Rail passengers across the West Midlands will benefit from nearly £1 billion of investment to boost capacity, modernise the train fleet and improve journeys from December following today's appointment of West Midlands Trains - a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd - as the new franchise operator for the West Midlands network.
Among the benefits to be delivered under the new franchise will be 400 new carriages by 2021.
New, longer trains will provide room for an extra 85,000 passengers a day on rush hour services in Birmingham and London.
Rail users will get free wi-fi on all main line trains by the end of 2019 and, for the first time, compensation payments will be paid if services are delayed by 15 minutes or more.
We were deliberately ambitious setting our objectives for the franchise because passenger growth in the West Midlands has significantly outstripped the rest of the country.
While overall UK rail demand has doubled over the past 20 years, on West Midlands routes it has nearly quadrupled.
And that's likely to continue as the economy expands.
Just last month, a survey by Lloyd's Bank revealed that output and business activity in the West Midlands are growing faster than any other UK region.
The new franchise - which runs to 2026 - will operate services across Birmingham and the West Midlands, as well as trains from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham.
There will be 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham and 10,000 in London.
Additionally, there will be extra standing room for 50,000 Birmingham passengers in metro-style carriages for short cross-city journeys.
Among the routes to benefit from new services will be Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield and a new hourly service from Birmingham and Wolverhampton to Crewe via Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent.
There will be investment in 100 new carriages on the Cross City line and 80 more carriages for the Snow Hill line.
To ensure that passengers' interests are put first, we are also restructuring the way that the business is run.
The new train operator will work much more closely with Network Rail which maintains the track.
For the first time, they will form one local team focused on the smooth and reliable operation of West Midlands routes.
As a further commitment to provide local accountability, services will be jointly managed by the Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail, a partnership of 16 councils.
The new franchise is part of wider government plans to transform rail travel in the Midlands.
We have already redeveloped Birmingham New Street station and we are just about to start building the first phase of HS2.
Not only is the Midlands at the heart of the new high speed network but HS2's operational headquarters and the National College for High Speed Rail are also located in Birmingham.
Smart ticketing and better value journeys for part-time workers will be rolled out under the new franchise deal.
More than 800 digital information screens will be installed at 150 stations to provide real time journey information, plus a new mobile feature giving live crowding information to help passengers plan ahead.
Access for passengers who require extra assistance will also be significantly improved, with less notice required before travelling.
More than £60 million will be invested to refurbish stations and extend parking facilities for cars and bikes. Today's announcement is great news for the West Midlands.
It will ensure that rail services are modernised to meet the changing needs of passengers, while also supporting a thriving and prosperous West Midlands economy.
Chris Grayling MP is Secretary of State for Transport