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London Midland franchise extended to 2017 – devolution on the horizon

The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed London Midland’s franchise will be extended from April 2016, when the current contract ends, to October 2017, matched with £13m of funding.

The funding will be used to improve the operator’s services between London, the West Midlands and the north west, with extra seats, free wi-fi, better ticketing, more services and tougher targets.

On passenger experience, London Midland will be expected to roll out free wi-fi on long-distance services between London Euston, Birmingham, Crewe and Liverpool by the time the next fully-competed franchise starts.

It will also buy new and upgraded ticket machines at selected stations with ‘click and collect’ capabilities, as well as build on the existing Swift smartcard scheme to introduce more seamless ticketing together with Smart Cities Partnership.

Part of the funding will be used to install CCTV on cross-city Birmingham services to improve security on-board, while staff will be handed tablets to improve the information given to passengers.

Extra drivers, conductors, on-board staff and apprentices will also be recruited across trains and business departments to ensure all these improvements can be delivered – especially under the tougher targets of passenger satisfaction and punctuality the government is enforcing.

According to rail minister Claire Perry, the operator will be contracted to achieve a 2% improvement in overall customer satisfaction before the end of the franchise.

London Midland’s managing director, Patrick Verwer, said: “Winning this contract is a great endorsement by the DfT of how London Midland is focused on improving our passengers’ journeys.

“This new franchise offers some very exciting opportunities and will bring benefits touching every element of our passengers’ journey. It will enable us to continue delivering improvements for our customers and, as before, we remain committed to listening to our passengers and working with our stakeholders, communities and local elected representatives to make further improvements in the months ahead.”

The extra services to be introduced across the network include two more evening services every week day from London to the Trent Valley, which should provide another 2,300 seats from Euston weekly.

It will also operate earlier services to central Birmingham on Sunday mornings from surrounding towns, including Rugby and Lichfield, as well as new Sunday services from Longbridge, Dorridge and Whitlocks End on the same day.

And an extra daily return service on the Abbey line between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey is expected to provide customers with an extra 3,400 weekly seats.

West Midlands rail devolution

Although the direct award franchise to 2017 was expected, Govia’s London Midland network could see radical changes in the coming years as a result of a budding organisation, West Midlands Rail (WMR).

Last month, RTM reported that the group’s formal establishment seemed to be underway after its members revealed the body entered into a partnership agreement with the DfT.

The organisation, which calls for further devolution of passenger services in the region, is working in association with Centro and the government to develop a proposal to split the franchise in order to increase local influence over rail services.

The authorities in it – 14 metropolitan, shire and unitary bodies – expect that the existing London Midland franchise will be cut into two business units early in the new franchise term. One of these halves would be for the West Midlands local rail network, while the other will cater for longer-distance services operated predominantly on the West Coast Main Line.

Full devolution of the region’s network is expected by 2024. Since it would be let by the government, DfT would retain financial and contractual risk, but manage the franchise jointly with WMR.

Most recently, in last week’s Spending Review, the government confirmed that the next West Midlands franchisee will be required to work with WMR to prepare for this full devolution to the region.

WMR and the DfT will jointly launch a public consultation this month.


Nickk   03/12/2015 at 15:33

Ooh, an extra daily circuit of the St Albans Abbey Flyer! It would be nice if LM could provide a reliable driver all day as that line's the poor relative when it comes to lack of staff, having regular cancellations.

Harry   05/12/2015 at 06:02

Surely this is going back to the old Silverlink/Central franchises of the early 2000's? the whole idea of the LM franchise was to make them one business to give WCML a single operator for suburban and commuter!

Brian   11/05/2017 at 08:47

London Midland is a disgrace. The trains are local surburban units with our journey taking 1 hour and 15 mins. The poor passengers travelling to Crewe and beyond have about the same time added on. Yes the trains are clean but they are the sort that you would xpect to see running on Southern services. No Catering." Jump out and visit a station buffet" they say. The stop at Northampton maybe 9 minutes but the doors are locked whilst our 4 car train is conncted to a further 8. Lond Midland should start to wake up to the fact that they are running a service FOR the travelling public not for their profits. They really are the worst of the worst. I hope they do not receive an extension and just disappear. Lets us have a company that cares about its passengers, provides decent food and make the jouniy's a pleaseure

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