It has been an appalling couple of weeks for rail passengers in the Midlands.  

On the 5th April services which normally go through Birmingham International were disrupted owing to power line problems.  Virgin and London Midland had given up on running services between Birmingham New Street and London Euston, with services starting from or terminating at Coventry, with Birmingham passengers being advised to go to Moor Street and use Chiltern instead despite Chiltern not being able to strengthen every train on the Moor Street to Marylebone route.

The plan for disruption that day appears to have been non-existent.  Any blockage of the Birmingham - Coventry line for more than a day would result in a shambles if the experience was anything to go by, with passengers struggling to find out what was going on, rail replacement buses being drafted in without rail staff available to tell them where to go, Chiltern not strengthening some trains on the Moor St - Marylebone route, crowding and discomfort.  A Voyager could have been diagrammed to a Birmingham - Nuneaton shuttle, with WCML services to Liverpool and Manchester making a call at Nuneaton for Birmingham passengers.  Not ideal; but another option to the Chiltern Line or a slow bus to Coventry to connect with trains there - which would have helped disabled travellers.  The fact this option did not happen suggests a number of Virgin drivers have lost route knowledge of the Birmingham - Nuneaton line.

17 April 2016

Rail Chaos

On the 8th April there was a signalling and points failure at Proof House; a key junction on the approach to New Street station.  Cancellations were to be expected - it is one of the worst locations for a problem on a network.  However London Midland decided not just to cancel services on the northern part of the Cross City line through Proof House junction, but services on the southern part of the route from Birmingham to Redditch with trains replaced by buses.  This is bizarre, why on earth could they have not run a Birmingham - Redditch rail service?

The following Monday, 11th April saw more peak time misery.  The delays were caused by vandalism to cabling at Proof House Junction.  To be fair to the rail industry vandalism is a huge problem; in the West Midlands alone it has cost over £1 million in the last twelve months.  What was not acceptable was the message that went out to passengers that morning telling them "not to travel by train".  Ticket acceptance is normally agreed with the local bus operators, so why was that not publicised instead?  The result was predictable - chaos on the roads as commuters took to their cars.  How many of them, after a fortnight of misery have now abandoned using the train?

All of these incidents have cost the regional economy money, as well as causing misery for thousands of commuters.  An inquiry was recently held in public regarding the closure of the M6 through the Midlands, and a number of issues emerged.  No doubt the rail industry will have its own internal investigation, but it should be held in public so the region’s elected representatives can ask what on earth happened rather than being behind closed doors.  Rail users deserve answers.  A last hurrah for Centro to arrange, before it is subsumed into the combined authority later this year.