By Ian Dipple Thursday 20 December 2012 Updated: 21/12 16:46
LONDON Midland has been forced to give away free travel passes and half a million cheap tickets to passengers affected by cancellations and delays due to a driver shortage.
The £7million package has been secured by the Department of Transport as a result of the rail firm's poor performance which saw almost 1,000 trains cancelled between October and December 9.
Although the situation has largely now been resolved due to the implementation of new driver shift patterns, with extra drivers also being trained, Transport Minister Norman Baker warned the firm they were still being monitored and any repeat would result in tougher action.
"London Midland has cancelled or delayed hundreds of services in recent months. On repeated occasions, they were not able to provide enough drivers and some services had to be cancelled, with severe delays to services, and they have fallen short both of everyone’s expectations and their franchise obligations," he said.
"Securing these benefits for passengers represents a firm yellow-card for London Midland and some financial benefit for those who have been hardest hit by their poor performance."
Over 100,000 monthly and annual season ticket holders, as well weekly ticket holders who have been affected by the disruption, will be offered five free tickets offering one day's unlimited peak and off-peak travel on London Midland trains. The 500,000 extra cheap tickets will be issued over and above those given out in the last year and will be for travel during 2013 and 2014 and will be available on key routes including London to Birmingham.
The deal also confirms the company's responsibility to run the service will end in September 2015, two years later than planned, to give London Midland time to resolve the driver shortage permanently. The firm will also have to spend at least £2.5million on a range of measures to improve the service, with the money mainly being spent in the West Midlands where the worst disruption was experienced.
Richard Brooks, London Midlands commercial director, said: "While the temporary driver shortage has been addressed, we clearly recognise recent disruption has been unacceptable to passengers and not what we expect of ourselves.
"From the onset of this issue we ensured the Department of Transport was kept up-to-date with operational performance and have been working closely with them to deliver a passenger focused plan which will offer tangible customer benefits.
"We have taken on-board feedback from our customers in putting together this package and the Government recognises London Midland is best placed to deliver these measures.
"We apologise for the recent disruption and are now focused on returning to our previous high levels of performance."
To apply for the free tickets, season ticket holders will need to complete a simple online form giving details of their ticket and postal address. Holders of season ticket Travelcards, nNetwork and nTrain passes valid for 7 days or more will also be eligible.
Full details will be advertised early in January 2013 on board trains, at stations, on the London Midland Twitter feed (@londonmidland) and online at londonmidland.com.
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