West Midlands rail network set for £1bn investment

The West Midlands’ rail network is set to receive new longer trains with more seats and more space as part of a £1bn investment programme announced today.

The investment will be delivered by the new West Midlands rail franchise operator, announced by the Department for Transport.

The investment promises 400 new carriages rolled out by 2021 and space for an extra 85,000 passengers on rush hour services in Birmingham and London, with the longer trains set to ease overcrowding by providing extra seats for passengers.

Under the deal with new franchise operator West Midlands Trains – a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd – passengers will get free WiFi on all main line services by the end of 2019.

Additionally, passengers will also be in line for compensation if services are delayed by more than 15 minutes and there will be improved access for passengers requiring extra assistance, including disabled people.

Smart ticketing and live passenger information will also be rolled out under the deal, as part of a package of reforms that will improve journeys for passengers.

The franchise covers services across the West Midlands, as well as trains from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham.

Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, said: “We are delighted to have been announced as preferred bidder for the West Midlands franchise, driving growth in one of the most exciting regions in the country. We will be investing nearly £1bn into the network, delivering new trains, better stations and a whole host of other benefits for passengers.”

The trains running solely in the West Midlands will be jointly managed by the DfT and West Midlands Rail (WMR) – a consortium of 16 local authorities.

Welcoming the announcement, 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 under this franchise has also been a game changer.

“I believe the deal secured today will help create a railway that can 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.”

There will be 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham, and 10,000 for people in London.

On top of this, there will be standing room for 50,000 passengers in Birmingham in metro-style carriages, similar to the ones used on the London Overground, for short cross-city journeys and standing room for an additional 5,000 passengers in London.

In keeping with Government guidelines, the new franchise will see closer partnership working between track and train bodies.

New trains will be arriving in the North West on the Liverpool to Birmingham line, which passes through Crewe and Winsford. These will be longer and have more seats for passengers than existing trains.

There will be a later last train Liverpool to Birmingham on a Saturday, departing at least 45 minutes later.

Enhanced Sunday services between Birmingham and Liverpool will be introduced from December 2021 increasing from one train per hour to two trains per hour.

There will also be a new Sunday service for Acton Bridge from May 2021.