West Midlands franchise

The West Midlands franchise provides a combination of commuting, regional and longer-distance services in the West Midlands and on the West Coast Main Line. They can be split into three markets:

  • Services between Northampton and London Euston, used by a high number of commuters and connecting branch lines between Bedford and Bletchley, and between St Albans and Watford;
  • Local and regional services in the West Midlands area used by commuter, business and leisure travellers; and
  • Long distance services along the West Coast Main Line from Liverpool to Birmingham (via Crewe and Stafford) and Crewe to London via Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford, Lichfield and Milton Keynes. The franchise also provides direct services between Birmingham, Coventry and London, directly competing with those provided by the West Coast franchise (services currently operated by Virgin Trains)

The franchise currently operates over 1,300 services every weekday and serves 170 stations (directly managing 145), and is currently operated by London Midland, owned by Govia - a partnership between Go-Ahead (65%) and Keolis (35%).

On 10th August the Department for Transport announced that the new Franchise would be awarded to West Midlands Trains Ltd, a joint venture of Abellio, Japan East Railway Company, and Mitsui & Co Ltd.

The new franchise will deliver nearly £1 billion of investment in services on the West Midlands route. This will mean more space on trains, more frequent services and better facilities for passengers.

Key benefits will include:

  • New trains with more seats and more space as nearly £1 billion is invested in services on the West Midlands network.
  • New and refurbished train carriages creating more space for people, especially during rush hour. This includes an investment in 100 new carriages on the Cross City line in Birmingham, and a further 80 for the Snow Hill line. The new Cross City Line carriages will offer metro-style passenger facilities, just like on the London Overground, with increased space to carry more passengers and wider doors.
  • 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham, and 10,000 for people in London. On top of this, there will be standing room for 50,000 passengers in Birmingham in the metro-style carriages referred to above.  
  • Two separable business units; one for the West Midlands and the other for services on the West Coast Main Line. West Midlands Rail will have lead the contract management of the services in the West Midlands business unit. This is to ensure the new franchise will be responsive to regional needs.
  • The West Midlands separable business unit will receive a unique brand, known as West Midlands Railway. The intention is that this brand will become a uniting symbol for the region, creating a positive sense of belonging that will enable the region to prosper.   
  • Passengers will also be entitled to 25 per cent compensation if their train is delayed by 15 minutes. They will continue to receive 50 per cent of their money back for delays of half an hour and full compensation if it is more than an hour.
  • Free Wi-Fi will also be available on all main line trains by the end of December 2019.
  • More accessible services with a reduction in the period of prior notice required for passenger assist, down from 24 hours to 12 hours in January 2020 and reduced further to 4 hours in January 2021.  
  • More than £60m invested on station improvements which will deliver over 1,000 new car park spaces, over 2,500 cycle parking spaces, a cycle hire scheme trial, new and refurbished waiting rooms, and more seats at stations.
  • Over 900 apprenticeships offered with female employees making up at least 20% of those entering into engineering and driving apprenticeships.

The new franchise will run from 10th December 2017 until March 2026.

More information on the changes, and how they might affect your journey, can be found here http://maps.dft.gov.uk/west-midlands/