London Midland have lost the rights to operate the West Midlands railway franchise, with the contract being taken over by West Midlands Trains.

The result means a new railway operator will be taking over local train services and stations including Milton Keynes Central, Northampton, Bletchley and Wolverton. West Midlands Trains Ltd, a joint venture of Dutch operators Abellio, Japan East Railway Company, and Mitsui & Co Ltd, has been awarded with the new contract which will run from 10 December 2017 until March 2026.

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

Key benefits promised include new trains with more seats and more space, new and refurbished train carriages creating more space for people, 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham, and 10,000 for people in London.

Also included in the new franchise’s proposals are separable business units for the West Midlands and West Coast Main Line services. 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.

Further proposed developments include passenger entitlement to 25% compensation if their train is delayed by 15 minutes, free Wi-Fi will also be available on all main line trains by the end of December 2019, more accessible services, a reduction in the period of prior notice required for passenger assist to 12 hours in January 2020 and reduced further to 4 hours in January 2021, more than £60m investment towards new car and cycle park spaces, and over 900 apprenticeships offered with female employees making up at least 20% of those entering into engineering and driving apprenticeships.

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. The franchise currently operates over 1,300 services every weekday and serves 170 stations, directly managing 145.

The franchise is currently operated by London Midland, owned by Govia – a partnership between Go-Ahead (65%) and Keolis (35%). London Midland had previously taken over the franchise contract in 2007, and had initially been due to expire in 2015 before the company was granted two separate extensions. The firm and the new franchise owners were the only bidders for the government to decide from.

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

The other main franchise on the West Coast Main Line through the area is the Intercity West Coast franchise, currently run by Virgin Trains. This franchise is due to expire in 2019, and will be replaced by a West Coast Partnership deal that includes the contract to run trains on HS2 from in 2026.

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