Rail passengers, businesses and residents in Birmingham will be able to have their say on the future of the region's rail services at two public events in the city next week.
The government is asking for views on how the next West Midlands franchise - which covers the region's local rail network, as well as longer-distance routes to the north west of England and to London - can provide the services that people need.
The 14-week consultation is being carried out with West Midlands Rail, a partnership of local authorities set up to improve rail services in the region.
As part of the consultation, the public and local businesses are invited to attend two events being held next Tuesday, 9 February, in the city. The first is at Snow Hill station from 11am to 1.30pm and the second between 3:30pm and 6pm at New Street station, under the main information screens opposite Pret A Manger.
Those attending will be able to give their views about local services while representatives from West Midlands Rail and the Department for Transport will be on hand to answer questions and provide information about the sorts of improvements they want to see during the next franchise, which starts in 2017.
The government and West Midlands Rail expect the next operator of the franchise, which is currently operated by London Midland, to provide significantly better journeys for passengers, with measures to tackle overcrowding and reduce delays and cancellations as well as bringing in benefits such as free on board Wi-Fi.
As part of the government's commitment to ensure local passengers are at the heart of the rail network by devolving power to those that know their economies and customers best, the new franchise will also lay the foundations for the region's rail services to be increasingly managed locally through West Midlands Rail, rather than solely by central government.
The consultation asks for comments on a number of areas, including:
The next operator will also be expected to support planned infrastructure improvements during the next franchise, including the completion of the Rugeley Trent Valley to Walsall electrification, signalling upgrades at Birmingham, and enabling works at London Euston for HS2.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "We are determined that passengers in the West Midlands should benefit from the best possible rail services, in order to ensure that the region continues to be the UK's engine for growth. Local people are best placed to tell us how this can be delivered, and I would urge them to come along to our consultation events to tell us what they think."
Councillor Mark Winnington, chair of West Midlands Rail and Staffordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Transport, added: "I would encourage the public, businesses and other stakeholders to go along to this event, have their say and help shape a future rail network that truly meets their needs and those of the local economy."
Those unable to attend the event can still give their views by taking part in the consultation on line at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/west-midlands-rail-franchise
More information from Sue Parker on 0121 214 7802 / 07917 45686 / email@example.com or Eleanor Dwyer, Senior Press Officer - Rail, Department for Transport, 0207 944 3123 / 07826 921 268
Notes to Editors:
1 West Midlands Rail includes Birmingham City Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley MBC, Herefordshire Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Sandwell MBC, Shropshire Council, Solihull MBC, Staffordshire County Council, Telford and Wrekin Council, Walsall MBC, Warwickshire County Council, Wolverhampton City Council and Worcestershire County Council.