The CrossCountry franchise was due to be replaced this year but the competition was suspended by the DfT because of the impending Williams enquiry into the rail industry (although it hasn’t stopped DfT continuing to run competitions and awarding new franchises in other areas). Thus any improvements to the CrossCountry network that a new franchise would potentially provide have been put on hold by DfT for the foreseeable future.
This means that the gross overcrowding on CrossCountry trains on routes out of Birmingham New Street will not be addressed unless the DfT takes action to provide additional capacity.
In addition, CrossCountry are guilty of cancelling services west of Exeter St David’s on a regular basis because of the inability of their Voyager trains to operate along the Dawlish sea wall during very high tides. In November 2018, services were cancelled on 11 of the 30 days with the only CrossCountry services west of Exeter being the small number operated using HST sets. This has resulted in significant delays and inconvenience to passengers travelling to Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall.
Both issues could be solved very easily. Hundreds of HST vehicles operated by GWR and LNER are currently being replaced by new Hitachi Inter City Express Trains, taken off lease and stored. These trains could be refurbished and used by CrossCountry on all services to Devon and Cornwall, thus releasing existing Voyager units to strengthen other CrossCountry routes. This cannot happen unless DfT agrees and gives permission to CrossCountry to use stored HSTs.
Despite calls from industry experts and much of the railway media for this to happen, DfT has done nothing. For this reason, a petition has been started to put pressure on MPs/politicians to make DfT take action. Campaign for Rail supports this petition and asks you click on the link below to read the petition narrative and hopefully join other rail users who have already signed it.
A petition calling for the Department for Transport (DfT) to take immediate action to address serious overcrowding and reliability issues on CrossCountry services has been launched.
14 May 2019
CrossCountry Overcrowding Petition Launched
Do rail passengers want to see this …? (Photo: Fraser Pithie)
or this …? (Photo: Roger Davis)