The government has told West Midlands Trains (WMT) that an extra £20 million must be invested to address poor performance.
The stark warning was made by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, who has called for the “rapid introduction” of a plan to improve services that passengers rely on after the operator breached its performance targets.
Problems have arisen for WMT since the introduction of timetable changes in May 2019, which has resulted in a deterioration of performance to such an extent that they have exceeded breach level on delay minutes and cancellations franchise agreement targets.
WMT, under the terms of its contract, is required to agree a ‘remedial plan’ to ensure performance recovers and improves, giving passengers a better service and reducing delays.
The funding will benefit passengers in the West Midlands who rely on London Northwestern and West Midlands Railway services; the investment will deliver timetable improvements, help with recruiting new train drivers in order to tackle staff shortages, and help to offer compensation for poor service by discounting season tickets and off-peak fares.
Mr Shapps commented on the decision of the Department for Transport: “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.”
It is a stark warning from the government, who have made it clear that operators should consider this step as a warning that poor performance that impacts on passengers, and failure to meet contractual obligations, will be met with a firm response.
It also follows the decision to strip Northern of its franchise.