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West Midlands (London Midland)

Essex Thameside

What is happening now?

The present franchise is operated as London Midland by Govia. This is a short-term franchise (known as a direct award) negotiated by the Department for Transport (DfT) to run until December 2017.

On 10 August the Department for Transport announced that the new Franchise would be awarded to West Midlands Trains Ltd, a joint venture of Abellio, Japan East Railway Company, and Mitsui & Co Ltd.

Key benefits will include:

  • New trains with more seats and more space as nearly £1 billion is invested in services on the West Midlands network.
  • New and refurbished train carriages creating more space for people, especially during rush hour. This includes an investment in 100 new carriages on the Cross City line in Birmingham, and a further 80 for the Snow Hill line. The new Cross City Line carriages will offer metro-style passenger facilities, just like on the London Overground, with increased space to carry more passengers and wider doors.
  • 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham, and 10,000 for people in London. On top of this, there will be standing room for 50,000 passengers in Birmingham in the metro-style carriages referred to above.
  • Two separable business units; one for the West Midlands and the other for services on the West Coast Main Line. West Midlands Rail will have lead the contract management of the services in the West Midlands business unit. This is to ensure the new franchise will be responsive to regional needs.
  • The West Midlands separable business unit will receive a unique brand, known as West Midlands Railway. The intention is that this brand will become a uniting symbol for the region, creating a positive sense of belonging that will enable the region to prosper.
  • Passengers will also be entitled to 25 per cent compensation if their train is delayed by 15 minutes. They will continue to receive 50 per cent of their money back for delays of half an hour and full compensation if it is more than an hour.
  • Free Wi-Fi will also be available on all main line trains by the end of December 2019.
  • More accessible services with a reduction in the period of prior notice required for passenger assist, down from 24 hours to 12 hours in January 2020 and reduced further to 4 hours in January 2021.
  • More than £60m invested on station improvements which will deliver over 1,000 new car park spaces, over 2,500 cycle parking spaces, a cycle hire scheme trial, new and refurbished waiting rooms, and more seats at stations.
  • Over 900 apprenticeships offered with female employees making up at least 20% of those entering into engineering and driving apprenticeships.

The new franchise will run from 10 December 2017 until March 2026.

Responding to news, Anthony Smith, Transport Focus’s chief executive, said:

“Abellio will need to work hard during this new franchise to deliver on its bold promises. Passengers will welcome the much-needed new trains, automatic delay compensation and the strong emphasis on punctuality. Part-time commuters will keenly await the introduction of new types of tickets next autumn.”

“In our last survey 77 per cent of Abellio’s passengers were satisfied overall with their service, with only 36 per cent satisfied with value for money. We’ll be watching closely to see how this ambitious plan is delivered.”


On 7 April the DfT announced that it had shortlisted three bidders for the new franchise, however, one bidder (MTR Corporation) later withdrew. The remaining shortlisted bidders are:

  • London and West Midlands Railway Ltd, a subsidiary of Govia Ltd (a joint venture between Keolis and Go-Ahead Group)
  • West Midlands Trains Ltd, currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Abellio Transport Group Ltd with East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd as minority partners.

The DfT held a public consultation into the future of rail services in the West Midlands, which closed in March 2016. The responses were analysed to help the DfT decide what to ask bidders to propose for the next franchise. We have published our response to the consultation on our website.

Our role in the franchising process

In December 2016 we reviewed the bidders’ delivery plans for the Customer Experience and Stations elements of the tenders. We provided a specialist report to the DfT on how well we felt each bidder had demonstrated its ability to meet or exceed the requirements in the Invitation to Tender.

Transport Focus engaged with London Midland and the DfT about passengers’ priorities for the direct award period. These discussions were informed by research into passengers’ current experiences and aspirations for the future franchise, which we published in 2015. In March 2015 we also published our analysis and recommendations for the direct award. We are pleased to see passenger experience directly reflected in the direct award with the inclusion of targets for National Rail Passenger Survey satisfaction scores. We pressed for the award to deliver this and other real benefits for passengers.

We held detailed discussions with the DfT to identify key passenger issues for the next franchise and provided advice about the passenger satisfaction monitoring regime.

To view our National Rail Passenger Survey reports or to access these and our appeal complaints data through our Data Explorer tool, please click on the links below:


NRPS                                                         Data Explorer

Transport Focus reports and publications

August 2017 Awarding of the West Midlands franchise – Transport Focus response
March 2016 West Midlands franchise – consultation response from Transport Focus
December 2015 Transport Focus response to London Midland Direct Award
July 2015 London Midland rail franchise passenger research
March 2015 Passenger Focus proposals for the London Midland Direct Award

Click here for key Department for Transport publications

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