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DfT issues West Midlands franchise ITT

The DfT has issued the invitation to tender (ITT) for the West Midlands rail franchise, which is due to start in October 2017.

The West Midlands franchise covers local and inter-regional services centred on Birmingham and along the West Coast Main Line.  The West Midlands franchise competition is between the existing operator London Midland, owned by Govia, and West Midlands Trains, owned by Abellio with East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd as minority partners. The companies now have until 29 November to submit a bid.

The ITT document and the passenger improvements it contains has been drawn up by the DfT in collaboration with West Midlands Rail (WMR), a consortium of all 14 metropolitan, shire and unitary authorities in the wider region.

The new franchise will be part managed by WMR allowing more local control and influence over services – something which currently rests with central government. It includes an increase in Sunday services to the same level of frequency currently seen on Saturdays. This will apply to nearly all local routes and together with more evening services is aimed at better reflecting modern working and leisure patterns.

Other improvements set out in the ITT include:

  • Space for more than 30,000 additional peak time journeys into Birmingham
  • Bespoke local branding of trains as part of a separate business unit managed by West Midlands Rail
  • Increased frequency between Birmingham and Bromsgrove and Birmingham and Rugeley following completion of electrification schemes
  • New hourly service from Birmingham and Wolverhampton to Crewe via Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent
  • Free Wi-Fi on all local services by 2019
  • Expansion of smart ticketing

The DfT said the new franchise would also provide capacity for an additional 20,000 passengers at peak times. It added that it requires a franchisee who will, by the end of 2021, refurbish all pre-1995 rolling stock that will form part of the train fleet after the end of 2022. Additionally, if a franchisee proposes to procure new trains as part of their fleet strategy it must ensure that those trains are designed in such a way as to minimise the future costs of fitting ETCS equipment, and can be operated under Driver Controlled Operation (DCO).

The Department also requires a franchisee’s fleet strategy to provide sufficient suitable rolling stock to enable it to deploy electric rolling stock to operate a minimum of 95% of passenger services each week that operate wholly on electrified routes.

Paul Maynard MP, the minister for rail, said: “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era and today marks a key step forward in giving passengers better journeys across the West Midlands and beyond.

“This franchise serves both commuters and long distance passengers and these benefits will deliver extra and smoother journeys for customers using these services.”

Cllr Mark Winnington, chair of West Midlands Rail and Staffordshire county council’s cabinet member for economic growth, said: “Today’s announcement is a game changer in that it is the first time the West Midlands has had this level of involvement in shaping what a train company has to deliver for local passengers.

“The region has come together to grab this devolution opportunity with both hands and we believe that together with the Department for Transport we have set out a railway that brings real benefits not only for passengers but also for local businesses, supporting economic growth and jobs.

“The authorities of the West Midlands are united in this and believe the region better understands what it needs from its railway and that having greater responsibility for its management is good for passengers, good for the economy and good for taxpayers.”

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Andrew Gwilt   07/09/2016 at 17:13

Govia, Abellio, First, National Express and Stagecoach are all bidding to take over the West Midlands rail franchise. I think that Abellio or First could take over or Govia to extend the WM franchise to 9 years or 10 years if they win the franchise to keep the current operator-London Midland for another decade.

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