West Midlands Trains issued ultimatum by metro mayor

A “woeful” train company has been handed an ultimatum by a metro mayor.

Andy Street pledged to demand that West Midlands Trains (WMT) is stripped of its franchise unless services improve by the end of next month.

The West Midlands mayor declared he is “determined to take control and bring this misery to an end”.

WMT runs London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway services, which have deteriorated since May as timetable changes to introduce more trains have worsened the impact of disruption.

West Midlands Trains: services arriving on time
(PA Graphics)

Another timetable change earlier this month failed to improve performance in the short term.

Office of Rail and Road figures show 44.8% of WMT services arrived at stations within one minute of the timetable between October 13 and November 9, compared with the average across Britain of 59.3%.

WMT is a joint venture between Abellio – the international arm of the state-owned Dutch national rail operator – and Japanese partners.

Mr Street said: “The service currently being provided by WMT is quite simply woeful.

“The problems on our region’s railways have been dragging on for months and – despite many promises from WMT – show no sign of improving.”

He added: “I have already notified the DfT (Department for Transport) that if WMT do not restore a reliable service by midnight on January 31 2020 then I will be asking them to strip Abellio of the West Midlands franchise.”

Mr Street said WMT has rejected his suggestions for how services could be improved, which included bringing forward timetable changes scheduled for May 2020 and ending the skipping of stations during disruption.

He also called for January’s fare rise to be postponed until punctuality improves.

The Tory mayor stated that the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto gave a “clear commitment” to devolve power over local rail to metro mayors, adding: “I expect this to be honoured.”

WMT managing director Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde said: “We recognise that the May timetable has not worked and apologise to all our passengers who have been affected.”

He explained that extra carriages and timetable changes were introduced last week to improve performance but the network was hit by incidents outside the firm’s control, such as track and signalling failures, trespass and anti-social behaviour.

Mr Chaudhry-van der Velde revealed that WMT recently presented an improvement plan to the West Midlands Rail Executive and the DfT.

He added that bringing forward the May 2020 timetable was discussed with Network Rail but deemed not possible due to “the impact on the wider rail industry”.

Details of an additional compensation scheme for passengers are expected to be announced early next year.

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