Hanging by a thread: Class 323 at Four Oaks on Birmingham’s CrossCity line on 8 September 2016. John Whitehouse

IT IS expected that the winning bid for the next West Midlands franchise will propose serving new routes and introducing new rolling stock.

The franchise is due to be awarded by the Department for Transport in June, with a short delay expected as a result of the General Election. Abellio, supported by East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui, is competing with incumbent operator Govia to win the new deal.

West Midlands Rail (WMR), which has worked alongside DfT on the franchise procurement, reports it received ‘two very good bids’ after encouraging bidders to exceed the invitation to tender. The proposals for new rolling stock are likely to see further replacement of relatively modern fleets, including the Class 323s currently in use on the Birmingham CrossCity line and other suburban routes in the West Midlands. While there has also been some doubt about the future of the Class 350 EMUs used on longer-distance services and commuter routes into London Euston, it is understood these will be retained in the new franchise.

The new operator will be required to separate the franchise into two business units, one focused on local services in the West Midlands and the other on the West Coast main line. Provision of new services and introduction of extra vehicles have also been mandated in the invitation to tender. Tony Miles