Minutes of 17th Sept 2018 Meeting

PRESENT D Dixon (Chairman), I Jackson, P Bates, B Eloner, R Rathbone, R Hockney, R Hartley, P Martin, R Henshaw, A Hutchinson, T Thompson, P Sheridan, P Mullarkey, J Woodcock, P Cousins, D James, R Patching, plus D Whitley (W M Trains); APOLOGIES from J Adams


DAVID WHITLEY, Head of Customer Experience, Strategy and Innovation, updated the meeting on numerous issues:

  1. PUNCTUALITY is currently 83%, better than recent months but well below target.
  2. CROSS CITY LINE TASK FORCE, with members from West Midlands Trains, Network Rail and West Midlands Rail, is trying to identify and reduce delays and drive up punctuality. Particular emphasis on autumn leaf fall season, as franchise agreement does not permit a special timetable with trains skipping stops at certain stations.
  3. EXTENSION LONGBRIDGE TO BROMSGROVE. Has slightly improved punctuality, as trains no longer have to wait to cross centre tracks at Longbridge, for a fast service to pass through. Usage from Bromsgrove in first few weeks has been encouraging.
  4. PENALTIES for performance failures are demanding; West Midlands Rail perform random quality checks including softer issues (station presentation, clearance of graffiti).
  5. CROSS CITY ON BOARD ANNOUNCEMENTS. Guards instructed to announce stations before arrival, to avoid delays when passengers realise it is their station too late.
  6. CROSS CITY TICKET CHECKING. Due to priority being given to guards making on board announcements and frequent stops, management has accepted that regular ticket checks by guards were currently not feasible. With new trains, guard will have a mobile microphone, so they will be able to both make announcements and check tickets.
  7. VISIBILITY OF GUARDS ON TRAINS. Guards are instructed to walk through the train every 30 minutes (only one unit possible on 6 coach trains); thus between Lichfield and New St. members should see guard at least once on journey. DW would welcome feedback by email (address circulated) on whether this is happening.
  8. BOARDING CROSS CITY TRAINS AT NEW ST. Some members felt boarding times could be reduced and punctuality improved, if there was more consistency on where trains stopped on platform and / or better information was provided where passengers should stand. DW agreed, and the Cross-City taskforce was actively investigating. Larger “TV style” information screens were shortly to be installed on New St platforms, that would be capable of providing more information to passengers. If affordable, these might be linked to on board sensor systems on the new Cross City Line trains, that would direct passengers to the least crowded part of the train.
  9. NEW CROSS CITY TRAINS LAYOUT. Coaches will be 24 metres long with 2 +2 seating and some tables (this ensures better weight distribution across axles). Separate dedicated spaces for wheelchairs and bicycle storage. In addition to luggage racks, cantilevered seats will allow some luggage to be stored underneath. Trains will have toilets. It is envisaged that two gangwayed 3-coach units will normally be coupled together.
  10. TIMETABLE CHANGES DELAYED FROM DECEMBER 18 to MAY 19. DW explained that Network Rail were not confident that the significant proposed changes could be successfully made in December. As they are a complete integrated package it would be difficult to phase in some of the changes in December, so all are delayed until May.  West Midlands Trains state they were fully prepared for December timetable change and the delay will have an impact on their revenue assumptions.
  11. ELECTRONIC TICKETS, MULTI USE TICKETS AND WEST MIDLANDS OYSTER TYPE CARD. These will progressively be introduced over franchise.
  12. CITY STATION TOILETS – the plan for these to be open to passengers has been delayed, for reasons DW did not know. He will inform Chairman of an expected date.
  13. TRENT VALLEY CAR PARKING. Members continue to be frustrated that there are currently no plans for extra car parking, despite various suggestions from our group on how this could be achieved. DW fully accepted the need for this. He also noted the need for 20-min spaces in the “new” car park.
  14. TRENT VALLEY LIFTS. No evidence of work starting, and getting tight for March 2019 completion promised to our MP by Minister. DW will inform Chairman of position.
  15. RESERVED SEATS ON LONDON NORTH WESTERN SERVICES TO EUSTON. The possibility of issuing reserved seats with advance purchase tickets was being considered, in order better to compete with Virgin who already guaranteed a reserved seat.
  16. FIRST 7 MONTHS OF FRANCHISE- members generally felt there had been little change from London Midland to date, apart from some livery changes to trains. DW explained that a lot of time and effort had gone into setting up the new separate management structures required for West Midlands Railway and London North Western Railway and finalising the specifications of the new trains. Now that these tasks are complete, he is confident that passengers will gradually experience improvements. The contribution of Abellio’s partners (Mitsui and JR East) was proving fruitful.
  17. WEEKDAY 17.25 FROM NEW ST. TO LICHFIELD (16.51 from Bromsgrove) has high volume of passengers into and out of New St, but was reduced from 6 to 3 coaches with the new rosters following the extension of Cross City Services to Bromsgrove. He acknowledged there had been a lot of complaints about the change and the Cross- City Line Taskforce was investigating a short-term solution.





Virgin have replied to Michael Fabricant about a Lichfield stop on one of the new Euston to Blackpool services, refusing to make any changes during the current franchise (ends September 2019).


CROSS COUNTRY FRANCHISE CONSULTATION – Response amended by Chairman as agreed at 20th August meeting and submitted.

GROUP STRATEGY – Johnathan Roberts has noted the Group’s position and will see if there are Railfuture funds available for him to work on our proposal to introduce services from Lichfield to Burton.


NEXT MEETING:  Monday 15th October 2018, 20.00 at Kings Head




  • Jez Milton says:

    The main problem on x-city line is the painfully slow dwell times due to guards opening and closing doors. Is this responsibility going to the driver with the new trains allowing the second person on board to check tickets? Guards only very rarely emerge from the rear cab. Their announcements of upcoming stations are utterly pointless on a route with so many regular users. In fact they are irritating.

    The train operator needs to modernise working practices on the route and not run scared of the unions.

    • David James says:

      Apologies for the delay in responding.
      West Midlands Railway recognise that slow dwell times are a problem and are actively trying to improve them. The new trains will have wider doors and aisles and this will help to improve dwell times.
      West Midlands Railway have not yet stated who will be responsible for the opening and closing of the doors on the new trains. With the introduction of the new trains two to three years away, they may be waiting to see how the current disputes between other Train Operating Companies and R.M.T. on door opening responsibility are resolved, before reaching a final decision.
      Whilst agreeing that announcements of upcoming stations are of little use to regular passengers, L.R.P.G. believe there are sufficient visitors to the area and infrequent users to justify them, especially as there are too few nameboards on some station platforms. With the new trains, announcements will be made by automatic pre-recorded messages, so the guard will have more time to check tickets and walk through the train.

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