The government is asking for views on how the next West Midlands franchise - which covers the region's local rail network, as well as longer distance services to the north west of England and to London - can provide the services that people need. The 14 week consultation is being carried out jointly with West Midlands Rail, a partnership of local transport authorities set up to improve rail services in the region.
The government expects the next operator of the franchise to provide significantly better journeys for passengers, with measures to tackle overcrowding and reduce delays and cancellations, as well as bringing in benefits such as free on board WiFi.
As part of the government's commitment to ensure local passengers are at the heart of the rail network by devolving power to those that know their economies and customers best, the new franchise will also lay the foundations for the region's rail services to be increasingly managed locally through West Midlands Rail, rather than solely by central government.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "The Midlands is truly the UK's engine for growth, so it is vital that the region has the right network of rail services that will allow the economy to thrive.
"Local people are best placed to tell us how this can be made a reality and their journeys made better. It is really important that passengers, businesses and other local groups tell us what they think so we can ensure the best possible rail services for the region and beyond are delivered."
The consultation asks for comments on a number of areas, including:
- how the region's rail services and stations can be improved, including any current barriers to using the railway
- how to create space for more passengers and tackle overcrowding
- how services can be changed to best meet customer demand
- how ticketing, customer satisfaction, performance and security can be improved
Councillor Mark Winnington, chair of West Midlands Rail, said: "We believe having a strong local involvement in the next franchise will be good for passengers, good for the local economy and good for taxpayers. A local partnership will better understand what the region needs from its railway which is why we are delighted to be working with the Department for Transport on this.
"But it's important that the public, businesses and other stakeholders use this consultation to have their say and help ensure we have a future rail network that meets the real needs of passengers and the local economy."
The next operator will also be expected to support planned infrastructure improvements during the next franchise, including the completion of the Rugeley Trent Valley to Walsall electrification, signalling upgrades at Birmingham, and enabling works at London Euston for HS2.
Earlier this month, the government announced that it had awarded the current West Midlands operator, London Midland, a new contract to continue running services on the West Midlands network until October 2017, when the new franchise is due to start. This deal will see passengers benefit from £13 million worth of improvements over the next 2 years, including more services, around 6,600 extra seats, free WiFi and better ticketing.
The 14 week consultation for the next franchise closes on 22 March, 2016 and is available to view at Type=links;Linkid=6734;Title=West Midlands rail franchise;Target=_blank;.
- released: Wednesday 16 December, 2015