West Midlands Trains must invest £20 million after poor performance and delays Image: West Midlands Railways

The additional funding will be invested in timetable improvements, recruiting new train drivers and offering passengers compensation for poor service

West Midlands Trains (WMT) will be required to spend an extra £20 million on improving services for passengers after badly breaching its performance targets, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps set out today (9 February 2020).

The government says that passengers who use West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern services, will benefit from the additional funding. Which will be invested in delivering timetable improvements and recruiting new train drivers to tackle staff shortages.

They will also continue to be offered compensation for poor service with discounts on season tickets and off-peak fares.

The Department for Transport (DoT) said that it has made clear that operators should consider this step a warning that poor performance impacting on passengers and the failure to meet contractual obligations will be met with a firm response.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“One of my priorities is getting the trains to run on time, and as a commuter myself I understand all too well the frustration caused by endless delays and cancellations.

“West Midlands Trains have failed to fulfil their obligations – to their franchise agreement and, most importantly, to their passengers.
The action we’re taking means they must invest in rapidly improving services, so that passengers have reliable, punctual trains they can rely on.”

The extra £20 million funding will be used for a variety of measures including:

  • Compensating passengers for the poor service by offering a 3% discount on season ticket renewals and offering a 10% reduction in off peak fares during July and August 2020
  • Series of timetable improvements, with wide-ranging changes planned for May 2020 and December 2020
  • Recruitment of additional drivers and senior conductors to combat staffing shortages
  • Investment in day to day operations, to make services more reliable

The DoT reported that since WMT’s May 2019 timetable change the company’s performance had deteriorated to such an extent that they have exceeded breach level on delay minutes and cancellations franchise agreement targets.

Under the terms of their contract, WMT are required to agree a ‘remedial plan’ to ensure that performance recovers.

The DoT said it will continue to closely monitor the performance of the operator and ensure they meet their contractual obligations. Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“Having monitored the poor performance of West Midlands Trains with great concern, we’re taking action to ensure they fulfil their contractual commitments and deliver the service passengers deserve.

“Every minute of delay adds up, and for far too long passengers have been left stuck on train platforms at the mercy of a fickle live departure board.

“Having our country’s trains run on time must be the rule, not the exception. This is a warning that operators simply must do better for their passengers.”

In a statement on WMT’s website, Julian Edwards, managing director of West Midlands Trains, said:

“Our performance in the second half of last year was simply unacceptable and we apologise to all our customers for this. Passengers can be assured we have developed a robust recovery plan which builds on our recent improved reliability.

“It is right we continue to compensate our customers and we will shortly confirm further discounts covering February half-term and beyond. This is on top of the season ticket and summer discounts we have already implemented.

“We have held detailed discussions with the West Midlands Mayor and others to ensure this extra investment – over and above our original £1billion franchise commitment – benefits all our customers and restores the reliable rail service they deserve.

“We are fully focused on achieving this as quickly as possible. Every issue cannot be solved overnight and we thank our customers for their patience while we fix their service.”