West Midlands Rail Executive welcomes Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

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The West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) has today welcomed the publication of the Government's new Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.

  WMRE, the public sector body which jointly specifies and manages the region's West Midlands Railway services in partnership with the Department for Transport, believes the plan can help the rail network adapt and meet changing post-COVID requirements.

Cllr Peter Butlin, chair of WMRE, said: "This is an historic moment for the West Midlands rail network as it brings to an end a quarter of a century of inefficient fragmentation within the rail industry.

"The Williams-Shapps Plan sets out a clear vision for a greener, more customer-focussed railway, based on collaboration and the devolution of key decision-making to the most appropriate regional level.

"The rail industry urgently needs to adapt to the changing post-COVID requirements of passenger and freight customers, and the proposals put forward in today's Government White Paper should help ensure that the railway is able to respond to current and future challenges in a more effective, more efficient and more sustainable way."

Other key "Williams-Shapps" proposals welcomed by WMRE include:

  • The introduction of flexible season tickets to assist commuters in adjusting to new ways of post-COVID working
  • A more integrated 'one stop shop' approach to retailing of different train operator tickets, a simpler, more easily understandable ticketing structure and a more consistent passenger offer
  • A focus on reducing inefficiency and unnecessary duplication of activity within the rail industry and lowering whole industry costs
  • Faster delivery of rail network enhancements and new stations and services

Malcolm Holmes, WMRE's executive director and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) director of rail, welcomed the Government's commitment in the plan to a modern and green railway with a focus on decarbonisation and improving air quality.

"Tackling air quality at city centre stations such as Birmingham New Street should rightly be a priority for the new 'Great British Railways' organisation," he said.

"We can hopefully now also look forward to progressing the further electrification of our West Midlands rail network, starting with the Birmingham Snow Hill lines which link Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon and Solihull with the Jewellery Quarter, Cradley Heath, Stourbridge, Kidderminster and Worcester."

Ahead of today's Government announcement, WMRE has been instrumental in driving forward regional changes on the network with the establishment of the West Midlands Grand Rail Collaboration (WMGRC). 

The WMGRC has successfully brought together infrastructure owner Network Rail, passenger and freight operators, passenger representatives and rail industry specifiers/funders to enable a more co-ordinated, pan-industry approach to rail service provision and rail infrastructure improvements.

One example of this new approach has been the recent replacement of track on the Stourbridge Town branch line, resulting in an improved passenger experience for users of the popular "Stourbridge Shuttle".