Councils celebrate rail devo at launch of new West Midlands franchise


A new rail franchise for the West Midlands, which starts today, is set to see £1bn invested over the next eight years in a major step forward for rail devolution.

The franchise, which runs until March 2026, was awarded by West Midlands Rail (WMR), a consortium of 16 local councils, in close collaboration with the Department for Transport (DfT).

A West Midlands train at Snow Hill station - no, really

West Midlands Trains (WMT), a joint venture between Abellio, JR East and Mitsui, replaces London Midland services with two new brands – West Midlands Railway (WMR) and London Northwestern Railway (LNR).

WMR will operate in and around Birmingham and LNR will operate on the Euston, Northampton, Birmingham and Liverpool corridor.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, chair of WMR and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: 'Today really is a watershed moment for our region’s rail network and it will bring many improvements for passengers over the coming months and years.

'This is the first time that West Midlands councils have had such a level of influence in setting out what a train company must deliver and we have used that control to make sure this new franchise gives passengers and our businesses what they need from their local railway in order to prosper.

'The increased frequency and on-board capacity is particularly important for the tens of thousands of people who rely on the network to get to work each day but it is also important for those making business trips or simply going out to enjoy our region’s cultural and leisure attractions.'

The new franchise will see:

  • 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham
  • a £680m investment in 107 new trains made up of 413 carriages
  • 100 new carriages on the Cross City line
  • 80 new carriages for the Snow Hill lines, replacing the entire fleet currently running to and from Worcester/Hereford and Shrewsbury
  • Compensation if services are delayed by more than 15 minutes
  • Free WiFi on all main line service

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, said: 'Being able to bring local knowledge to bear in shaping and managing this new rail franchise means we have been able to secure more of what passengers have told us they want – things like earlier and later weekday services and more trains on Sundays.

'The region will now work hard in partnership with West Midlands Trains to make sure this new franchise and the £1 bn investment it brings will deliver the sort of railway our passengers need and deserve and one that can drive and support further economic growth.'

The franchise will, for the first time, see passengers entitled to 25% compensation if their train is delayed by more than 15 minutes. They already receive 50% 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 are also being undertaken for the development of new stations in the West Midlands and there are plans to limit the impact of delays caused by leaves on the line in the autumn, including through the introduction of modern trains.


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