Rail passengers are to get more frequent services with new trains and extra seats as a result of a near £1 billion investment in the West Midlands network.
The cash injection is part of a deal announced today (August 10) that will see West Midlands Trains Ltd (a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd) run the region’s rail services under a new franchise from December onwards.
Trains running only in the West Midlands area will be jointly managed by the Department for Transport (DfT) and West Midlands Rail (WMR), a consortium of 16 local councils.
A package of improvements has been built into the franchise agreement aimed at providing more services and more space for passengers and to stimulate and support further economic growth and jobs across the region.
It is the first time that West Midlands authorities have had such a level of influence in setting out what a train company needs to deliver for local passengers.
- 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham.
- 100 new carriages on the Cross City line
- 80 new carriages for the Snow Hill line
- Compensation if services are delayed by more than 15 minutes
- Free Wi-Fi 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.”
Under the franchise agreement West Midlands Trains will run local rail services in the West Midlands from December this year until March 2026.
As well as increased frequencies the deal will see major investment in new trains with local services branded under a new West Midlands Railway livery.
The 100 new carriages for the Cross City line, the busiest route on the West Midlands network, will be of a design that offers increased space to carry more passengers and wider doors for quicker access.
Cllr 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.
“It’s important to remember that tens of thousands of people rely on this local network to not only get to work each day but to undertake wider business trips and enjoy the cultural and leisure attractions of our region.
“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.”
Other benefits for passengers in the franchise deal include:
- More trains between Birmingham and Shrewsbury with two services per hour from December 2018.
- A regular two trains per hour service between Birmingham and Rugeley via the Chase Line from December 2018
- A new, direct hourly service between Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent from December 2018 providing much needed additional capacity
- An extension of Cross-City line services from Longbridge to Bromsgrove
- A new hourly shuttle between Leamington Spa and Coventry serving the new station at Kenilworth
- Two morning and two evening rush hour direct services between Walsall and London from December 2018, helping to unlock economic growth in the region
- More Sunday services on the Cross-City line with the number of trains per hour between Longbridge and Birmingham doubling from two per hour to four in December 2018, and then increasing to six in May 2021
- Increased Sunday services on the Snow Hill line with the number of trains per hour between Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction increasing from two to six
- A new Sunday service between Birmingham and Shrewsbury from December 2018, and a second train per hour introduced in May 2021
Cllr Mark Winnington, vice chair of WMR and Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for economic growth, added:
“All successful economies have a fast and efficient transport network at their heart.
“The deal announced today can help ensure we have a network that can better support the regional economy while delivering services that are focussed on the real needs of passengers.
“We are particularly pleased that our local services will carry their own West Midlands Railway livery as we felt it was important to have a distinct brand and identity for the regional network.”
The franchise covers services across the West Midlands, as well as trains from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham.
The deal will, for the first time, see passengers entitled to 25 per cent compensation if their train is delayed by more than 15 minutes. They already receive 50 per cent of their money back for delays of half an hour and full compensation if it is more than an hour.
Around £60m will be invested on station improvements across the franchise area delivering 1,000 new car park spaces, 2,500 cycle parking spaces, a cycle hire scheme, new and refurbished waiting rooms and more seats at stations. There will also be improved access for those requiring extra assistance, including disabled people.
Feasibility studies will be undertaken for the development of new stations in the West Midlands and there will be plans to limit the impact of delays caused by leaves on the line in the autumn, including through the introduction of new modern trains.