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Street: West Midlands rail franchise award a ‘game changer’ for region

Local authorities in the West Midlands have welcomed new investment in transport in the region as the contract for the new rail franchise in the area was awarded by the Department for Transport (DfT).

West Midlands Trains Ltd, a partnership between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd, will run the new West Midlands rail franchise from December this year onwards, until March 2026.

Alongside the announcement of the franchise was a commitment to inject £1bn into the network and implement a number of improvements including 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham, 100 new carriages on the Cross-City line and the roll-out of smart ticketing and live passenger information.

Trains running only in the West Midlands area will be jointly managed by the DfT and a consortium of 16 local councils called West Midlands Rail (WMR).

Class 172 Stourbridge Jn RT v6-1 west midlands rail

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, hailed the announcement as “a real game changer” for transport in the area.

“We want to see a new golden era for our local trains and today’s announcement is an important step towards that,” he said. “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.

“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.”

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.”

He added that it was 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,” Cllr Lawrence stated. “That will underpin economic growth and the new jobs being created in our region.”

Trains covered under the franchise includes services across the West Midlands as well as trains from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham.

For the first time, passengers will also be entitled to 25% compensation if their train is delayed by more than 15 minutes.

Around £60m will be invested on station improvements across the franchise area, including 1,000 new car park spaces and refurbished waiting rooms.

Cllr Mark Winnington, vice chair of WMR and Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for economic growth, commented: “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 news also follows Street meeting prime minister Theresa May last week to discuss a second devolution deal for the region.

Top Image: Matthew Cooper PA Wire

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Steven Boxall   22/08/2017 at 15:59

Does the £1bn 'injection' come from government or the new franshise holders? The article doesn't seem to make this clear.

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