Rail operators in the West Midlands will be invited to apply for some of 650 new carriages to be funded by the Government, as part of an £8 billion investment package announced by the Government.
However, there was little new investment for the region in the rail package announced by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond.
More than 2,100 new rail carriages will be provided by 2019, but most of these will be used for services in London and the South-east such as Crossrail and Thameslink.
It follows the announcement earlier this month that rail fares are set to rise by 6.2 per cent on average in January.
Mr Hammond confirmed the Government’s commitment a series of projects which will benefit the West Midlands, including the extension of the Midland Metro and refurbishment of New Street station.
He also highlighted plans for high speed rail services between London and Birmingham.
Electrification of the Great Western Line, which runs from London to the West Country and Wales, will go ahead, Mr Hammond said. And he confirmed plans announced by the Chancellor in the autumn spending review to electrify lines between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool, at a cost of £300 million.
There will also be improvements to the East Coast Main Line and Midland Main Line and improvements in Yorkshire, on trans-Pennine routes, around Manchester and in south Wales.
Rail companies are free to provide new vehicles themselves, but in practice they are often reluctant to do so because their franchises don’t last long enough to let them recoup the cost.
The Government is to enter into commercial negotiations with operators about distributing 650 carriages. Operators benefitting could include London Midland, which runs services from Birmingham to locations such as the Black Country, Hereford and Shrewsbury, as well as long distance services to London and Liverpool, and CrossCountry, which runs long distance services from Birmingham to a range of destinations including Plymouth, Cardiff and Reading
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said: “At a time of severe pressure on public spending, it would be tempting to cut back on investment in our railways. But we cannot afford not to invest in Britain’s future.”
Commenting on the new carriages, Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: “Passengers will obviously be pleased that this will ease their cattle truck-style journeys but they still face a giant 30 per cent jump in their fares over the next four years just to pay for the privilege of a seat.
“Why is it always the poor old passenger who has to foot the bill? Why don’t the private rail companies start putting something back into the industry instead of taking £800 million year in subsidies from the taxpayer?”