West Midlands Trains[3] (WMT) is a British train operating company. It operates passenger trains on the West Midlands franchise between London and the English Midlands under two trading names: within the West Midlands region as West Midlands Railway (WMR) and outside the region as London Northwestern Railway (LNR).

West Midlands Trains
Top: Class 172 in WMR livery at Birmingham Moor Street
Bottom: Class 350 in LNR livery near Crewe
Overview
Franchise(s)West Midlands
10 December 2017 – 20 September 2026[2]
Main region(s)
Other region(s)
Fleet sizeWest Midlands Railway

London Northwestern Railway

Stations called at178
Stations operated146
Parent companyTransport UK Group (70%)
JR East (15%)
Mitsui & Co (15%)
Reporting markLM[1]
PredecessorLondon Midland
Technical
Length867.4 km (539.0 mi)
Other
Websitewestmidlandsrailway.co.uk
londonnorthwesternrailway.co.uk
Route map

Route map

  West Midlands Railway
  London Northwestern Railway

West Midlands Trains was created as a consortium of three companies, Abellio, JR East, and Mitsui & Co, which joined to bid for the West Midlands franchise; they were amongst the three bids to be shortlisted in April 2016, and were awarded the franchise during August 2017. In addition to the DfT, it is also accountable to the West Midlands Rail Executive for services that operate wholly within the West Midlands region. On 10 December 2017, West Midlands Trains took over operations from the prior operator, London Midland. As per the original terms of the franchise, West Midlands Trains is expected to continue to operate until March 2026.

History

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Passenger journeys on the West Midlands rail franchise from 2010–11 to 2018–19[4]

In April 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced the shortlist of bidders for the West Midlands franchise, comprising the incumbent operator Govia, MTR Corporation, and West Midlands Trains: a consortium of Abellio (70%), JR East (15%) and Mitsui & Co (15%).[5][6][7] During July 2016, MTR Corporation abruptly opted to withdraw itself from the bidding process.[8][9]

In August 2016, a formal invitation to tender for the franchise was issued to the two remaining bidders.[10] During August 2017, the West Midlands Trains consortium was awarded the franchise; it took over operations from the prior operator, London Midland, on 10 December 2017.[11][12] The franchise is scheduled to run until March 2026.[13][14]

Unlike the previous London Midland franchise, which was solely accountable to the DfT, for services that operate wholly within the West Midlands region, West Midlands Trains is also accountable to the West Midlands Rail Executive, a group of 16 local authorities.[15][16][17] However, until the franchise is re-let, the DfT must still approve any changes that the West Midlands Rail Executive may wish to make.[citation needed]

By mid-2020, West Midlands Trains had considerably curtailed its services in response to the significant decline of passenger travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[18][19] From 15 June 2020, both passengers and staff on public transport in England, including West Midlands Trains services, were required to wear face coverings while travelling, and anyone failing to do so were liable to be refused travel or fined.[20][21]

In May 2021, the company was criticised after it sent an email to 2,500 employees apparently thanking them for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic and offering a financial bonus;[22] however, employees who clicked on the link within the email were informed that there was, in fact, no bonus and that the email had been a "phishing simulation test”.[23]

In September 2021, following emergency measures to deal with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DfT awarded WMT a direct contract until 20 September 2026, replacing its existing franchise agreement.[2]

West Midlands Trains is one of several train operators impacted by the 2022–2024 United Kingdom railway strikes, which are the first national rail strikes in the UK for three decades.[24] Its workers are amongst those who are participating in industrial action due to a dispute over pay and working conditions.[25] West Midlands Trains has only been capable of operating a very minimal timetable on any of the planned dates for the strikes due to the number of staff involved.[26][27]

Abellio's stake in West Midlands Trains was included in the sale of its United Kingdom business to Transport UK Group in February 2023.[28][29]

Branding

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The shared West Midlands branding, here orange for rail

