A £1bn deal to provide longer trains has been revealed as a new operator will be taking over the West Midlands franchise to replace London Midland.
The rail operator servicing Rugby, Leamington and Kenilworth, once the station is completed, 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 providing extra seats and space for passengers.
Under the deal with West Midlands Trains, a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co, to run the West Midlands franchise, passengers will get:
• Free wifi on all main line services by the end of 2019
• Compensation if services are delayed by more than 15 minutes for the first time
• Improved access for those 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.
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.
“This shows we are delivering on our commitment to build a railway that works for everyone.”
A new hourly shuttle between Leamington Spa and Coventry serving the new station at Kenilworth is one of the new promises from the deal.
Passengers on London services will benefit from 225 brand new carriages, with all other carriages being completely refurbished.
People travelling between Northampton and Euston and on the Abbey Line between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction will be able to pay for their travel with a smart card for the first time.
Plus modern trains for the Abbey line and improvements to Sunday services from May, 2021, which will provide a similar level of service to that provided on a Saturday.
As well as mobile phone and laptop chargepoints on all London services by May, 2021, and more Sunday trains on the line from Euston to Northampton.
There will be more than 180 new train carriages for the West Midlands, creating more space for people.
This includes investment in 100 new carriages on the Cross City line and 80 new carriages for the Snow Hill line, offering longer and more spacious services.
Abellio 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 £1bn into the network, delivering new trains, better stations and a whole host of other benefits for passengers.
“The trains running only in the West Midlands area will be jointly managed by the Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail (WMR), a consortium of 16 local councils.”
London Midland believes a new long-term franchise means further investment can now be made in the region’s rail network.
Managing director Patrick Verwer said: “The new franchise will bring much welcomed investment in new services and extra capacity across the network.
“We congratulate the consortium on winning the franchise.
“Over the coming months our focus will remain on delivering the best possible service to our passengers, each day and every day.
“This approach is already producing high levels of customer satisfaction.
“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.”
West Midlands mayor Andy Street 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.”