Birmingham & Black Country

Reduced West Coast Mainline train services plan opposed

Birmingham International Image copyright Google
Image caption Birmingham International is one of several stations that could see fewer trains stopping there under the DfT plans

The option to reduce some train services across the West Midlands have been branded unacceptable by transport bosses.

The Department for Transport (DfT) consulted passengers on how the new West Coast Main Line franchise, starting in 2018, could operate.

One option is fewer trains to stop at Wolverhampton, Coventry, Birmingham International, Sandwell and Dudley.

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) said it would damage the economy.

Commuters would also be affected as it would become "almost impossible to commute between some of the region's key cities", the group, part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said.

In the proposals, the DfT said although some services are busy at peak times, there were times where the level of service "might not reflect the level of demand at stations".

'Pressing need'

"In these cases we are interested in understanding whether there may be opportunities to adjust the level of service at stations which might enable wider benefits to be delivered elsewhere.

"For example reducing the number of stops required at intermediate stations... could enable reductions in the overall journey time to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow or for potential new journeys to be offered."

It said that capacity for additional train services on the West Coast Mainline, currently run by Virgin, was limited and would remain so until HS2 was operating.

Image caption Virgin Trains currently runs the franchise, which expires in 2018

Construction on the first phase of the high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham is expected to start in 2017.

Councillor Roger Lawrence, transport lead on the WMCA, said he accepted rising passengers numbers needed addressing and that they were putting other options forward to the DfT.

"While we recognise the pressing need to squeeze more capacity out of the existing line it should not come at the expense of fewer inter-city services at key West Midlands stations. That would be wholly unacceptable," he said.

Its proposals include longer car trains, opening up more first class seating at times and address the "significant difference" between peak and off-peak fares.

A spokesperson from DfT said: "Reducing the number of stops on less busy parts of the network to reduce journey times is just one option we sought views on - alongside the potential for new services and how to improve connections with other trains.

"We are determined to improve journeys for InterCity West Coast passengers.

"Our consultation sought feedback on what passengers want from their journey in a wide number of areas including how the operator can best meet passenger demand.

"Reducing the number of stops on less busy parts of the network to reduce journey times is just one option we sought views on - alongside the potential for new services and how to improve connections with other trains.

"No decisions have been made and the responses to the consultation will inform next steps."

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