Unprecedented & Intolerable – Train Service Reliability Must Improve

Peter Morris, the Chair of Shakespeare Line Rail User Group (SLRUG) has written to West Midlands Railway (22 January 2024) concerning what he has described as the intolerable unreliability experienced by customers trying to use the railway over the past three months.

We recently consulted users of the line who are members of SLRUG. The primary reason for the consultation concerned the future level of membership subscriptions and other elements of SLRUG membership. In return, we received unprecedented and unsolicited comments and complaints from over 40 members about train services managed and operated by West Midlands Railway.

The Shakespeare Line Rail User Group has over 50 years of experience working alongside the train operators and representing users of train services between Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon and Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon. We have twice led campaigns that successfully halted the closure of the Shakespeare Line in 1969 and again in 1984.

SLRUG felt it had to act, and consequently our Chair, at the most recent one (January 2024) of our regular meetings with train operator West Midlands Railway, raised the issue of passenger complaints about the prolonged unreliability of train services.

This meeting took place on 10 January 2024 in Birmingham and was also attended by Chairs of other Midlands Rail User Groups. Peter felt the response WMR gave at the meeting fell extremely short of alleviating passengers’ concerns by offering any form of solution or apparent interest.

No senior managers of WMR saw fit to grace the meeting with their presence despite several persons representing many of their customers having given up their time to meet the company and discuss these very serious matters.

SLRUG speak for hundreds of people, many of whom have no alternative to the train and rely on it for hospital appointments, getting to and from work, support workers that vulnerable people rely on, or simply going about their daily business.

Trying to use the ‘driver training’ excuse three years after that matter was first identified is no longer credible; if it’s true, it shows abysmal management of staff resources, which appears to continue unabated.

We are providing the content of our Chair’s letter to WMR which has been written to escalate the focus on such an intolerable situation. SLRUG has also copied the correspondence and written to organisations that have influence, responsibilities and a duty to hold to account providers of train services, these include amongst others Transport Focus & West Midlands Rail Executive.

We believe that actions must take place immediately so that confidence in train services in the West Midlands area can be rebuilt and that this endemic problem, which was worsened in the run-up to Christmas 2023 with the fifth incarnation of a collapse in train service reliability towards the end of the year and across the festive period, can be halted without delay.

Letter from the SLRUG Chairman to WMT.