WEST COAST main line services under the new West Midlands franchise, which begins in December, will be branded London Northwestern.

The announcement comes from incoming franchisee West Midlands Trains, a joint venture between Abellio, JR East and Mitsui.

The branding will replace the current London Midland identity on these routes; services in the Birmingham area will be rebranded as West Midlands Railway as part of an identity created by the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The companies say the London Northwestern brand is ‘a reverential nod to the London and North Western Railway company – formerly the largest railway in Britain and the predecessor of the current West Coast main line’. The two brands will have a shared management board while being ‘closely aligned to their specific regional and route requirements’.

The introduction of the two separate brands will sit alongside the creation of two separable business units as part of the franchise’s management. This is part of a plan to allow more direct local management of the West Midlands area services by West Midlands Rail, a partnership of local authorities in the region. The original intention was that this might eventually lead to full devolution of control for these services to local authorities, but it appears this may now not take place. Services under the London Northwestern brand would remain entirely within the Department for Transport’s remit.

The joint venture, in which Abellio is the 70.1% majority shareholder, takes over the franchise from Govia on 10 December, and plans to invest nearly £1 billion over the course of the franchise, including the procurement of new fleets of EMUs from Bombardier and DMUs from CAF, refurbishment of existing fleets, £70 million invested in new and existing depots and over £60 million in station improvements