MPs want answers on train fiasco
Worcester Standard: 03 January 2008
RAIL commuters in Worcestershire began the new year with more train misery - as two local MPs demanded answers from First Great Western over the poor service.
The delays and problems on the tracks were not limited to First Great Western lines - with Virgin's Birmingham to London line bearing the brunt of problems - but MPs Michael Foster and Peter Luff have said that the service offered by First is not satisfactory.
Travellers have been plagued by a patchy service in the weeks leading up to Christmas and over the festive period itself and fare increases at the start of the new year.
Worcester MP, Michael Foster, spoke to the transport minister Tom Harris before Christmas about the quality of service offered.
Mr Foster said he was "seething" over the poor service.
He said: "The last few weeks in particular have been truly awful, and I have received numerous complaints about the service as well as being subjected to a series of nightmare journeys."
The day after he spoke to Mr Harris, Mr Foster was with fellow passengers who were subjected to a two hour taxi journey from Oxford to Malvern after the train was terminated with no notice.
He said: "The new timetable, which was supposed to improve matters, has made things even worse.
"And to cap it all, it now takes longer to get to London from Worcester than it did before the changes. It is simply unacceptable. How can we attract businesses to Worcester with such a poor service? "
Mr Foster said if the service was not improved in 2008, he would demand the franchise was taken off First Great Western.
And Peter Luff, MP for mid-Worcestershire, said that the company was not even able to provide information about when trains were running between Christmas and New Year.
“Our service ten years ago was far from perfect, but it was so much better than it is now," he said.
“At present the only thing you can rely on is being let down. The time for promises is at an end. It’s time for the government to take Network Rail and First Great Western into a closed room and lock them in until they’ve worked out how to give us at least a half decent service.”
First Great Western's chief operating officer Andrew Haines penned a letter to all customers apologising for the service.
In it, he said: "Over the last few weeks we've not been giving you the service you deserve, and the level of disruption many of you have experienced is simply not good enough."
"I know from my own experience just how frustrating it can be when your train is late and I want to say sorry for our recent poor performance and the inconvenience it has caused. "
He said Network Rail had pledged £750 million to improve the region's track and signals - and his company was committed to improving the service.