WMT services are split into two businesses which operate under two distinct sub-brands. Train services running on the West Coast Main Line, including those running to/from London Euston, Liverpool Lime Street and Crewe, operate under the London Northwestern Railway brand. This name was chosen in tribute to the former London & North Western Railway (LNWR), the company that operated services on the route between 1846 and 1922. Branding of trains and associated publicity use a green colour scheme with a logo composed of the letters L, N and W.[30][31]

Services running in Birmingham and the West Midlands region – previously operated by London Midland under the London Midland City brand – are operated by WMT under the West Midlands Railway brand. WMT have chosen to operate these services as a distinct business unit in order to facilitate a possible future devolution of these services from the national DfT to the West Midlands Combined Authority.[30] These services bear an orange and purple colour scheme and are branded with a hexagonal "WM" monogram adopted as part of a shared branding initiative under Transport for West Midlands, in which several transport modes in the West Midlands County use similar branding to emphasise integrated transport. Each mode bears a variant of the "WM" logo: West Midlands Buses use a red logo, West Midlands Metro trams use a blue logo, cycling initiatives are branded with a green logo, West Midlands Railway bears an orange logo, and the West Midlands Rail Executive uses a turquoise logo.[32]

London Northwestern Railway services

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WMT's services along the West Coast Main Line rail corridor are operated under the London Northwestern Railway brand. These services include:[33]

  • services out of London Euston;
  • branch line services off the south of the West Coast main line.

As of December 2023, the typical off-peak Monday - Saturday London Northwestern Railway service pattern, with frequencies in trains per hour (tph), includes:[34]

West Coast Main Line
Route tph Calling at 
London EustonTring 2
London Euston – Milton Keynes Central 2
London Euston – Birmingham New Street 2
London Euston – Crewe 1
StaffordCrewe 1
Birmingham New StreetLiverpool Lime Street 1
Abbey Line
Route tph Calling at
Watford Junction – St Albans Abbey 1
Marston Vale Line
Route tph Calling at
BletchleyBedford 1

West Midlands Railway services

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In the West Midlands region, WMT's train services are operated under the West Midlands Railway brand. These services include:[35]

Services on the short Stourbridge Town branch line are run by the open access operator Pre Metro Operations, who operate services on behalf of WMT under the West Midlands Railway brand name.

As of June 2024, the typical off-peak Monday - Saturday West Midlands Railway service pattern, with frequencies in trains per hour (tph), includes:[36]

Birmingham – Shrewsbury
Route tph Calling at 
Birmingham New StreetShrewsbury 1
1
Malvern Line
Route tph Calling at 
Birmingham New StreetHereford 1
Cross-City Line
Route tph Calling at 
Lichfield Trent ValleyBromsgrove 2
Four Oaks – Redditch 2
  • Sutton Coldfield, Wylde Green, Chester Road, Erdington, Gravelly Hill, Aston, Duddeston, Birmingham New Street, Five Ways, University, Selly Oak, Bournville, Kings Norton, Northfield, Longbridge, Barnt Green, Alvechurch
Chase Line
Route tph Calling at
WolverhamptonWalsall 2
Birmingham InternationalRugeley Trent Valley 2
Snow Hill lines
Route tph Calling at
Stratford-upon-AvonWorcester Foregate Street via Dorridge 1
Stratford-upon-AvonKidderminster via Whitlocks End 1
Whitlocks End – Kidderminster 1
  • Shirley, Yardley Wood, Hall Green, Spring Road, Tyseley, Small Heath, Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham Snow Hill, Jewellery Quarter, The Hawthorns, Smethwick Galton Bridge, Langley Green, Rowley Regis, Old Hill, Cradley Heath, Lye, Stourbridge Junction
Dorridge – Worcester Foregate Street 1
  • Widney Manor, Solihull, Olton, Acocks Green, Tyseley, Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham Snow Hill, Jewellery Quarter, The Hawthorns, Smethwick Galton Bridge, Rowley Regis, Cradley Heath, Stourbridge Junction, Hagley, Blakedown, Kidderminster, Hartlebury, Droitwich Spa
Branch lines
Route tph Calling at
Stourbridge JunctionStourbridge Town 6 Shuttle service
Leamington SpaNuneaton 1

