Local rail passengers in line for major improvements from next year

Telford rail passengers will enjoy extra capacity, more frequent services and free wi-fi under a new, locally managed rail network for the West Midlands, it was confirmed today (Tuesday August 30).

Local rail passengers in line for major improvements from next year

A wide range of passenger benefits have been included in a ground breaking document which lays out the minimum specifications to be met by whichever train operator wins the next West Midlands franchise due to start in October 2017.

The Invitation to Tender document and the passenger improvements it contains has been drawn up by the Department for Transport (DfT) in collaboration with West Midlands Rail (WMR), a consortium of all 14 Metropolitan, Shire and Unitary authorities in the wider region.

One major improvement in the new franchise will be 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.

Telford & Wrekin Council has worked hard over the past few years to work with the rail industry and neighbouring authorities to secure better rail services for Telford.

The Council is a member of West Midlands Rail LTD, which is a company established between the partner authorities to oversee further devolution of rail services in the Midlands and to provide more local input into the way services are operated in the region.

The Council’s hard work has encouraged both West Midlands Rail and the Department for Transport o see the need and benefit of providing increased services to serve Telford and Wellington to support the Borough’s future growth.

The Council has already held positive meetings with the two bidders of the new franchise and we will be working to secure additional improvements where possible and to ensure that the new franchise obligations are delivered. 

Whoever wins the franchise, it will result in three trains per hour serving Telford Central and Wellington stations from December 2018 as well as improved Sunday services.  

The increases in services, along with a doubling of off-peak services between Birmingham and Shrewsbury and a new, direct peak time service between Walsall and London are among a number of improvements resulting from West Midland Rail's influence in the design of the new franchise.

The new franchise will also be part managed by West Midlands Rail allowing more local control and influence over services – something which currently rests with central Government.

Cllr Mark Winnington, chair of West Midlands Rail said: “Today’s announcement is a game changer in that it is the first time the region 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 DfT we have set out a railway that brings real benefits not only for passengers but also for local businesses while 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.”

Other improvements set out in the Invitation to Tender 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

Announcing the Invitation to Tender, Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: “Today marks a 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.”

Train companies bidding for the franchise are being encouraged to include proposals for additional benefits over and above the minimum requirements published today.

It follows an extensive public consultation which attracted almost 2,000 responses