All change? What chance for the passenger on local trains?

All aboard the Midlands Engine.

You may have read in the Evening Mail an article about how our trains are going to be painted a different colour come the autumn – and if you’re a regular commuter on the Cross City line you may have read the article and thought ‘great, that means the end of London Midland and their appalling service’.

If you did read that and think that, I’ve got bad news for you.

Where the paper says ‘New livery unveiled by West Midlands Rail which takes over London Midland services from October’, you’re probably thinking that means WMR is a train operating company taking over the operation of the franchise from the existing idiots London Midland. If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re sadly wrong; what’s happening is currently it’s the Department of Transport which awards the franchise and to whom the operators are accountable, but from the autumn the DoT passes that responsibility to the new West Midlands Combined Authority in the guise of WMR.

Later on in the article it says two companies are bidding for the franchise, Abellio and Govia, so if you got over the confusion about WMR, you might be thinking ‘great, at least London Midland are out of the picture’. Again, that would be the wrong thing to think – London Midland is the trading name of Govia for the West Midlands local franchise (as well as the London – Birmingham slow train and Birmingham – Liverpool franchises); if Govia get the franchise when it’s re-awarded, then it’s London Midland who get the franchise.

And if you didn’t know, it’s Govia who are also the actual company who are the notorious Southern Trains down in the south east. And either way, whoever gets the franchise it’ll be the same train drivers and guards driving the same trains, and on the Cross City line it’ll be the same two tracks in and out of New Street which are shared with all the other trains going in and out of New Street.

And finally, it’s all very well WMR taking over the awarding of the franchise from the DoT, but where do us, the passengers who see increasing fares year-on-year without an increase in service fit into the process? How will our views and interests be considered? Will the farcical Delay Repay system where we get a derisory £1 voucher you have to apply for and then cannot spend if a train is delayed by 30 minutes be replaced by something more in our interests, like the system which London Midland’s predecessor, Central Trains, operated which was an automatic monthly reduction on the season ticket proportionate to the previous month’s delays? Did you know that in the last year for which figures are available London Midland received £1,000,000 in compensation from Network Rail for delays and disruption: how much of that was passed on to the passengers, especially the commuting passengers who were cost on average £43 per person per month in delays last year?

Given Govia’s disastrous running of both London Midland and Southern Trains how can they even be in the running again?

Author: Simon Gray

I play post-jazz-rock-dub-persian-indian santur and trumpet in a band.

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