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First trains launched in West Midlands transport management deal

The first West Midlands Railway services were launched this weekend, signalling the start of local control over rail franchises.

The franchise, which controls all the routes in the region, is operated by a joint venture of three train companies called West Midlands Trains, but the management of the network is split between a consortium of 16 local councils and the government.

A total of nearly £1bn of investment is expected to be put into the network over the next eight years by the operators, with £680m earmarked for 107 new trains.

West Midlands Combined Authority mayor, Andy Street, commented: “Our local rail network has a crucial role to play in making sure our region has the connectivity it needs to compete and prosper on a global stage.

“So 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 £1bn investment it brings will deliver the sort of railway our passengers need and deserve and one that can drive and support further economic growth.”

Included in the investment is provision for 100 new carriages on the Cross City line, the busiest route on the West Midlands network.

There will also be around £60m invested on station improvements across the region, expected to deliver 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.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, chair of the consortium and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said the first West Midlands Railway service was a “watershed moment” for rail franchising in the region.

He continued: “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.”

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, managing director of West Midlands Trains added that the investment would be a driver of future economic growth in the area.

He said the new franchise would also be looking to put in place around 900 apprenticeships in the next few years.

Top image: Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, left, West Midlands Trains managing director Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, and Cllr Roger Lawrence, chair of West Midlands Rail

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