Newsletter – November 2017
Apologies for the long gap since the last newsletter. Members attending meetings (still at 20.00 on the second Monday of the month, currently in the upper room at Wade St Church, entry from Frog Lane) have been kept informed of progress, and we have sent several documents to members whose email addresses we have. The main events of the last few months are summarised here.
ORR station usage figures
The figures for 2016-17 (April to March) are expected in December, one hopes showing further increases at Trent Valley resulting from extra trains, and perhaps at City too with better Cross-City performance.
West Midlands Franchise
The new franchise, to start on December 10th at the timetable change and run until March 2026, goes to Abellio in place of the incumbent Govia who have traded here as London Midland since 2007. While LM have been friendly and attended some of our meetings, their track record in adopting suggestions we have made has not been good enough. Maybe Abellio and their Japanese minority shareholders will prove more effective – we’re preparing a “shopping list” for when we meet them.
Corporately known as West Midlands Trains, they will have two trading titles, West Midlands Railway (which includes the Cross-City line), and London Northwestern Railway (which includes Trent Valley services). They have announced the following which relate to Lichfield:
Investment in 36 new 3-car sets introduced from 2020, with metro-style interiors, wider doors and increased passenger space;
Lichfield Trent Valley to have 4 trains per hour on weekdays by December 2018 and on Sundays by May 2021;
A robust strategy to deliver services during the autumn leaf-fall period;
A regime to improve the quality of stations, trains and customer service.
London – Crewe:
Journey times to Crewe reduced from December 2018 when services will run on the main line from Stafford, with connections there to Stone, Stoke etc;
Later last services from Euston on weekdays by December 2018; earlier first service from Crewe on Sundays by May 2021.
Since May last year we have enjoyed 15 extra calls a week by Virgin Trains, mostly at weekends. Despite pressing, they have still published no details of the substantial increase in traffic from Lichfield Trent Valley which these trains have achieved.
London Midland’s Trent Valley service is busier than ever. Once diverted to run direct to Crewe next year, more trains can be strengthened to 8 coaches. Regrettably, cancellations because of non-availability of traincrew are still too common.
Cross-City services have generally been more reliable than a few years ago, partly because sufficient turnround time is now allowed at Lichfield Trent Valley to recover from late running northbound. Regrettably no improvement has been evident in arrangements following service disruption; chaos still results.
Trent Valley station
The one improvement here has been a new pedestrian access beside the booking hall to the northbound platform when the station is unstaffed. Our long-standing calls for further increase in car parking spaces continue to be ignored, yet both areas are full every weekday. The ticket office was manned, and reportedly busy, on Sundays during this summer, but we know of no plans to make this permanent. Efforts to encourage a bit of flexibility in holding connections in the event of slight late-running have fallen on stony ground, as have suggestions to eliminate “scrolling” of departure boards. The provision of step-free access is still (at the time of writing) promised by March 2019, over 11 years after the hourly London service was introduced!
Good: new flowerbeds have been provided. Maybe good: extra platform seats have been offered (but have not so far arrived). Bad: a reasoned argument to enable the toilets to be reopened has so far achieved nothing, as has our seemingly endless complaining about ticketless travel. The ticket machine was out of use for several weeks following overnight vandalism; we pointed out that, were the station staffed until the last train, this would have been avoided with staff on hand to lock up!
West Coast Rail 250
Lichfield City Council (who, like us, are members) hosted the June meeting of theis lobby group. We hope other members will have been reminded of the importance of the less busy stations along the WCML.
Lichfield to Derby/Nottingham In responding to the recent consultation on the new East Midlands franchise, we put a strong case for a regular service, possibly extended south to Birmingham International via Aston, with a station at Alrewas (NMA). One can only hope this will appeal to the Department for Transport.
Lichfield to Walsall
Despite our best efforts, Midlands Connect – whose remit is to improve connectivity between East and West Midlands – appear not to understand that this reopening would enable dramatically faster links between Wolves/Walsall and Derby/Nottingham. Maybe constant repetition of the message, obvious to us, will one day sink in.
West Coast Franchise
Virgin’s west coast franchise will end in 2019 or 2020, when a new 10-year West Coast Partnership (including HS2 services) will replace it. Despite this major change from the new franchise on which Department for Transport consulted last year and to which we responded, no further consultation is promised before the early 2020s.
Michael Fabricant MP
We had a useful meeting in February with Michael, who remains closely interested in rail services. If changes to constituency boundaries proceed as currently planned, it seems that half of Trent Valley station will transfer to his Tamworth colleague!