Sunday services are generally hourly on most routes however:

Planned changes

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Map of the Birmingham & West Midlands rail network (2017)

Planned changes included:[13]

  • reintroduction of calls at Barlaston and therefore closure of Wedgwood. This will mean the end of the long-standing rail replacement bus service.[citation needed] From 10 December 2017, the Stafford – Stoke-on-Trent rail replacement bus was cut back to run only between Stoke-on-Trent and Norton Bridge, via Wedgwood, Barlaston and Stone.
  • reintroduction of calls at Polesworth, refurbishing and reopening both platforms.[citation needed]

Rolling stock

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WMT inherited a fleet of Class 139, 150, 153, 170, 172, 319, 323 and 350 units from London Midland, but as the newer units enter service, some will be returned to the leasing companies that own them.[37][38]

Fleet details

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Class 139 Parry People Movers

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The concept of using the lightweight railcar dates from 2006 when a year-long pilot scheme began on the Stourbridge Town branch line on Sundays, using a Parry People Movers PPM50 unit constructed in 2002 and numbered as 999900 under TOPS.[39] The success of this trial led to the provision of regular services using the technology in the franchise plans for the new West Midlands Franchise. Following the award of the franchise to London Midland, it placed an order for two PPM60 units with Parry People Movers, through Porterbrook. The service itself was operated for London Midland by Pre Metro Operations.[40]

These two units are 139 001 and 139 002, composed of vehicle numbers 39001 and 39002 in the British carriage and wagon numbering and classification system. The vehicles are mechanically similar to 999 900, but are approximately one metre longer. They were intended to start operating on the Stourbridge Town branch in 2008. In January 2009 it was confirmed that 139001 was still undergoing testing at Chasewater Railway and 139002 was still not completed.

Despite the difficulties in the commissioning of the two Class 139 units, London Midland consistently outlined its faith that they would be ready to enter service. In March 2009, it was announced that the first unit had received its passenger certification from Network Rail, allowing it to carry passengers. London Midland stated that they would begin a phased entry into service, starting with weekend operation in April, leading up to a full service by the timetable change in May 2009. Until then, London Midland temporarily returned a Class 153 to operating the branch service. 139 002 officially entered service on 29 March 2009 as part of the type's phased entry. This unit had previously worked in full service, including all-day on Monday 11 May 2009 and previously had worked all morning services during February and March 2009. In May 2009, the first unit, 139 001 was finally delivered to Stourbridge, with 999 900 removed at the same time.[41] Test unit 999 900 had been on the branch line between 2005 and 2009. At the point of introduction, they displaced a single Class 153 DMU that was previously allocated to the branch line. By December 2009, the 200,000th passenger had been carried by the railcars.

Class 172 Turbostar

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West Midlands Trains operate a total of 39 two-car and three-car Class 172 units, 27 of which had been ordered by predecessor London Midland, who originally planned for them to enter service by the end of 2010 on services to and from Birmingham Snow Hill, replacing Class 150s. The original 27 sets have revised front ends with end gangways which make the trains look like the Electrostar family of units.

From 1 September 2011, the Class 172s started operating on the Snow Hill Lines with some weekend work from Birmingham – Hereford. When first used in service, the units suffered a fault with engine vibration in the passenger cabin, which has since been rectified.

The units were originally meant to replace all of the Class 150s, however three were retained until 2019 and moved on to Northern after the Class 172/0 and Class 230 units entered service. Between late 2018 and early 2019 West Midlands Railway inherited the London Overground 172/0s to replace the remaining Class 150s and Class 153s operating on the Coventry to Leamington line, the Coventry to Nuneaton line and Birmingham to Hereford. All had entered service by May 2019.

