Southern owner loses West Midlands rail franchise

Govia will continue to operate the franchise until December

"Passengers will also get free Wi-Fi on all mainline services by the end of 2019, charging points on all London services, compensation if trains are delayed more than 15 minutes, and improved access for disabled passengers".

Newcastle-headquartered transport giant Go-Ahead Group has expressed its disappointment after its joint venture subsidiary was unsuccessful in its bid to win the new West Midlands rail franchise.

There will also be better access for other passengers and rail users including disabled people.

Smart ticketing and live passenger information will also be rolled out under the nine-year contract, as will compensation for delays of more than 15 minutes, in line with the Department for Transport's policy.

The new franchise is one of three that cover Shropshire, along with the West Coast Main Line which sees Virgin provide direct London services from Shrewsbury and Telford, and the Wales and the Borders franchise run by Arriva Trains Wales.

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council's cabinet member for economic growth, is the vice-chair of West Midlands Rail, a consortium of local authorities responsible for managing local rail services in conjunction with the Department for Transport.

The contract, which begins in December and runs until March 2026, will provide 30,000 additional seats on peak services to and from Birmingham and London, with expansion of the train fleet enabling the operation of longer trains.

Patrick Verwer, London Midland's managing director, said: "The new franchise will bring much welcomed investment in new services and extra capacity across the network".

The new operator has pledged to invest a billion pounds in the network, including new carriages and additional services to alleviate congestion of a variety of lines.

"This shows we are delivering on our commitment to build a railway that works for everyone". "Numerous early problems first encountered by London Midland were resolved in recent years, but the new franchise will offer substantial improvements to passengers in the region".

"Over the coming months our focus will remain on delivering the best possible service to our passengers, each day and every day".

Richard Harrington has called the news "a real victory" as it will see an investment of £1bn and investment and new, longer trains.

"Having the ability to use our local knowledge and understanding to shape what West Midlands Trains will deliver for passengers under this franchise has also been a game-changer". It takes over from Govia, which runs the troubled GTR franchise that includes Southern Rail.

"I believe the deal secured today will help create a railway that cannot only improve people's journeys but keep our economy growing and we look forward to working with West Midlands Trains in making that happen".

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