. That will underpin economic growth and the new jobs being created in our region.”
The franchise deal also includes a new hourly shuttle between Leamington Spa and Coventry serving the new station at Kenilworth.
The franchise covers services across the West Midlands, as well as trains from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham.
Picture Caption: A computer generated image of how trains operating only in the West Midlands could be branded under the franchise