"This deal will help ensure we have efficient train services that connect with the rest of the wider bus and tram network and, of course, the forthcoming high speed rail line.”
Japan is to play a leading role in the West Midlands rail network following the agreement of a deal that will see an investment of around £1bn. The West Midlands Railway (WMR) franchise will begin in December 2017 and will see companies East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and Mitsui & Co. join forces with Abellio, the transport company that operates rail and bus services across Europe.
The deal will mark JR East’s UK debut since setting up 30 years ago, while Japanese multinational Mitsui, which operates in industries including energy and logistics, will embark on its second UK passenger rail service after its involvement in the East Anglia franchise. The three-company consortium has also entered the running for the Southeastern franchise that serves Greater London, Kent and East Sussex.
The newly-formed train operating company (TOC), WMR, will act on instructions from West Midlands local authority – the first time it has had such influence on the network – to use its ‘local knowledge and understanding’ to develop a network that will work better for passengers and businesses in the region.
Included in the franchise is a programme of measures that will include 180 new carriages branded with West Midlands Railway’s latest livery, 20,000 extra seats for rush-hour journeys and smart ticketing that will refund passengers delayed by more than 15 minutes. Also being unveiled is free passenger Wi-Fi on all mainline services and live passenger information.
The new deal secured by JR East, which will run until March 2026, has been developed with the Department for Transport (DfT) and a consortium of 16 local councils to connect efficiently with the other transport networks in the area and help bolster the region’s economic prosperity.
"This deal will help ensure we have efficient train services that connect with the rest of the wider bus and tram network and, of course, the forthcoming high speed rail line,” said Councillor Roger Lawrence, chair of WMR and leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council.
“That will underpin economic growth and the new jobs being created in our region.”
Among the additional passenger benefits arriving with the WMR franchise will be more frequent Sunday services on the Cross-City and Snow Hill lines (which will receive 100 and 80 new carriages, respectively), an hourly shuttle between Leamington Spa and Coventry and two evening rush hour trains between Walsall and London, starting from December 2018.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said he wanted the new deal to welcome a ‘golden era’. “We have not had this level of local influence and management before and it fits with the wider powers and responsibilities currently being transferred from Whitehall to the West Midlands.”
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