Mayor blasts regions rail services as ‘woeful’

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said he shared the public's anger at the situation.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has criticised the regions rail services, provided by West Midlands Trains, as 'problematic' and said there were no clear signs of improvement.

SThe company operates passenger trains on the West Midlands franchise between London and the Midlands under two brands; West Midlands Railway, within the West Midlands region, and London Northwestern Railway for services outside the area, including routes to London Euston. It's owned by a consortium of three companies - Abellio, JR East and Mitsui Group - who took over the franchise from Govia, operating as London Midland, in December 2017. However its been blighted for services regularly being overcrowded with many being late or cancelled.

Unlike the previous franchise, which was solely accountable to the Department for Transport, West Midlands Trains is also accountable for services that operate wholly within the West Midlands region to West Midlands Rail Executive, a group of 16 local authorities including Dudley, Sandwell and Birmingham. Speaking on social media, Mr Street said:

"I have lost all faith in West Midlands Trains ability to run our network. They have rejected a number of suggestions I have made to improve services, yet I have no direct power as Mayor to compel them.

"If it's not sorted by midnight on 31st January 2020, I will formally ask the Department for Transport to strip West Midlands Trains of the franchise. Rail services should be accountable to the people they serve, therefore I've asked the DfT to devolve control of rail to the Mayor moving forward.

Suggestions made to the franchise include bringing forward timetable changes for next May in an attempt to alleviate pressure on the network, ending the skipping of local stations when services are running behind schedule and freezing January's fare increases. However all of these were rejected. Mr Street added:

"The priority is restoring a reliable rail service, like we had before May, and clearly communicating when this falters. As a regular train user myself, I share [the public's] anger at the situation and feel badly let down by West Midlands Trains.

"I have already started the conversation with Government and I will be lobbying extensively to implement it as soon as possible."

The Mayor's comments have drawn almost unanimous support on Facebook, with many rail users in agreement including Rebecca Homer, who said current service levels are the worst she'd seen in 17 years of commuting to Birmingham city centre. 

Similar levels of support could be seen on Twitter, with one user describing the current situation as 'absolute chaos'.

West Midlands Trains have yet to release a formal statement in response to Mr Street, however their customer service team said they 'acknowledge performance since May has not been as good as it should have been' and added that they have 'started on a vigorous programme to improve performance'.


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