Business leaders in Greater Birmingham have welcomed news of a £1bn investment in the West Midlands rail network.
The cash injection is part of a deal announced today 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.
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.
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “For years, people across the West Midlands have been calling for more investment in the train network to improve efficiency and reduce delays. Today’s news is an important milestone in delivering those asks.
“As part of the wider devolution deal, it is great to see local franchises given the chance to use their local knowledge to implement improvements and a form a transport strategy which will create better connections across the country and also bring closer integration to other forms of transport in our region such as light rail and buses.
“Having a first rate transport system will help to attract new investment to the area and unlock the region’s true economic potential.”
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.
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.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, 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 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 result of this influence is that we will see West Midlands Trains deliver more of the services that passengers want including earlier and later weekday services and more trains on Sundays.
“I believe this deal for the West Midlands will 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.”
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 100 new carriages for the Cross City line, the busiest route on the West Midlands network, will be of a design that offers increased space to carry more passengers and wider doors for quicker access.
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 on 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.
Feasibility studies will be undertaken for the development of new stations in the West Midlands 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.
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