Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stewart has welcomed the publishing of the Invitation to Tender for the West Midlands Rail Franchise, which includes the Birmingham to London route that serves Wolverton, Milton Keynes and Bletchley. This should lead to significant enhancements for local commuters.
One of the minimum requirements is for the successful bidder to provide space for at least 20,000 more passengers in the morning peak period. The ITT also requests that bidders provide additional a Sunday services by 2021.
Another minimum is for all mainline services to provide free Wi-Fi by the end of 2019, but this should start to appear well before then. With the Internet of Things emerging it will be really helpful for people to be able to manage devices during their journeys in readiness for their arrival at home or place of work. This, of course, will also enable more reliable use of e-mails and social media channels.
The tender responses are due in November this year, with the evaluation taking until June 2017, with the successful bidder operating the service from October 2017. The specification issued today is only the minimum requirements and the Government will be looking to the bidders to provide additional enhancements beyond this.
It should also be noted that this franchise is only for the local and regional services on the West Coast Line, currently operated by London Midland. The InterCity franchise (currently Virgin) is separate and Iain Stewart recently made a formal submission to this process, having surveyed local rail users.
Mr Stewart said, “I am pleased that the next stage of the franchise process has commenced. There were over 2,000 responses to the initial consultation, and I will be keeping a keen eye on this to ensure that the needs of the rail users of Milton Keynes, be they residents, workers and visitors are properly reflected as the process continues. We much need an improved service covered by this franchise to improve comfort and reliability.”