WEST MIDLANDS Trains has conceded that its May 2019 timetable change has not worked well and is seeking to ‘roll back’ many of the changes made.
The London Northwestern division of the business, covering services based on the West Coast main line, has been particularly affected, with the change involving the joining up as through trains of services which previously terminated at Birmingham New Street. Accepting that ‘the day-to-day operation has proved quite fragile’ the aim will be to restore the original service pattern as much as possible from May 2020. The eventual train plan will be less complex with more train and crew diagrams self-contained to avoid delays spreading across the network.
A small number of changes were made in December, including the Chase line to Rugeley Trent Valley seeing only one hourly through train from London. Stopping patterns between Coventry and Birmingham were altered and a new all-day shuttle service introduced between Birmingham International and New Street.
Other changes include extensions to dwell times for some London services still running through Birmingham New Street to the north of the city, additional services on the southern section of the West Coast main line including additional express trains between Northampton and the capital and more commuter trains for Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted. WMT is also introducing 10 Class 350/4s cascaded from TransPennine Express, with four entering service from December and the remainder transferring early in the New Year.
In the Midlands, services operating under the West Midlands Railway brand were also amended with Shrewsbury – Birmingham trains retimed to avoid being delayed behind local services, Hereford to Birmingham trains lengthened through the use of DMUs released by the additional ‘350s’ and the retention of Class 153s to provide additional capacity. In the case of the ‘153s’ the fact they are not compliant with accessibility regulations from 1 January 2020 means they must be used coupled to compliant Class 170 or 172 units. A small number of Cross City services will also be strengthened to six cars from three during 2020.
The full ‘turn back time’ changes in May 2020 will see an end to splitting and joining at Birmingham New Street. The complete separation of the Rugeley Trent Valley service will see all trains starting or terminating at either Birmingham New Street or International and services to Crewe via the Potteries will run to/from Birmingham International rather than Euston. Two trains an hour will run from Euston to Liverpool, with some accelerated by up to 30 minutes and longer dwell times at Birmingham New Street will be created.