In May 2021, Chiltern Railways' fleet of four Class 172/1s transferred to West Midlands Trains. This transfer means that all of the Class 172 units are operated by West Midlands Trains. The initial sublease contract was until December 2021, the end of Chiltern Railways' franchise agreement, but the units have remained with West Midlands Trains,[42] with Chiltern stating that the 172/1s would not be returning to them.[43]

Class 196 Civity

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WMT is in the process of replacing its fleet of 23 Class 170/5 and 170/6 Turbostar and eight Class 153 units, which operate on West Midlands Railway services, with 26 new Class 196 Civity units.[44]

The Class 153 units left West Midlands Trains at the end of 2020,[45] and the Class 170 units moved to East Midlands Railway, with the exception of the centre cars of the 170/6s which moved to CrossCountry to lengthen its 170/5s.[46]

The first of these new units entered service on the Shrewsbury line on 17 October 2022.[47]

Class 323 and 350 EMUs

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Class 323 and all Class 350/2 units will be replaced by brand new Class 730 units.

Seventeen of the 26 Class 323 units will be transferred to Northern Trains to work with their existing 323 fleet.[48]

Current fleet

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Family Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Shunting locomotive
08[49]   Shunter 15 24 2 N/A Stock movements 1952–1962
West Midlands Railway
Parry People Mover 139   Railcar 40 64 2 1 2009
Bombardier Turbostar 172   DMU 100 161 8 2 2010
  4 2011
  12
  15 3
 
 
 
CAF Civity 196   12 2 2019–20
14 4
 

 

Hunslet Transportation Projects/Holec[50] 323   EMU 90 145 23[51] 3 1992–1995
 
London Northwestern Railway
Sprinter[52][53] 150   DMU 75 121 3 2 1985–1986
Siemens Desiro 350  
 
 
 
EMU 110 177 87 4 London Northwestern Railway

West Midlands Railway

2004–2014
 

 
Alstom Aventra[54] 730/0   EMU 90 145 48 (40 in service[55]) 3 2021–2023
 

Future fleet

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In October 2017, details were announced of planned new rolling stock for West Midlands Trains.[38][58][59] Specifically, West Midlands Trains placed orders for 26 new CAF Civity diesel multiple units (80 carriages) as well as 81 electric multiple units based on Bombardier Transportation's Aventra platform (333 carriages). When combined, this totals 107 new trains that will be operated by the company.[60] The latter order was later amended to 84 units totaling 324 carriages.[61]

Class 730 Aventra

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81 units, comprising 36 three car and 45 five car trains, were ordered in 2017.[62] This was later amended to 48 three car trains and 36 five car trains, totaling 84 units.[61] They will be built at Derby Litchurch Lane Works.[63]

Family Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Route(s) to be operated Built In service
mph km/h
Alstom Aventra 730/2[64]   EMU 110 177 36[61] 5 Electrified LNR suburban services[65]

Long distance LNR services[65]

2021–present Expected in 2024[66]

Past fleet

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Class 230 D-Trains

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West Midlands Trains were the first operator of the Class 230, a new class of diesel-electric multiple unit that were upcycled London Underground D78 Stock.

The company announced its plans to procure three two-car D-Train units for use on the Marston Vale line during October 2017.[67][68] In April 2019, four months later than intended, the first Class 230 entered regular service.[69]

In December 2022, the units were withdrawn after Vivarail, the units' manufacturer and maintainer, entered administration.[70]

 Family   Class   Image   Type  Number Carriages  Built  Routes operated   Withdrawn 
Sprinter 150/1   DMU 3 2 1985–86 London Northwestern Railway

West Midlands Railway

2019
153   8 1 1987–88 West Midlands Railway 2020
Bombardier Turbostar 170   17 2 1999–2000 West Midlands Railway 2021–2023[71]
6 3
Vivarail D-Train 230[72]   DEMU 3 2 2016–2018[nb 1] London Northwestern Railway 1 December 2022
BR Second Generation (Mark 3) 319[73]   EMU 15 4 1987–1988 London Northwestern Railway 2022-2023

Notes

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  1. ^ Converted from London Underground D78 Stock originally built between 1979 and 1983.

References

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  Media related to West Midlands Trains at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by Operator of West Midlands franchise
2017 – 2026
Succeeded by
Incumbent