In an urgent Question on rail services this morning, Michael Fabricant raised the unreliability of Avanti Trains primarily due to a shortage of drivers. “While Avanti provides a hit and miss service from Lichfield Tent Valley station, it damages the economy of the District” Michael says. “It is imperative we restore a reliable service on the West Coast Main Line.”
Michael asked the Rail Minister, Huw Merriman: “The Minister comes to his position having been a very successful and thoughtful chairman of the Transport Select Committee.
“He will know that there is a balance of blame here, not just the trade unions but also the operating companies too. But he will also know that lines like London Northwestern had problems two years ago with the shortage of drivers, but which now become far more reliable.
“How long does he think it is going to take Avanti to get the number of drivers required so that we can get a reliable service?”
The Minister for Rail and HS2. Huw Merriman, replied: “I thank my Hon Friend, he is very kind indeed, and I have always enjoyed working with him, and I know he has a great passion for rail projects within his constituency which we discussed last night.
“Avanti’s plan is to bring 100 new drivers on, to change the timetable on the 11th December, so that those drivers can then add more services. The concern is that this takes place at the same time that industrial action is scheduled over the month of December and into January, so it will be very difficult for all of the hard work, from the drivers, those training the drivers, from the management, to try and get these new services put in place, if we see all of that undermined by wider industrial action.
“The plan is 11th December, but I have to say to my Hon Friend if we can’t get the strikes called off then my concern is our ability to roll that out.”
Michael adds now “I had a very constructive meeting with Huw Merriman last evening regarding the possible restoration of the Lichfield to Burton line for passenger traffic – he made reference to that in his answer to me this morning. I hope that in the new year he will be visiting Lichfield and to the National Memorial Arboretum where it is planned there will be a station on the Lichfield to Burton rail extension.”