HS2

16.12.15

West Midlands Rail launches consultation on imminent rail devolution

West Midlands Rail (WMR) and the Department for Transport (DfT) have launched the long-awaited consultation on the future of increasingly devolved rail services in the region and beyond.

The West Midlands franchise, which covers the region’s local rail network and longer-distance services to the north west and London, will be run by London Midland hands until 2017, when its renewed contract ends.

The budding West Midlands Rail, a partnership of local transport authorities, has been calling for further devolution of passenger services from that point on.

The 14-week consultation, opened today, asks for views on how the next West Midlands franchise can provide better journeys. The government already expects the next franchise to put measures in place to tackle overcrowding, reduce delays and cancellations, and implement free on-board wi-fi.

The next operator will be expected to support planned infrastructure programmes, including enabling works at London Euston for HS2, signalling upgrades at Birmingham and the completion of the Rugeley Trent Valley to Walsall electrification.

It will also “lay the foundations” for greater devolution of services in the region, ensuring the network is increasingly managed locally through WMR rather than centrally only.

Cllr Mark Winnington, WMR chair, said: “We believe having a strong local involvement in the next franchise will be good for passengers, goof for the local economy and good for taxpayers. A local partnership will better understand what the region needs from its railway which is why we are delighted to be working with the DfT on this.

“But it’s important that the public, businesses and other stakeholders use this consultation to have their say and help ensure we have a future rail network that meets the real needs of passengers and the local economy.”

As anticipated, the new operator will be asked to separate the 2017 franchise into two business units as part of the devolution programme. One of these would comprise the West Midlands local rail network, while the other will cater for longer-distance services between Liverpool and Birmingham and Crewe and London (operated predominantly on the West Coast Main Line).

The government will also consider the value of having a specific brand for each set of services to provide a “clear and identifiable” network for passengers, similarly to that provided in Liverpool with Merseyrail.

For more information – including proposals on passengers’ needs, competitive services, safety, sustainability and customer experience – check out today’s consultation, running until 22 March.

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