Posted 10th August 2017 | 5 Comments

Abellio wins West Midlands franchise

ABELLIO has won the West Midlands franchise, ending a decade of control by Govia. The London Midland franchise began in November 2007, and has been extended several times beyond its original termination date of September 2015.

The new operator, which now officially the preferred bidder, is a joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui.

The routes between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool are set to receive an investment of almost £1 billion, said the Department for Transport.

The fleet will be boosted by 400 new vehicles, which are to be in service by 2021. The larger fleet will offer space for 85,000 more passengers on rush hour services, according to the DfT.

The new nine-year contract includes compensation for delays of more than 15 minutes, in line with the DfT’s policy of progressively introducing the 15-minute trigger as new franchises are agreed.

The franchise also marks a step towards more devolution, because trains on local routes in the West Midlands will be jointly managed by the Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail, a consortium of 16 local councils.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: "This is great news for passengers using West Midlands services – with new trains, more space, more regular services and easier access for disabled people.

"We are improving the whole travelling experience with live train crowding information, compensation for people delayed by 15 minutes or more, smart ticketing and better value tickets for part-time workers. This shows we are delivering on our commitment to build a railway that works for everyone."

Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth said: "We are delighted to have been announced as preferred bidder for the West Midlands franchise, driving growth in one of the most exciting regions in the country. We will be investing nearly £1 billion into the network, delivering new trains, better stations and a whole host of other benefits for passengers."

Majority Govia shareholder Go-Ahead Group said it was ‘disappointed’ to have lost the franchise, which it will now hand over in December.

Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown said: “London Midland and its people have been part of our Group’s rail business for ten years. In that time we have delivered significant improvements across the entire network which have seen London Midland transformed into an award-winning franchise with high levels of employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

“I would like to thank everyone involved in London Midland for their hard work and contribution to the company’s successes.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street 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.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • James Dawkins, Sheffield / Hampshire

    The West Midlands vs London local control issue couldn't possibly be because the Tories have a greater influence in West Midlands politics (for instance the mayor of the combined authority plus several local councils) than in London where Sadiq Khan's Labour is dominant, could it? :-) The government was all for TfL having greater control over rail services when Boris was mayor.

  • Andrew Gwilt, Basildon, Essex

    So Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui have won the bid to take over the West Midlands franchise. I think they will do alright with the new WM franchise from December.

  • Jim Campbell, Birmingham

    Further to my previous comment I hope they separate the service. At present when there are delays preference is given to the London end of the route with northbound services turned at Coventry or International to get back on time. Local passengers find their service cancelled. Never turn southbound services at Watford though.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Following on from loss of SWT by Stagecoach we now have Go Ahead loosing Midland franchise meaning more of our railways will be operated by foreign railways ...

    I notice that local West Midlands services are being transferred to local control which is in complete contrast to the way Chris Grayling won't transfer services at London end to London Mayor when they are refranchised .

    The HS2 project will affect this franchise both with the rebuilding of Euston Station and in the longer term freed up capacity on WCML will offer opportunities to upgrade these services with faster services using capacity released by transfer of longer distance services to HS2.

  • Jim Campbell, Birmingham

    What is not clear is which part of the package will be responsible for trains from New St to Coventry as these are both local services but then go on to serve Northampton and Euston.
    [The official announcement from West Midlands Rail says: "Trains running only in the West Midlands area will be jointly managed ...", although I suppose WMR could have some input where trains run beyond the WM boundary but also serve local stations within it. However, that level of detail is not yet known.--Editor.]