The Anonymous Widower

Where Is London Midland Going?

This excellent article on Rail News is entitled Franchising timetable slips again.

This is the first two paragraphs.

THE Department for Transport’s franchising timetable is slipping again, possibly because of delays introduced by the snap General Election.

The winner of the West Midlands franchise should have been announced in June, ready for the new contract to start in October.

It is now getting very tight for a new West Midlands franchise, currently held by London Midland,  to start in October.

The Current Fleet

The current fleet is a mixture of diesel and electric multiple units, most of which are in reasonable condition, although it does need a certain amout of updating and the addition of some new or refurbished trains.

  • I don’t think any of the trains have wi-fi, whereas some of their competitors have it installed.
  • The several Class 153 trains probably need replacing or augmenting with larger units.
  • More 100 mph electric units are probably needed for the West Coast Main Line.
  • More Class 350 trains from TransPennine Express must be a possibility.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Class 769 trains going to the new franchise to work partially-electrified routes.

But the train fleet doesn’t look like it will need a massive number of replacement trains.

Planned And Proposed Lines Around Birmingham

The next few sections detail some of the developments either in progress or proposed.

The Chase Line

The Chase Line electrification should be complete by May 2018 and this will need more electric trains.

Although, I do wonder if the new franchise might use the new electrified route to introduce new services.

The Cross City Line

The Cross-City Line electrification to the newly-rebuilt Bromsgrove station should allow a new three trains per hour (tph) electric service to start across Birmingham in May 2018.

Unless of course, the electrification is late.

The Camp Hill Line

The Camp Hill Line is another cross-Birmingham route and effectively acts as a loop for the Cross-City Line.

It is a long term aim of Birmingham to reopen this line to passengers and the new franchise could include this line in their plans.

Wikipedia talks of a £170million pound scheme to reopen the line with the following features.

  • Three tph
  • Three new stations
  • A connection to Moor Street.

But as the line is open to freight and long distance passenger traffic, I do wonder if now that responsibility for this line has been devolved, that something simpler could be done in the short term to increase services across Birmingham.

Kenilworth Station

Kenilworth station should open this year on the Coventry to Leamington Line.

It will probably open with single-car Class 153 trains, which will probably be totally inadequate.

I wonder if the Coventry and Leamington Line could run back-to-back services with the Coventry to Nuneaton Line, thus creating a Leamington to Nuneaton service via Kenilworth, Coventry and Coventry Arena.

The North Warwickshire Line

The North Warwickshire Line links Birmingham with Stratford-on-Avon and has an alternative name of the Shakespeare Line.

Plans exist to extend this line South to Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line.

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for the Warwickshire Line, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. However, there is a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

I think we’ll see something in the new franchise about developing this line, as there is a lot of potential for a train operator.

  • Direct services between Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, where there is a connection to Bicester Village. Tourists would love that!
  • Connection of the housing development at Long Marston to Birmingham.
  • Could Stratford-on-Avon or Honeybourne become the terminus of a service from Leamington, Coventry and Nuneaton.

It would also give DB Schenker, their freight diversion.

A Bi-Mode Train For The West Midlands

The lines around Birmingham are very much like those around Liverpool and Manchester, with a mix of electrified and non-electrified lines.

More trains are needed and needed very soon to make the most of the following.

  • New stations like Bromsgrove and Kenilworth.
  • New electrification like the Chase Line to Rugeley and the Cross-City Line to Bromsgrove.
  • Reopened lines like the Camp Hill Line.
  • Capacity on electrified lines through Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

I suspect that an ideal train for the West Midlands would have the following characteristics.

  • 100 or even 110 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Perhaps 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Possibly a range of perhaps a dozen miles on batteries.
  • Four coaches.
  • A modern interior.
  • Wi-fi

This specification could have been written for one of Porterbrook’s Class 769 trains. Batteries might need to be added, which is something Porterbrook may do if a customer needs the feature.

But it doesn’t have to be a rebuilt train from the 1980s, as I suspect Class 755 trains, which are bi-mode Stadler Flirts as ordered by Greater Anglia would do the job well.

And who’s in the mix to run the new West Midlands franchise? Abellio, who recently won the new Greater Anglia franchise.

So could we see some flirting around Birmingham?

Regional Services

The current franchise runs services to Liverpool, but not Manchester.

Applications in the past have been made to run to Preston and I suspect that the new franchise will seek to improve services to Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Airport and Preston, although some of these routes will be opposed by Virgin.

As Manchester Airport seems to be developing as a rail hub, perhaps we’ll see the new franchise serving the important airport!


It will be interesting to see the plans of the new franchise, when they are announced.

But as this brief analysis and speculation shows, I think that there will be an order for new or refurbished bi-mode trains.


July 5, 2017 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. Why would TPE want to hand over its 110mph Class 350/4 trains, of which it only has ten – barely enough to cover its MIA & LIV EDB & GLC before the improvements brought about by the Ordsall Chord?

    Comment by Mark Clayton | July 5, 2017 | Reply

    • It would appear they’re replacing them with new trains. Perhaps they are the wrong size. They certainly don’t have wi-fi and that might be a problem that is best passed on, as Siemens and wi-fi don’t seem to be easy bedfellows.

      Comment by AnonW | July 5, 2017 | Reply

      • The 350/4 are too small and are often doubled up, but then there are too few 😦

        Comment by Mark Clayton | July 5, 2017

    • Thw t350s are being replaced by Class 397 trains.

      These are 125 mph trains, so will be able to share Glasgow and Edinburgh services much better than the 110 mph Class 350s.

      It’s amazing how we can increase capacity on some routes by just running faster trains and installing better signalling.

      You could argue, that the Class 319s working in the North West are too slow to run on the West Coast main Line.

      Comment by AnonW | July 5, 2017 | Reply

  2. There’s also 12 x 5-car 397s to 10 x 4-car 350s.

    But London Midland have 77 350s.

    Comment by AnonW | July 5, 2017 | Reply

  3. […] Where Is London Midland Going?, I wrote this section in July […]

    Pingback by Beeching Reversal – Reopening Stratford-upon-Avon And Honeybourne-Worcester/Oxford (SWO) Railway Line « The Anonymous Widower | July 20, 2020 | Reply

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