West Midlands Railway timetable change brought forward after criticism
Timetable changes for under-fire West Midlands Railway services are to be brought forward in an effort to improve reliability.
A series of changes have been announced which bosses hope will continue improvements following a disastrous 2019 which saw Mayor Andy Street threaten to ask the Government to strip them of the rail franchise.
Changes to railway timetables can usually only be made twice each year, in May and December.
But the embattled operator, which runs services through the Black Country, Birmingham and Shropshire, has been given the green light by Network Rail to make a number of alterations from Monday.
It does, however, mean fewer services at some stations in the Black Country where off-peak services will no longer stop.
West Midlands Railway services operator, West Midlands Trains, says cancellations are down 80 per cent and the number of trains arriving on time has risen from 68.1 per cent in November to 83.1 per cent in January.
It's understood performance during the school half-term, the first real test for the company since Mr Street held off on his threat, was mostly positive.
- Some off-peak trains heading towards Liverpool will no longer stop at Coseley on weekdays.
- Some off-peak trains heading towards Stoke and Crewe will no longer call at Smethwick Galton Bridge on weekdays.
- The 07.10 service from Stourbridge Junction to Snow Hill on Monday-Saturdays will now depart at 07.13 and will no longer call at Jewellery Quarter. Other departure times for the 07.10 at stations along the route will change slightly.
- From Monday, March 16 one weekday departure per hour from Rugeley Trent Valley which previously travelled to London via the Chase Line will now terminate in the West Midlands, either at Birmingham International or Coventry.
Julian Edwards, the new managing director of West Midlands Trains, said: "These timetable changes are another important step of the improvement plan we have launched to improve the reliability of our services for the benefit of our customers.
"Negotiating to bring these amendments forward by more than two months has not been easy but improving the experience for our passengers as quickly as possible is our top priority."
Despite deciding not to go through with his threat to ask the Government to remove the franchise from West Midlands Trains, Mr Street has said the company will remain "under strict review".
He said he wanted to see evidence January's improvements were not just a one-off, and has also asked the Government to impose a "serious fine" over delays and cancellations last year.
Of more than 4,100 passengers quizzed by the Mayor's team, 65 per cent experienced regular disruption between October and December last year.
That figure dropped to 34 per cent by January and while Mr Street said this was still "unacceptable" it was a sign things were heading in the right direction.