The Government and the regional mayor have promised a £1bn investment and better rail services for the West Midlands network under a new franchise that will be partly managed by a group of local councils.
The West Midlands franchise will be run from December by West Midlands Trains Ltd, a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd. It takes over from Govia, which runs the troubled GTR franchise that includes Southern Rail.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said a £1bn investment would see 400 new carriages by 2021, with space for an extra 85,000 passengers on rush hour services in Birmingham and London, 55,000 of whom will be standing.
It said there would also be free Wifi on all main line services by the end of 2019, compensation if services are delayed by more than 15 minutes and improved access for people needing extra assistance, including disabled people.
How trains operating only in the West Midlands could be branded
It added that smart ticketing and live passenger information will rolled out under the deal.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘This is great news for passengers using West Midlands services – with new trains, more space, more regular services and easier access for disabled people.
‘We are improving the whole travelling experience with live train crowding information, compensation for people delayed by 15 minutes or more, smart ticketing and better value tickets for part-time workers.’
Trains running only in the West Midlands will be jointly managed by the DfT and West Midlands Rail (WMR), a consortium of 16 local councils.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street 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.
‘When it comes to our local train services we have not had this level of local influence and management before and it fits with the wider powers and responsibilities currently being transferred from Whitehall to the West Midlands.'
The DfT said longer trains would provide extra seats and space for passengers. There will be 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham, and 10,000 for people in London.
There will also 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.
David Sidebottom, director of watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘It is good to see the new franchise putting passengers’ interest at the heart by providing longer carriages, with more seats, which should reduce overcrowding. It is also good news that Delay Repay compensation will kick in at 15 minutes, rather than 30, and better ticket deals for part-time workers to help improve value for money.
‘Passengers across this network told us that their key priorities for improvement are better value for money services and the ability to get a seat on frequent, punctual services. We pressed for these passenger issues to be addressed in the new franchise.’