Rail passengers are to get more frequent services with new trains and extra seats as a result of a near £1 billion investment in the West Midlands network. The cash injection is part of a deal announced on 10 August that will see West Midlands Trains Ltd (a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd) run the region’s rail services under a new franchise from December onwards.
Trains running only in the West Midlands area will be jointly managed by the Department for Transport (DfT) and West Midlands Rail (WMR), a consortium of 16 local councils, including Warwickshire County Council.
A package of improvements has been built into the franchise agreement aimed at providing more services and more space for passengers and to stimulate and support further economic growth and jobs across the region. It is the first time that West Midlands authorities have had such a level of influence in setting out what a train company needs to deliver for local passengers.
Key Benefits for Warwickshire include:
• Additional Sunday services.
• A new hourly shuttle between Leamington Spa and Coventry, serving the new station at Kenilworth.
• Additional services between Rugby and Birmingham Monday to Friday by December 2018.
• Carriages on the Snowhill line will be fully refurbished.
• Additional rush hour services between Stratford-upon-Avon and Dorridge, creating a regular hourly service in both directions between Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham via Solihull from May 2021.
• An additional hourly service in each direction between Coventry and Nuneaton following the construction of the new platform at Coventry, delivering two trains per hour Monday to Friday and Sunday and three trains per hour on a Saturday.
• Compensation if services are delayed by more than 15 minutes
• Free Wi-Fi on all main line services
• A roll out of smart ticketing and live passenger information
Cllr Peter Butlin, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance for Warwickshire County Council said:
“This investment package will see major rail devolution to Warwickshire, meaning a shift of oversight from the Department for Transport to local authorities across the West Midlands rail network, in order to bring about better services in the region.
We look forward to working with West Midlands Trains during the franchise and welcome the improvements, including additional services, for Warwickshire passengers that have been secured. We will continue to work with the operator to help deliver future rail improvements in Warwickshire.”
Under the franchise agreement West Midlands Trains will run local rail services in the West Midlands from December this year until March 2026. As well as increased frequencies the deal will see major investment in new trains with local services branded under a new West Midlands Railway livery.
The franchise covers services across the West Midlands, as well as trains from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham. The deal will, for the first time, see passengers entitled to 25 per cent compensation if their train is delayed by more than 15 minutes. They already receive 50 per cent of their money back for delays of half an hour and full compensation if it is more than an hour.
Around £60m will be invested station improvements across the franchise area delivering 1,000 new car park spaces, 2,500 cycle parking spaces, a cycle hire scheme, new and refurbished waiting rooms and more seats at stations. There will also be improved access for those requiring extra assistance, including disabled people and there will be plans to limit the impact of delays caused by leaves on the line in the autumn, including through the introduction of new modern trains.