New contractor set to improve rail network

Last updated: 10/08/2017 14:55:24

Rail passengers will enjoy extra capacity, more frequent services and free Wi-Fi under a new, locally managed rail network for the West Midlands.


West Midlands Trains Ltd (a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd) has been successful in their bid to operate the West Midlands rail network which will benefit commuters with an extra 150 trains per day and an extra 85,000 seats across the Midlands.


One major improvement in the new franchise will be an increase in Sunday services to the same level of frequency currently seen on Saturdays. This will apply to many routes which will aid flexible working hours and social activities.


West Midlands Trains Ltd has also committed to an hourly service between Walsall and London. The improved connectivity to London will open up economic and leisure based opportunities for Walsall residents with a direct service to the capital. The commitment to provide this service demonstrates Walsall’s importance as a strategic centre in the West Midlands and the rest of the UK. Walsall Council is working with the new operator to ensure the services are in place as soon as possible for Walsall residents and commuters.


The Walsall to Wolverhampton rail corridor also presents a fantastic opportunity to increase the offer of public transport that is affordable and deliverable utilising existing infrastructure. Together with Walsall Council and Highways England's ambitious plan for a £65m improvement scheme at M6 Junction 10, the Walsall to Wolverhampton corridor stands ready for major investment over the coming years.


In addition to the new hourly service on the line, is the prospect of new intermediate stations at Willenhall and Darlaston’s James Bridge within the next few years, to further invest in local communities.  Walsall Council is working with key partners to develop these new stations and secure funding for their delivery.  Increased train service frequencies are also being investigated.


Councillor Sean Coughlan, Leader of Walsall Council said: “We are delighted to be at the table, driving better travel choices for Walsall people and supporting the local economy. Improved rail services will enable local residents to access a wide range of opportunities across the West Midlands.  As a Council, improved rail services are something we have wanted in Walsall for a long time, especially in the Walsall-Wolverhampton growth corridor. I led a review to bring some realism to grand plans to expand the Midland Metro that simply weren't going to happen; instead, shorter term delivery for Walsall is what we can now secure.  I can’t wait to work with our rail sector partners to generate a better future for Walsall transport and our economy.”


He added: “Walsall Council and Transport for West Midlands will work closely with the new operator to ensure we get the service and the infrastructure our local communities desperately need.  The near-term prospect of new stations in Willenhall and James Bridge will aid in regenerating our key district centres and support the Walsall sites of the Black Country Enterprise Zone in Darlaston, through associated local facilities such as improved walking and cycling infrastructure which will be integrated within the new stations.  This will help deliver cleaner environments and community assets that local communities can be proud of.”


Councillor Lee Jeavons, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration said: “We are pleased to be working with West Midlands Trains Ltd on the West Midlands Rail franchise to improve travel choices for the people of Walsall. Improving the quality and increasing travel choices will help to alleviate road congestion, improve air quality and speed up journey times as well as generate better connections to our key district centres. I truly believe this will be a huge benefit to many people especially those commuting work every day. I look forward to working with our key partners to make this a franchise to be proud of.”


Walsall Council and Transport for West Midlands will work closely with the new operator to ensure communities receive the services they need.


A wide range of passenger benefits are due to start this autumn.


Notes to editor


·         Connecting Walsall communities together is a critical part of the Council's corporate plan priority to pursue inclusive economic growth.


·         Walsall Council has consistently called for the reinstatement of passenger services on the Walsall to Wolverhampton rail line since they were removed in 2008, and was last year successful in influencing the Invitation to Tender documents and subsequently the proposals put forward by the two bidders.  

·         The West Midlands Trains bid included a commitment to reinstate an hourly service as soon as possible, and work with the various stakeholders to improve on this commitment during the course of the franchise.  


·         West Midlands Trains Ltd will work with various stakeholders including; Walsall Council, Black Country LEP, Network Rail, Department for Transport, Transport for West Midlands and West Midlands Rail during the course of the franchise until 2026.

·         West Midlands Rail is a consortium of 14 local authorities which together with the Department for Transport (DfT) will jointly manage the local network.

·         West Midlands Rail includes; Walsall Council, Birmingham City Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley MBC, Herefordshire Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Sandwell MBC, Shropshire Council, Solihull MBC, Staffordshire County Council, Telford and Wrekin Council, Warwickshire County Council, Wolverhampton City Council and Worcestershire County Council. The consortium also includes two affiliate members, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Cheshire East Council.