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Emergency measures brought in for trouble-plagued Chase Line

By Peter Madeley | Staffordshire | Transport | Published:

A range of emergency measures have been brought in to improve services on a delay-plagued train line.

The Chase Line has been plagued with problems since it opened in May

West Midlands Trains has brought in changes on the £200 million Chase Line following a flood of complaints from angry commuters.

The line runs from Birmingham to Rugeley through Walsall and Cannock, before joining the West Coast Main Line to London.

But it has been plagued with problems since electrified trains were launched on it last May, and will be drastically scaled down next year as a result.

Commuters have pressed West Midlands Trains to take action, with many complaining about long delays, cancelled services and staff shortages.

Now a series of changes are set to be brought in following a meeting between rail bosses and the newly formed Chase Line Action Group (CLAG).

The improvements include removing the stop at Long Buckley station from October 7 to save three minutes off journey times.

From December an emergency timetable will be brought in, removing one of the Euston bound trains each hour and replacing it with a train coming from Wolverhampton – reducing delays on that service.

There will also be three new Sunday morning services from Rugeley to Birmingham, starting at 9.41am, while bosses say the disconnection of the service from London next May will further reduce delays.

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'Miserable time for commuters'

CLAG co-founder Paul Dadge said: “The group's online community grows by the day and it’s great to see the camaraderie and support offered by fellow passengers to each other.

"Now that we have a list of actions from West Midlands trains we will monitor closely to see if improvements are made."

George Adamson, the leader of Cannock Chase Council, said: “Chase Line commuters have had a miserable time for some time now.

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"I am pleased that West Midlands Trains have listened to us and are taking action to try to minimise the problems. This train service is vital or many people and we will be looking forward to improvements in the service.”

Since the line opened Rugeley commuters have faced regular terminations at Hednesford Station, leaving them having to rely on family or friends to collect them or use the replacement Minibus service.

CLAG co-founder Andrea Layton, said: “The Chase Line is a commuter route and people cannot afford to be continually late for work or left stranded at a station not near to their home.”

In response to the group's concerns about the frequent cancellations due to staff shortages, West Midlands Trains head of drivers, John Robson, said: “We have trained 150 new drivers in the last 18 months with 70 of those specifically in preparation for the May 2019 timetable.

"We also had to train over 140 existing drivers on new routes. However, challenges with working arrangements have led to reduced availability of staff and less employees volunteering for overtime.

"We are acutely aware of the problems that this has caused to customers in recent weeks and do have plans to make changes that will improve levels of cover, including increasing train crew above industry standards."

Visit CLAG on Facebook here.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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