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Train performance fell to 'unacceptable' levels in West Midlands last year, watchdog says

By Thomas Parkes | Transport | Published:

Train performance in the West Midlands fell to "unacceptable" levels for passengers over the last year, an independent watchdog has said.

West Midlands Trains

Figures from the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) showed railway performance in Network Rail's North West and Central (NW&C) area was poor.

The study, carried out before coronavirus, covered journeys in the West Midlands region – including to London, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The ORR's assessment said the delays were excessive – with trains running at 0.34 minutes worse than expected levels, with 2.05 minutes of delay per 100km of train travel.

Network Rail said part of the delay for 2019/2020 was down to West Midlands Trains' poor performance in the region after the May timetable change last year.

The report said: "In the May 2019 timetable change, a significant change was made to the West Midlands Trains (WMT) timetable, which included additional services and service extensions.

"Some of these services were delivered by splitting and joining services at Birmingham New Street to facilitate the WMT franchise obligations.

"This approach joined some poor and better performing services, and it is this arrangement that appears to have contributed to overall poor performance, together with WMT’s train plan (which Network Rail suggested was insufficiently robust and a contributor to delay)."

And a further "spread of delay" was caused by WMT due to drivers and crews being rostered to switch between trains on different routes.

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But the regulator found Network Rail was taking the performance improvements "seriously" – and had developed remedial plans.

John Larkinson, chief executive of the ORR said: "Rail passengers and freight operators in Network Rail's NW&C region have had unacceptable train performance in 2019-20, and tackling this must be a priority.

"Our review of performance in the region has found that Network Rail has identified the issues causing the poor service and it is vital that it now addresses these through its improvement plans.

"More positively, the region exceeded its targets for planned renewals work –a good outcome for taxpayers and passengers."

The ORR also found the NW&C region made efficiency savings of £70 million through its planned renewals work.

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Senior Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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