£66m refinancing deal secured for West Midlands Trains depot

Porterbrook has committed to refinancing a £66m redevelopment of Bletchley depot for West Midlands Trains (WMT).

The deal with the rolling stock financier and asset management company will allow Bletchley in Milton Keynes to become the principal maintenance base for WMT’s newly procured Class 730 Aventra fleet. It’s part of WMT’s £1bn investment programme into its fleet and infrastructure.

The electric fleet, which is being delivered by manufacturer Alstom over the next year, forms part of the UK’s plans for a net-zero railway. The programme will be completed in the autumn of 2025.

Financing the redevelopment adds to Porterbrook’s portfolio, which in recent weeks has included taking a 49% minority stake in the Scotland-based rail engineering business Brodie Engineering, and the purchase of the 135-acre Long Marston Rail Innovation Centre in Warwickshire, which it has been operating on lease since June 2021.

It also follows on from a £50m investment from Angel Trains for the development of WMT’s Tyseley rail depot. The funding will be used to enhance the facility for maintaining WMT’s new rolling stock.

Ian McConnell, managing director of West Midlands Trains, said: “This private financing deal enables West Midlands Trains to undertake major refurbishment of the depot at Bletchley – a critical part of our £1 billion fleet and infrastructure investment programme. The enhancements will modernise the facility to support the roll-out of our new flagship electric train fleet, the Class 730s, which will deliver a step-change in the customer experience across our network.”

Stefan Rose, chief investment officer at Porterbrook, said: “Bletchley depot has been a stalwart of our railways since the mid-nineteenth century, and we’re delighted to fund the redevelopment it needs to service the modern fleets joining the network. Through private finance, we can maintain and enhance essential rail infrastructure like this to continue to play an important role in the railway for many years to come.”

Freeths Transport and Rail teams advised Porterbrook on the deal, with real estate partner and head of transport Michael Bray and managing associate Danielle Sinclair leading the firm’s real estate advice. Rail finance partner Tom Johnson advised on the financing aspects with senior associate James Urmston, with support in relation to construction matters from managing associate Uzma Raja.

Commenting on the deal, Michael Bray said: “This is an important project delivering private finance into a regulated rail depot environment, bringing a disused rail depot back into use, improving transport for customers and helping WMT and Britain’s railways achieve their net zero targets.”