Extra 'hassle' for passengers as Omicron crisis bites

Rail passengers have spoken of fewer staff, more uncomfortable journeys and greater hassle travelling by train as the Omicron crisis escalates.

Passengers at Wolverhampton Railway Station
Passengers at Wolverhampton Railway Station

At the same time, taxi companies say they are suffering too.

Railway chiefs in the region have said the virus is wreaking havoc on staffing levels, with workers self-isolating, leading to cancellations and disruption.

At Wolverhampton Railway Station, passengers said the services were running, but with fewer carriages and few staff.

Peter and Maureen Limbrick were in Wolverhampton from Birmingham to meet their son Paul, who was travelling on a delayed service from Manchester.

Peter said their travel to the station had been more uncomfortable due to fewer services running.

He said: "I know half of the the service is missing, and what's disappointing is that they don't combine two services together to add more carriages.

"We were travelling in from Birmingham and it was packed on those trains, and while I understand that there's a staffing issue, what's stopping them getting more people trained temporarily?"

Passenger Jessica had travelled from Penkridge and said the lack of staff could have affected her if she hadn't had her mobile phone.

She said: "I got to the station and got on the train and didn't see one member of staff, and if I hadn't been carrying my phone, I don't think I'd have been able to get a ticket.

"It's going to be a big problem going forwards if there's less people managing the trains."

One passenger, who didn't want to be named, said it had been hard work getting a train from Birmingham to Wolverhampton.

She said: "I was waiting for ages and finding services I normally took weren't running, so I've had a lot of hassle getting here today.

"I don't blame the staff here, but there needs to be something done to ease the problems."

Meanwhile, taxi drivers have seen a "massive decrease" in the number of bookings across the West Midlands over the festive period as a result of Covid-19's impact.

Taxi companies 'facing daily issues' as well

Taxi chiefs have also revealed the stark knock-on impact the situation is having on them, with companies facing "daily issues" due to the impact of the pandemic.

Aruna Sidhu, head of sales and marketing for 247 Cars Limited in Wolverhampton, said: "The demand for taxi bookings has reduced significantly and with a shortage of taxi drivers, this has impacted us as a company.

As a business, we have always invested in processes and people within the business to provide our customers with an excellent customer service experience. This, unfortunately, is not being met, as we cannot provide timely service of picking up customers within 15 minutes or sooner. We have not been able to keep this service level due to the lack of drivers joining our industry this year.

"Feedback from our customers has been incredibly negative and our reputation built over 12 years is slowly dissolving. We are working extremely hard to maintain the service and would be grateful if we could tell our customers our story and what we are currently experiencing and what we are doing to fix this problem."

Mr Sidhu added: "We have an extremely strong presence in our community and surrounding areas in the West Midlands. It's important to us to keep our customers happy and our reputation as a taxi company strong.

"Our data department produces statical reporting information and the evidence shows the massive decrease in the number of taxis booked over this seasonal period, and the alarming information concludes that there will be a significant impact on us in the New Year."

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