We have a new operator of trains in the West Midlands and beyond – and the train company called … wait for it…. West Midlands Trains.
West Midlands Trains (company) is made up of Abellio (subsidiary of Nederlandse Spoorwegen – the Dutch national rail operator), East Japan Rail Company and Mitsui & Co.
They will take over from incumbents London Midlands – operated by Govia (Made up of Go-Ahead Group UK and Kelios – who are 70% owned by SNCF).
The franchise covers various important services including:
- Commuter services on the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Northampton/Crewe
- Local Services between Birmingham New Street and Crewe, Birmingham New Street and Liverpool
- The Marston Vale Line between Bedford to Bletchley
- The Abbey Line between St Albans Abbey to Watford Junction
- Local Services within the West Midlands conurbation (Including the Snow Hill Lines and the Cross City Line)
- The Birmingham to Hereford line
So what promises have been made in this franchise change? According to the government, West Midlands Trains will deliver:
- £700 million of investment in new and refurbished trains including 400 brand new carriages
- space for an extra 85,000 passengers on rush hour services
- more than £60 million invested on station improvements which will deliver over 1,000 new car park spaces and thousands more cycle parking spaces
- more than 800 new digital information screens providing real-time journey information and free wifi
- a reduction in the notice required for Passenger Assist
- smart ticketing extended and a smart card season ticket for passengers between London and Northampton
- compensation for delays of more than 15 minutes
- more than £70 million invested in new and existing depots to improve train reliability
That’s a big shopping list.
In addition, services in the heart of the West Midlands will be branded locally into an operator-neutral livery – branded West Midlands Railway, and answerable to sixteen local councils.
West Midlands Rail Class 172 train – Image, Transport for West Midlands/West Midlands Rail
The new franchise will run from December 2017 through to will until March 2026.
There’s a lot of questions still to answer – as there will be a lot of new trains joining the West Midlands Trains fleet (so expect some mega-orders to come in). In addition, there will be some of the older trains that will wave goodbye to the fleet in the longer term.
Whilst local train franchise aren’t as high-profile as some of the bigger ones (such as the war for the West Coast and HS2 franchise or even the London and Southwest franchise), but these provide important links between regional centres and London.
And if you’ve been paying attention to All The Stations – you’ll understand what these community links mean.
Just a few of examples covering the new area (and seriously – explore the UK by rail – there’s more to the UK than the conurbation of Greater London…) :
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