Your questions on London Midland losing rail franchise

Image source, West Midlands Rail
Image caption,
West Midlands Trains Ltd will take over from London Midland

Rail services in the West Midlands are to be run by a new operator from December - but what does this mean for passengers?

West Midlands Trains Ltd says it will put £1bn into improving the routes it takes over from London Midland.

The plans include 400 new carriages, free wifi and space for an extra 85,000 passengers on rush-hour services in Birmingham and London.

BBC News website readers sent in questions about the takeover and here are some of the answers.

How does this affect the trains where I am?

Follow this link to the Department for Transport website to find out what changes are coming your way.

The franchise covers routes in the West Midlands, as well as from London Euston to Crewe, and Liverpool to Birmingham.

It also runs services between Northampton and London Euston - connecting lines between Bedford and Bletchley, between St Albans and Watford and Crewe to London - via Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford, Lichfield and Milton Keynes.

When will I notice a difference?

West Midlands Trains Ltd will take over the franchise in December 2017 but the new timetable will not start until December 2018.

Will any of the services become driver only when West Midlands Ltd takes over?

Abellio, the Dutch firm behind West Midlands Trains Ltd, said no.

"Our bid retains a second person on board the train, so there will be no reduction in on-board staffing levels," a spokesman said.

What is happening to Stoke-on-Trent's direct line service to London?

When the new franchise was announced, Abellio said the current Crewe to London Euston train would no longer stop at Alsager, Kidsgrove, Stoke-on-Trent and Stone.

This plan was met with anger and days later Abellio said after finalising details of its routes, there would be a direct service from December 2018.

It will call at Stone, Kidsgrove and Stoke-on-Trent and then go via Birmingham and Coventry on the way to Euston without people having to change trains.

The direct 90-minute service with Virgin Trains will not be affected, the DfT said.

What does this mean for current London Midland staff?

The workforce of 2,400 will pass to the new operator when the franchise is taken over, a spokesman for Abellio confirmed.

An extra £13m will be spent on staff training and there is a plan to create more than 900 new apprenticeships.

Abellio has pledged to employ more women and people from ethnic minorities and to give work experience placements to 250 young people.

Are there any plans to improve the service for disabled people?

Abellio claimed staff training would improve the customer service disabled passengers receive.

Passenger assistance will be bookable 12 hours in advance rather than 24 hours by January 2020, and down to four hours in January 2021.

But information on improving things such as disabled access and toilets has not been released yet.

Will there be more room for bikes on trains?

There will be 2,500 extra spaces for bikes at stations with improved security, said Abellio.

The operator said it was also planning to create spaces on board for bikes, but until the new trains were finalised it was not known how many there would be.

Are there any plans for Oyster style pay as you go cards?

Abellio said it would be working with Network West Midlands to extend the Swift Card, which can be topped up like an Oyster card.

A smart card season ticket will be introduced for passengers between London and Northampton, Abellio said.

Are there plans to run later trains out of Birmingham in the evening?

Abellio said it was planning later services into and out of Birmingham during the evenings, including at weekends.

The trains will stop at towns and cities across the network to help the region's night time economy, a spokesman said.

How will the new franchise impact the Nuckle line, the station at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry and the still to be opened Kenilworth station?

The new station at Kenilworth is set to open from December 2017, with an hourly service between Leamington Spa and Coventry, an Abellio spokesman said.

From December 2018 this will be a through service to Nuneaton, subject to a rail path through Coventry, he said.

From December 2019 the new bay platform at Coventry is expected to be completed.

This will allow two trains per hour between Coventry and Nuneaton - one of which will be the through Leamington-Coventry service.

There will also be a third service per hour between Coventry and Nuneaton on Saturdays, reflecting demand to the Ricoh Arena.

How was the decision to award the contract to another operator reached? Were regular users of the service involved in a consultation?

The DfT undertook a public consultation inviting people to offer their views and suggestions for the franchise.

Then it organised a bidding competition and awarded the franchise.

Will the entire network change its timetable?

A "major timetable recast" is planned for December 2018 based on improving the performance of Birmingham New Street, said Abellio.

From May 2021 there will be a Sunday timetable that runs as many services as Saturdays, doubling the current number of services.

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