ABELLIO has won the West Midlands franchise, ending a decade of control by Govia. The London Midland franchise began in November 2007, and has been extended several times beyond its original termination date of September 2015.
The new operator, which now officially the preferred bidder, is a joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui.
The routes between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool are set to receive an investment of almost £1 billion, said the Department for Transport.
The fleet will be boosted by 400 new vehicles, which are to be in service by 2021. The larger fleet will offer space for 85,000 more passengers on rush hour services, according to the DfT.
The new nine-year contract includes compensation for delays of more than 15 minutes, in line with the DfT’s policy of progressively introducing the 15-minute trigger as new franchises are agreed.
The franchise also marks a step towards more devolution, because trains on local routes in the West Midlands will be jointly managed by the Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail, a consortium of 16 local councils.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: "This is great news for passengers using West Midlands services – with new trains, more space, more regular services and easier access for disabled people.
"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."
Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth 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."
Majority Govia shareholder Go-Ahead Group said it was ‘disappointed’ to have lost the franchise, which it will now hand over in December.
Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown said: “London Midland and its people have been part of our Group’s rail business for ten years. In that time we have delivered significant improvements across the entire network which have seen London Midland transformed into an award-winning franchise with high levels of employee engagement and customer satisfaction.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in London Midland for their hard work and contribution to the company’s successes.”
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “We want to see a new golden era for our local trains and today’s announcement is an important step towards that.
“Having the ability to use our local knowledge and understanding to shape what West Midlands Trains will deliver for passengers and businesses has been a real game changer.
“When it comes to our local train services 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.”