Release Immediate

Monday 25th MARCH 2019

Vintage Trains and The West Midlands Rail Executive announce groundbreaking partnership stimulating the west midlands economy through the power of steam

  • Unique industry collaboration

  • Integrates franchise, community and heritage activities

  • Establishes the Shakespeare Line as Britain’s premier mainline heritage railway

  • Members of the public can own a share in this project

Vintage Trains (VT) is proud to announce an industry leading partnership with the West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) that will stimulate the West Midlands economy through the power of steam. This unique partnership will focus on the integration of franchise, community and heritage activities and, working with the Heart of England Community Rail partnership, develop and establish the Shakespeare Line and its stations, from Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon, as Britain’s premier mainline heritage railway.

Moreover, the public can own a share in this development by subscribing tor shares in the Vintage Trains Community Benefit Society’s offer which remains open until 30th April. See

VT and the WMRE recognise the value that mainline steam brings to the region and will collaborate in the following areas:

  • Promotion of the region’s rail network

  • Attracting local, national and international tourists to the West Midlands

  • Regenerating stations and keeping alive a unique historical experience for future generations

  • Creation of apprenticeships and community volunteering opportunities for West Midlands businesses, Universities, Colleges and Young Rail professionals

  • Preserving of skills in the maintenance of steam locomotion that would otherwise be lost

  • Together with the West Midlands Trains depot (alongside VT’s historic GWR steam depot), seek more local employment at Tyseley

Malcolm Holmes, Executive Director of WMRE said: ‘West Midlands Railways is creating a single network vision to deliver efficiency and growth in rail services across the region. Steam trains offer an exciting opportunity to add value to our network and play a crucial role in promoting our brand by expanding the role our railway plays in the community to encompass leisure and tourist activities.’

WMRE has committed to support VT’s express steam trains as a charitably controlled and publicly owned Train Operating Company. It will support VT when providing input to future franchises specifically in relation to the availability of timetabled paths for the Shakespeare Express and other steam trains, encourage station adoption by the community and support VT’s role in the Heart of England Community Rail partnership.

The Shakespeare Line from the heart of the City of Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon, one of the country’s top tourist attractions, will become Britain’s premier mainline heritage railway. An original GWR mainline running through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside, it has been fortunate to retain much of its original Great Western Railway infrastructure, particularly at its authentic stations where GWR red brick and steel, wooden station awnings and original fencing, much of it recently repainted in original GWR colours, have been retained at most  stations along the route. 

The partnership will also collaborate in identifying opportunities for station improvements, including Tyseley and Stratford-upon-Avon stations and importantly, involve VT in plans for the future of the time warp that is Birmingham Moor Street station (soon to be part of the new HS2 Curzon complex) and encourage international tourists.

VT will also be involved in the emerging plans for the Commonwealth Games Birmingham 2022 where mainline steam will provide a wider sense of occasion around the time of the games. 

Michael Whitehouse, Chairman of Vintage Trains Charitable Trust and the Community Benefit Society said: ‘We are extremely proud to be working together with WMRE to help stimulate the West Midlands economy through the power of steam. We are world pioneers of mainline express steam trains. This partnership will secure the future for main line steam and, with the establishment of the Shakespeare Line as Britain’s premier mainline heritage railway, together we place the region firmly on the global railway map. Join us as a shareholder in this unique venture’.



Vintage Trains is a world pioneer of main line express steam trains and, in 2018, stepped up to become Britain’s newest Train Operating Company now operating services across the UK mainline rail network from its Birmingham base. It is publicly owned and charitably run. VT offers a range of services to the rail sector including its nationally acclaimed Tyseley Locomotive Works providing an engineering service for steam locomotives to heritage railways nationwide.

West Midlands Rail Executive is the partnership of 16 West Midlands Local Authorities co-managing the West Midlands Railway franchise with the Department for Transport, and planning the strategic future of the West Midlands rail network in conjunction with rail industry and local authority partners.

Birmingham Moor Street station is 110 years old in July 2019. The station was built to provide a terminal for the growing commuter demands out to Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon in the early 1900s. In 1987, the station closed with services focussed on Birmingham Snow Hill, a decision not recognising that the potential growth of commuter traffic and rail services to London was immense. Fortunately the now Grade II listed station building was not demolished and through the foresight of  VT, Chiltern Railways and the Birmingham Alliance, Moor Street was rebuilt in all its GWR glory. It even has a water tower and water cranes for the operation of steam locomotives.

Stratford-upon-Avon station also has a birthday in 2019, the first station in Stratford was opened 160 years ago. Rapid expansion of the railway saw the station moved to its current location in 1861 where it has remained since. Fortunately its original Great Western Railway station buildings, platforms and footbridge have remained at this southern terminus of the Shakespeare line from an equally historic Birmingham Moor Street.