Only two bids for devolved West Midlands rail franchise

The DfT has issued invitations to tender for the new West Midland rail franchise but only two companies are in the race. The deadline date for submissions is 29 November 2016; the new franchise starts on 15 October 2017.

The two shortlisted contestants are Govia subsidiary, London & West Midlands Railway Ltd; and West Midland Trains Ltd, an Abellio company with minority East Japan Railway and Mitsui interests.

Govia, a Go-Ahead/Keolis joint venture, also owns London Midland (LM), the incumbent West Midlands franchise holder.

A third contender, Hong Kong-based MTR , was on the shortlist but the company pulled out in June for undisclosed reasons.

The successful bidder will be required to provide hundreds of additional services and beef up capacity. Weekend and evening frequencies will be enhanced. Both contestants are encouraged to come up with proposals “over and above the minimum requirements” contained in the franchise specification.

The West Midlands traffic mix consists of three main types: long distance services on the WCML to Liverpool and Birmingham; London commuter traffic to and from Euston; and local and regional services within the West Midlands area.

The new franchise reflects this division and is in step with government thinking on rail devolution. It will be run as two distinct business units with separate branding for the West Midlands and West Coast segments.

West Midlands Rail Ltd (WMR), an association of 14 local authorities, has worked with the DfT and played a key role in specifying train services and station facilities. WMR is made up of the following authorities: Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Herefordshire, Northamptonshire, Sandwell, Shropshire, Solihull, Staffordshire, Telford & Wrekin, Walsall, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & Wolverhampton.

Any new rolling stock for the franchise will need to be DCO (driver controlled operation) compliant. LM’s Class 150 units will be cascaded to Northern before the new franchise starts, and it will receive Class 153s from First GWR around the same time.

JH

The new franchise will devolve some services to a separate West Midlands business unit
The new franchise will devolve some services (in blue) to a separate West Midlands business unit

DfT: West Midlands Franchise, Invitation to Tender

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