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London Midland loses right to run Shrewsbury to Birmingham route

By Thom Kennedy | Telford | Business | Published:

London Midland has lost its bid to retain a key rail franchise which covers Shropshire, after the running of the line was handed to a new operator.

A London Midland train at Telford Central

West Midlands Trains Ltd – a joint venture between Dutch company Abellio, and Japanese duo East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co – has been awarded the rights to the West Midlands railway network from later this year.

The new operator has promised to invest £1 billion in the network, including new carriages and additional services to alleviate congestion on a variety of lines.

The map of the London Midlands route

That includes the promise of an additional service per hour between Birmingham and Shrewsbury by the end of next year, doubling the number of West Midlands network trains running between Shropshire and the Second City.

It has promised to pump £700 million into "new and improved trains", as well as 85,000 more seats between London and Birmingham during rush hour, and free wi-fi on all main line services by the end of 2019.

Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, said: “We are delighted to have been announced as the winning bidder for the West Midlands franchise, driving growth in one of the most exciting regions in the country.

"We will be investing nearly £1bn into the network, delivering new trains, better stations and a whole host of other benefits for passengers.”

West Midlands Trains will take over the franchise from London Midland – run by Govia, which is co-owned by Go Ahead Group and Keolis, and which also operates Southern Railways – on December 10, and will run it until 2025-26.

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Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown said: “London Midland and its people have been part of our Group’s rail business for 10 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."

The decision is significant in part because it is the first time a Japanese operator has been awarded a UK franchise.

Mitsui is a massive general trading company with various interests, while East JR runs rail services in Japan, transporting 17 million people a day and running the busiest rail station in the world in Tokyo.

It will now add the likes of Albrighton, Cosford, Telford Central and Wellington to its portfolio – all are part of the West Midlands franchise.

The service will also see £60 million invested in stations across the sprawling network.

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