£200m Chase Line service scrapped over complaints

A £200 million scheme to build a direct route from Staffordshire railway stations to London has been dubbed a "waste of money" as rail bosses scrap the route after complaints over delays and cancellations.

Rail bosses meet with councillors and campaigners at Cannock railway station
Rail bosses meet with councillors and campaigners at Cannock railway station

The project, which saw an electrification of the Chase Line route from Rugeley Trent Valley to London Euston, began in May but has been plagued with issues ever since.

Disruptions to the line further south have caused knock-on effects to the service, which was often running late.

If the service was delayed by more than 10 minutes by the time it reached Hednesford, it would terminate and leave passengers heading for Rugeley stranded.

Despite efforts from rail bosses to improve the route and offer bus replacements for stranded commuters, they have now opted to scrap the route.

From May 2020, the Chase Line route will serve Staffordshire only, while a separate service will still connect Walsall and Euston.

The news was announced at a public meeting at Cannock railway station on Monday where rail bosses were on hand to answer the public's questions over the route.

Cannock railway station

Francis Thomas, head of corporate affairs at West Midlands Railway, said: "We tried something different this may, to run a route from Rugeley to London, but it has proved more difficult than we anticipated.

"Feedback we've had from the customers is, they want a reliable, local Chase Line service, more than they want a through service to London, so we respect that.

"The earliest opportunity to make all the changes is next May, so what we will do is go back to a chase line service that terminates either at Birmingham New Street or International, so people will still have access to the airport.

"We'll also have the Walsall to London service, so they will still be that direct service, as well as the local Chase Line service that will be more reliable and more resilient.

"In many ways it takes it back to what we had before May.

"We've worked hard to take out as many delays, in put in better contingency plans, so we are turning fewer trains around art Hednesford than we were, and that's good, but it's not as good as we'd like.

"The plan is for May, but if we can get the opportunity to do something sooner then we will.

"It could have been that people regularly travelled from Cannock to the capital, but it hasn't been reliable enough, so we have to be honest and gracious enough to say to the passengers that if you want a more reliable, local service, that's what we'll deliver.

"We do apologies to the customers, people have been inconvenienced."

Leader of Cannock Chase District Council, George Adamson, has described the scheme as a "waste of money".

He said: "The whole exercise has been a waste of money, they shouldn't have done this in the first place.

"They should have checked their planning and realised what was likely to happen, it's just not good enough.

"At least there is an end in sight, the situation has improved, it's better than it was, but it's still not good enough

"People from Rugeley are being dumped in Hednesford, after working all day they don't want that, they want to get home and relax.

"The bus service has also not been good enough and has been hit and miss.

"I'd like to see this sooner than May, I'm hoping we can get a solution before then, May is a long way off and this cannot go on through the winter."

Keith Flint, chairman of Cannock Chase Rail Promotion Group, added: "People feel abandoned, they were dumped at Hednesford with no-one to help them.

"We want to see some immediate improvement."

Another pubic meeting is being held in Rugeley on September 13, the time and venue yet to be confirmed.

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