Much-needed improvements set for 'problem' Chase Line
A railway line plagued with problems since it was launched last year has now taken "a step in the right direction" after West Midlands Railway promised a new and improved timetable.
Rail bosses say passengers using the £200m Chase Line – which connects Rugeley, Hednesford and Cannock with Walsall and Birmingham – will benefit from a more reliable service when the West Midlands Railway timetable comes into effect on December 15.
Leader of Cannock District Council George Adamson, who has been campaigning for improvements on the line for months, said he hoped the changes would mean a smoother journey for locals.
Currently two trains per hour start at London Euston and make their way via Birmingham New Street to Rugeley Trent Valley – often causing delays for Midlands passengers when delays hit earlier on in the journey.
In the new timetable one of the trains to Rugeley per hour will come from Wolverhampton instead of London, reducing the likelihood of services being affected by disruption.
Changes are also being made to calling patterns to services on the route between Coventry and Birmingham New Street to reduce the chances of congestion on the line.
And trains will also run on the Chase Line on Sunday mornings for the first time in three years after major improvement works came to an end.
Councillor George Adamson, leader of Cannock District Council, said the new changes were "a step in the right direction".
He has long campaigned for the £200m Chase Line to be improved and last month called for an urgent meeting with West Midland Railway about the issues.
The line has been plagued with problems since electrified trains were launch on it last May and will be drastically scaled down next year as a result.
"It's certainly a step in the right direction, one of the problems was the delays caused by the train coming from London Euston," said Councillor Adamson. "So taking that away will be a bonus.
"At the meeting, I also asked West Midlands Railway about poor communication – like when you look at the website and it says the train is running fine, and then 10 minutes later you get to the station and it's cancelled. That's happened to me – and several other people – quite a few times.
Rail workers have also been holding a series of Saturday strikes in the run-up to Christmas – which the council leader described as "the icing on the cake" after all the problems.
"It's not great, things have got to get better," he added. "It's pretty awful at the moment. Hopefully these improvements provide some reliability as it's unacceptable."
Richard Brooks, head of customer experience for West Midlands Railway, said: "The new timetable we introduced in May brought in new journey opportunities and allowed us to carry more passengers but it also introduced complexity which has impacted on reliability.
“Passengers on the Chase Line have been particularly impacted. The changes we are making this month will simplify the timetable with more services starting and finishing within the West Midlands. Further changes are on the way next year to make even more improvements.
"Allied with the additional carriages coming into service across our network, passengers across the West Midlands should start to enjoy a more reliable service on their trains."
Passengers are advised to check their journeys by visiting wmr.uk