Putting Things Right

First things first: we’d like to say sorry to all our customers.

Simply put, our service has been nowhere near good enough. We have been letting you down – and we’re truly sorry. We know things have to change; we’ve gotten to the root of what went wrong; and we’ve started making hundreds of changes and improvements, big and small, behind the scenes.

All these efforts are focussed on 5 key steps to put things right:

1. We will make the timetable simpler

In May 2019, we tried to provide thousands of extra seats, more frequent services, and better connections across the network. But an ambitious plan proved too complex to deliver reliably. So we will roll back some of these changes, to help us avoid delays and improve reliability.

Key milestones:

  • In December 2019 we introduced a dedicated shuttle between Birmingham International and New Street stations, so we could improve reliability over shorter journeys. We also stopped one of the Rugeley services going on to London, reducing cancellations caused by problems on the West Coast Mainline
  • In early March 2020 we’ll make more short-term adjustments to services from Cheddington, Marston Green, Smethwick Galton Bridge, Coseley, the Chase line, and Jewellery Quarter to reduce delays
  • In May 2020 we’ll run dedicated services between Birmingham and Rugeley, and between Birmingham and Crewe via the Potteries to prevent delays spreading across the network. Plus, there will be no more attaching and detaching of carriages at New Street station: trains from Euston will either continue to Liverpool or terminate at Birmingham. This will help us recover from delays
  • In December 2020 we’ll work with Network Rail to simplify the way we run the Euston line, to make it easier to recover after disruption and reduce the impact of incidents elsewhere on the network
  • We’ll take further opportunities in May and December 2021 to reduce bottlenecks and overload in the timetable, and implement any lessons learned this year

2. We will hire more traincrew and improve availability

The more intensive timetable has made it harder to cover sickness and holidays using voluntary overtime – and to keep delivering services when things go wrong.

Key milestones:

  • We’re adding an extra 80 drivers, senior conductors and traincrew managers. This will give us more flexibility to cover holidays and sickness; and provide additional management support to help increase productivity
  • We’re improving the way we manage absence and sickness. This will include better processes and increased automation when reporting sickness; quicker medical assessments; and extra support for colleagues, to reduce long-term absence and other restrictions
  • We’ll work closely with our Trade Unions to strike the right balance between employee flexibility and our ability to deliver an excellent customer experience

3. We will improve the way we maintain our trains to keep more carriages out on the network

The new timetable, an industry-wide bottleneck in the supply of new trains and carriages, and the need to refurbish some of our rolling stock, have meant that each of our trains now has to cover 20% more mileage. Those extra hours on the move have reduced time available for routine maintenance. The upshot is shorter trains on busy services, and an increase in delays due to minor faults.

Key milestones:

  • Siemens – who manage the London Northwestern Railway fleet – will trial new ways of working, to fix faults faster. This will include more technical staff out on the network, including at Bletchley, where many trains start and end the day
  • We will delay the refurbishment of train interiors by several months, providing commuters with thousands of extra seats each week in the meantime
  • We’ve been developing industry-leading technology to upgrade our online resource planning. This will enable us to manage our trains, traincrew and maintenance and cleaning teams more effectively
  • We’ve developed a package of technical improvements and preventative maintenance on the trains we use on the Snow Hill, Cross City, Marston Vale, and Euston lines
  • The first of our new trains will start coming into service by the end of 2020, and will be heading straight for the Hereford line, followed by the Snow Hill and Shrewsbury lines. The second order of our new trains will go to the Cross City and Euston lines.

4. We will improve the ways we respond to delays to your service

The complexity of the May 2019 timetable has magnified individual delays and increased the time it takes to get the service back to normal. This has had a big impact on evening commuter services, even several hours after incidents have been resolved.

Key milestones:

  • We will reset services at lunchtime when necessary, so that delays in the morning don’t disrupt journeys home in the evening
  • We’re introducing a package of measures to speed up boarding and alighting at stations, including technology to monitor passenger flow, painted lines on platforms to show where the train will stop, and extra platform staff to manage passengers
  • We’re recruiting 19 more people into our performance, control, resourcing, and station teams to help us improve the way we handle service disruption
  • We will improve customer communication, particularly during periods of disruption, investing in our social media and customer experience teams

5. We will work with Network Rail to reduce congestion at Euston and increase line speeds at New Street

The track, signalling and overhead power lines are owned and operated by Network Rail, which is also the body responsible for approving all timetables. Working better together is crucial to delivering a better service.

Key milestones:

  • We’re improving the way we work with Network Rail, involving them much more closely in the creation of our contingency timetables, to ensure plans are effective and robust
  • We’ll work with Network Rail to challenge current practices and future assumptions, in a bid to increase the speed limit on the approach to Birmingham New Street
  • We’ll continue to explore different options with Network Rail for better access into London Euston, to minimise the impact of HS2 works on our services, particularly during disruption

We won’t fix things overnight. But we will fix them.

There’s a new team at the top of West Midlands Trains, and our job is to turn the service around as quickly as possible. But we know that it’s going to take a huge, co-ordinated effort; and it’s going to take time.

We have asked too much of you already. But we now have to ask you to bear with us while these changes take effect.

We’ll use this page and our social media to keep you updated on our progress. Our first update is at the bottom of this page.

In the meantime, we have applied a 3% discount to all weekly, monthly and annual season tickets in 2020; and we’ll introduce a 10% discount on off-peak tickets this July and August. (We continue to operate a compensation scheme for delays of 15 minutes or more: claims can be made online, or by picking up a form at one of our stations.)

Yours,

Julian Edwards Signature

Julian Edwards
Managing Director, West Midlands Trains

Track our progress

  • We’ve now moved our control room to the West Midlands Signalling Centre to work more closely with Network Rail’s signallers
  • Following changes made in December 2019, we’ve been able to run almost 30% more trains on time and cut the number of services delayed by issues within our control by 70% on London Northwestern Railway, and 60% on West Midlands Railway