Worcester MP Robin Walker has welcomed the announcement that almost £1billion is to be invested in train services across the West Midlands, as the region’s rail franchise – previously held by London Midland – was awarded to West Midlands Trains Ltd (a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd).
The investment means passengers can look forward to new longer trains with more seats and more space. There will also be improved passenger information and accessibility standards, more services at weekends and evenings, flexible ticketing for part-time workers, better compensation, free WiFi, and station upgrades.
For commuters on the Birmingham to Hereford line, via Worcester, there will be an additional evening service from Birmingham to Worcester, and an earlier first service from Worcester to Birmingham on Monday to Friday by December 2018, as well as:
- Enhanced Saturday evening services to provide a regular hourly service between Birmingham and Worcester by December 2018;
- Additional evening services between Birmingham and Hereford in both directions on Saturdays by December 2018;
- Enhanced frequency on Sundays between Hereford and Birmingham with at least 5 additional services in each direction by May 2021;
- Earlier first services between Birmingham and Hereford in both directions on Saturdays by May 2021;
- A service quality regime to improve the quality of stations, trains and customer service for passengers (both Worcester Shrub Hill and Worcester Foregate Street have been managed by London Midland until now).
On the Birmingham Snow Hill line to Worcester via Kidderminster, carriages will be fully refurbished and supported by a £160million investment in 80 brand new diesel carriages. There will also be enhanced evening frequencies between Birmingham and Kidderminster, Birmingham and Solihull, and Birmingham and Shirley in each direction Monday to Friday by December 2018; enhanced frequencies by May 2021 on the Snow Hill lines on a Sunday with services from Birmingham increasing to 2 trains per hour to Stratford-upon-Avon, 3 trains per hour to Shirley, 3 trains per hour to Solihull, 6 trains per hour to Stourbridge Junction with 4 extending to Kidderminster; and earlier first services on the Snow Hill lines by May 2021 on a Sunday.
Smart ticketing and live passenger information will also be rolled out under the deal, as part of a package of reforms that will improve journeys for passengers.
The franchise as a whole covers services across the West Midlands, as well as trains from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham, but alongside the Great Western franchise that covers London to Worcester services it is one of the crucial ones for Worcester passengers. Robin regularly meets colleagues in the Department of Transport to press for better services on both lines and has campaigned for more carriages, faster services and upgrades to disability access at the Worcester stations.
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.”
Commenting on the announcement, Robin Walker said:
“This is really welcome news for Worcester rail passengers. Overcrowding on peak-time trains to and from Birmingham is one of the most frequent complaints I hear from local commuters, so the longer trains and new carriages will hopefully make a noticeable improvement to people’s journeys.”
“More frequent services at evenings and weekends will also benefit those visiting friends and family, going shopping in Birmingham, and indeed will make Worcester an even more attractive proposition than it already is for visitors across the Midlands. I am hopeful that the new Cathedral Square attractions will draw in even more visitors from Birmingham to spend time and money in our beautiful city and the extra services will help them to come here.”
“The recent publication of the Worcestershire Rail Investment Strategy showed just how much economic benefit there is to be gained locally by investing in our railways, so this announcement is a really positive step and I look forward to seeing the improvements and upgrades as they are introduced. I will keep up the pressure for improvements on all Worcester’s rail services, both those between our city and Birmingham and the London services which I would like to see come down to under two hours as swiftly as possible.”
Notes to editors
For an interactive map detailing the changes and upgrades, please see http://maps.dft.gov.uk/west-midlands/
For Robin’s recent statement on the publication of the Worcestershire Rail Investment Strategy, see http://www.walker4worcester.com/walker-welcomes-launch-of-worcestershire-rail-investment-strategy-and-calls-on-business-community-to-back-proposals/