West Midlands Trains is a TOC owned by Abellio UK, JR East and Mitsui. Abellio has a 70.1 per cent share with JR East and Mitsui owning the rest of the company in a 50/50 split
est Midlands Trains is one franchise that operates two brands. The first is West Midlands Railway which began operations on 10th December 2017, taking over from London Midland in a new franchise that will run until March 2026. The other is London Northwestern Railway which replaced London Midland’s West Coast services.
London Northwestern Railway
The West Midlands Railway brand was announced, after being created by the West Midlands Combined Authority. The introduction of two new, separate railway brands enable potential devolution of Department for Transport powers to the West Midlands Combined Authority. London Northwestern Railway would remain under the remit of the Department for Transport for future retender.
Both London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway offer fresh propositions for their customers. The two brands have a shared management board, while being closely aligned to their specific regional and route requirements.
The changes are a part of the near £1 billion of investment into the network over the next nine years by Abellio, JR East and Mitsui. This includes £700 million on new trains, produced by Bombardier and CAF and £70 million on new depots.
Dominic Booth, Managing Director of Abellio UK, said: ‘We are delighted to bring the London Northwestern Railway brand to a whole new generation of passengers, and it seems apt during a time of record investment into the railways.
‘This is all part of the £1 billion of improvements we are delivering to the network over the coming years.’
More than £60 million is to be invested in station improvements delivering over a thousand new car parking spaces and over 2,500 cycle parking spaces. This is alongside new and refurbished waiting rooms, more seats at stations and feasibility studies into developing new stations in the West Midlands.
Bombardier and CAF will manufacture 413 new carriages, creating space for an extra 85,000 passengers on rush hour services in Birmingham and London. A total of 333 of the new trains will be produced by Bombardier at its facility in Derby.
Dominic Booth said: ‘It is great news that so many of these trains will be produced in the UK. ‘As a company, we are committed to working with the government to strengthen the British economy and deliver thousands of high-quality jobs over the coming years.’
The trains will provide improved information for passengers with audiovisual displays on all trains by the end of 2019 as well as 800 new digital screens across the network. Free Wi-Fi is expected to become standard on all trains by the end of December 2019.
There will also be a greater choice of travel options for passengers thanks to the introduction of new Sunday services by 2021. This includes services from Birmingham to Shrewsbury and between Bedford and Bletchley.
As part of the cash injection 900 new apprenticeships will be created over the lifetime of the franchise with existing staff beneffitting from a £13 million investment in staff training and development during that same period.
There is also £1.25 million earmarked for investment in community rail initiatives.
West Midlands hub
Trains running only in the West Midlands area will be jointly managed by the Department for Transport (DfT) and West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE), a consortium of 16 local councils.
This 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.
A business case outlining the importance of a Midlands Rail Hub, was drawn up by the Midlands Connect partnership in collaboration with Network Rail.
Key elements of the Midlands Hub study included:
• Building the Bordesley Chord which will allow key services to access Moor Street station instead of New Street station and provide the potential for new stations at Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell
• Bringing additional platforms at Moor Street into use
• Increasing the number of tracks from two to four through Water Orton to accommodate more passenger and freight services
• £2 billion of economic benefits unlocking new jobs and supporting economic growth over the next ten to thirty years
• Up to ten extra trains per hour in and out of Birmingham linking with other towns and cities in the Midlands including Leicester, Nottingham and Tamworth and Burton-on-Trent
• Up to 26,000 lorries off the road every year.
Cllr Mark Winnington, Vice Chair of WMRE and cabinet member for economic growth at Staffordshire County Council, said at the time: ‘The proposals in this Study would bring significant benefits for West Midlands passengers with more trains, more destinations and more capacity.
‘That is crucial when you consider there will be an estimated 24 million extra passenger train journeys being made in the Midlands each year by 2023.’
Special constables from the Safer Travel Team patrolling along Moor Street Station
Photo: West Midlands Police