Mayor launches bid to take over rail franchise after ‘unacceptable’ performance

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has called for his office to become responsible for West Midlands Trains (WMT) following the operator’s recent “woeful” performance.

He has warned that he will call on the Department for Transport to remove Abellio from the franchise if “WMT do not restore a reliable service by midnight on January 31 2020”.

Street said: “The service currently being provided by West Midlands Trains is, quite simply, woeful.

“The problems on our region’s railways have been dragging on for months and, despite many promises from WMT, show no sign of improving.”

Mayor Andy Street with Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, MD of West Midlands Trains, and Cllr Roger Lawrence, chair of West Midlands Rail at Snow Hill to launch the new franchise in 2017

In a series of Twitter messages this morning, Street said: “Rail services should be accountable to the people they serve. Therefore I’ve asked DfT to devolve control of rail to me (& my successors) as Mayor.”

Street’s intervention chimes with similar calls from the Mayors of Liverpool and Manchester city regions, who have been vocal in their dissatisfaction with the performance of Northern Rail.

All three metro-mayors are facing re-election next May and will be keen to be seen to show leadership on an issue that is likely to get worse when the bad winter weather arrives in the weeks ahead.

Street’s 2017 manifesto pledged a “faster commute by 2020” across the road and public transport networks.

He said the service provided “continued to be unacceptable” despite last week’s timetable change and he had now “lost all faith in West Midlands Trains’ ability to run our network under the current system”.

West Midlands Trains has operated the franchise since December 2017 and has more than six years remaining. Its performance is jointly overseen by the Department for Transport and a local body, West Midlands Rail.

West Midlands Trains has two brands, West Midlands Railway (WMR) and London Northwestern Railway (LNR).

WMR serves the local network of more than 110 stations from Shrewsbury to Stratford-upon-Avon. LNR operates from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston, with two different routes through the region before the lines come together again at Rugby.