MP set for showdown talks with London Midland

By Ian Dipple Monday 05 November 2012 Updated: 06/11 12:14

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REDDITCH'S MP is set for showdown talks with the head of London Midland over the driver shortage which has led to hundreds of trains being cancelled or delayed.

Karen Lumley will meet with Patrick Verwer, chief executive of the rail firm, on Wednesday (November 7) to discuss the situation and demand immediate action.

More than 500 services have been affected since the start of October and is set to continue until mid-December. There were over 40 services affected on the Redditch to Lichfield Cross-City line in one week alone.

"This Wednesday, I will make my views very clear that the service from Redditch to Lichfield is simply not acceptable in its current form. It is complete and utterly unacceptable that passengers who have paid above inflation fares for the past several years should have a service which is not reliable and subject to delays," Mrs Lumley said.

"The only solution I will accept is immediate action to resume a full service without delays or cancellations. If not, London Midland must face financial consequences or worse for not running the service it is legally binded to carry out.

"Jobs are at risk if this service cannot operate. There cannot be no excuse from London Midland rail and on Wednesday, I will do all I can to ensure that this failure is resolved and quickly."

Mrs Lumley has also previously suggested the firm should be stripped of responsibility for running services if the situation does not improve but Transport Minister Norman Baker said they were a long way from that currently.

In a letter to Mrs Lumley he said he had spoken with senior management at London Midland and reminded them of their contractual responsibilities and the need to restore services as soon as possible.

"The operator, for their part, is exploring a wide range of options to ensure that this is achieved quickly, and has provided a series of assurances that they are taking every possible measure to restore a full and reliable service," he said.

"I can assure you a full range of measures are available to the department in the event performance falls below the required standard. Any measures taken would need to be proportionate to the level of cancellations, but can include severe financial penalties and, in the most extreme cases, removal of the franchise.

"However, I must be clear that we are some way from such a measure being required, and there is no reason to suspect, at this stage, that such serious action will be needed. The Department will be monitoring the situation extremely closely to ensure that normal services are resumed as a matter of absolute priority."

London Midland say the problem has been caused by the fact more than 30 drivers have left in quick succession and while new staff have been recruited they take up to 12 months to train. The situation is expected to be resolved by December 9.

In the meantime the company has taken to providing regular updates on its website with details of services expected to subject to cancellations or altered published at 5pm the day before.

A petition has also been set-up calling for urgent improvements on the Redditch to Lichfield line. Visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/40453 to sign.

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