Free wifi, more seats at rush-hour, and compensation for delays all promised by new Northamptonshire rail company

West Midlands Trains will take over from London Midland in December.
West Midlands Trains will take over from London Midland in December.

Nearly £1 billion will be invested into the West Midlands rail franchise after a new consortium was awarded management of it in a deal which promised to deliver increased capacity rush-hour trains between Birmingham and London.

The West Midlands Train consortium will also compensate passengers if their service is delayed by more than 15 minutes, will introduce free wifi on all main line services by the end of the year, and build 400 new carriages by 2021.

The Department for Transport (DFT) awarded the franchise to West Midlands Trains - a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co - who will take over from London Midland in December.

Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, 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.”

The franchise also includes routes from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham. The new franchise will run until March 2026.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “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.”

London Midland, which has run the West Midlands franchise since 2007, congratulated the group and said a new long-term franchise means further investment can now be made in the region’s rail network.

Patrick Verwer, London Midland’s managing director, said: “The new franchise will bring much welcomed investment in new services and extra capacity across the network. We congratulate the consortium on winning the franchise.

“Over the coming months our focus will remain on delivering the best possible service to our passengers, each day and every day. This approach is already producing high levels of customer satisfaction.

"We have created a strong foundation for the new operators to build on."

London Midland has been operating train services from London to Liverpool and across the West Midlands since 2007. During the present franchise, over £400 million was invested in improving the network with new trains and more stations.

The company’s current contract began in April 2016 and was due to end in October 2017.

During this time London Midland invested £14 million in raising performance and introducing additional passenger benefits including world leading free on-train entertainment and wifi.