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West Midlands Trains performance 'improves' ahead of Mayor Andy Street's decision

By Richard Guttridge | Transport | Published:

Under-fire West Midlands Trains is believed to have improved its reliability since the region’s Mayor warned it could lose the franchise.

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has been a fierce critic of the train operator since a disastrous timetable change.

Mr Street, who has described performance as “utterly woeful”, warned he will ask ministers to strip WMT of the franchise if he is not satisfied.

Angry mayor Andy Street

But the mayor has indicated he will wait until viewing the latest performance figures at the weekend before deciding what to do.

It comes as the operator announced off-peak fares would be cut by 10 per cent during July and August to make up for poor performance.

And improvements during January could persuade the mayor to hold off on his threat.

It is understood reliability has returned close to the 90 per cent level seen before the introduction of the new timetable last May which resulted in chaos and saw reliability plunge to below 50 per cent on some lines.

West Midlands Railway service passing through Shifnal

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Cancellations have also decreased.

WMT recently brought in a new managing director, Julian Edwards.

He said: “I’ve put in place a clear plan of improvements which is already having an impact.”

Mr Street said: “These results lay bare what we already knew – that WMT’s performance in the latter part of 2019 was diabolical.”

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It came after West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson also hit out over the chaos on local rail services – saying that "the failing transport system has now become a danger to public safety".

Cheap tickets as performance apology

WMT passengers will receive a 10 per cent discount on their travel this summer as compensation for recent poor performance, new managing director Julian Edwards has announced.

The discount will apply to the walk-up fares for every Off-Peak journey made on West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway services throughout July and August.

A further announcement regarding compensation linked to holiday periods will be made in due course.

The commitment from Mr Edwards comes as the National Rail Passenger Survey published yesterday reveals a drop in overall passenger satisfaction.

New West Midlands Trains managing director Julian Edwards

The survey was carried out last autumn in the aftermath of a new timetable in May 2019 which resulted in an increased number of delays and cancellations.

Mr Edwards, who took the top job at West Midlands Trains earlier this month, said: “Our performance during the second half of last year was simply unacceptable.

"I’ve put in place a clear plan of improvements which is already having an impact.

“The number of trains arriving on time has increased by 29 per cent since Christmas with cancellations down by 39 per cent. Overall performance has increased by over 10 per cent.

“There is more to do, however, and we are making further timetable changes to improve performance, starting next month – with a commitment to only use skip-stopping as a last-resort and under extreme circumstances.

“This year we will also introduce brand-new trains on the network while working with the Mayor on reopening stations on the Camp Hill and Wolverhampton-Walsall lines.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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