A new rail operator has been awarded a contract to run the West Midlands rail franchise, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.West Midlands Trains Ltd will take over routes currently operated by London Midland from December. The company is a joint venture between Dutch firm Abellio and Japanese partners.The deal will see almost £1bn of investment and new, longer trains, the DfT said.The franchise covers routes in the West Midlands, as well as from London Euston to Crewe, and Liverpool to Birmingham. It also runs services between Northampton and London Euston, connecting lines between Bedford and Bletchley, and between St Albans and Watford and Crewe to London via Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford, Lichfield and Milton Keynes. Record delaysIt had been run by Govia, which owns London Midland, since 2007. The Govia bid to continue running the services was unsuccessful.London Midland’s contract was extended by the government in 2013, despite criticism for record delays to its services.
The company was forced to offer a £7m package of compensation to season ticket holders affected by the disruption.More on this and other Birmingham and Black Country newsAbellio UK managing director Dominic Booth 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 £1 billion into the network, delivering new trains, better stations and a whole host of other benefits for passengers.” Passengers can see how their lines will change on the Department for Transport website.Promises to passengers include:400 new carriages rolled out by 2021
Space for an extra 85,000 passengers on rush-hour services in Birmingham and London
Free wifi on all main line services by the end of 2019
Compensation if services are delayed by more than 15 minutes
Improved access for those requiring extra assistance, including disabled people
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was “great news” for passengers.”This shows we are delivering on our commitment to build a railway that works for everyone,” he said.Trains running only in the West Midlands area will be jointly managed by the DfT and West Midlands Rail (WMR), a consortium of 16 local councils.The deal with West Midlands Trains will run until March 2026.Passengers reacted to the news on social media:The current workforce of 2,400 will pass to the new operator when the franchise is taken over, a spokesperson for Abellio confirmed.The company has also pledged to invest £13m on staff training and development and will create more than 900 new apprenticeships over the course of the franchise.West Midlands Trains Ltd said the new franchise would bring “much welcomed investment in new services and extra capacity across the network”.Managing director Patrick Verwer, said: “We have created a strong foundation for the new operators to build on.”During the months ahead we will continue to work with West Midlands Trains Ltd, the DfT and all our stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition into the new franchise.”What questions do you have about this story? Submit them in the form below and we could be in touch.