Train bosses pledge to beat overcrowding on route into London

London Northwestern will delay smartening up their 16-year-old trainsLondon Northwestern will delay smartening up their 16-year-old trains
London Northwestern will delay smartening up their 16-year-old trains
But more seats means 16-year old trains must carry on chugging from Tring, Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead

Passengers must put up with tatty trains for a bit longer as London Northwestern battle to beat overcrowding on the line through Hertfordshire.

The beleagured train operator responded to a Government ultimatum by issuing their five-point plan for rapid improvements to services from Tring, Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead..

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But the downside of a pledge to provide commuters with thousands of extra seats each week is putting a major refurbishment plan on hold.

Head of customer experience Lawrence Bowman said: "We won’t fix things overnight but we will fix them and we want to keep more carriages out on the network.

"The May 2019 timetable, an industry-wide bottleneck in the supply of new trains and carriages and the need to refurbish some of our rolling stock means that each of our trains now has to cover 20 per cent more mileage.

"These extra hours on the move reduces time available for routine maintenance. The upshot is shorter trains on busy services and an increase in delays due to minor faults.

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"So we will delay the refurbishment of train interiors by several months providing commuters with thousands of extra seats each week in the meantime."

Commuters have complained about freezing and scruffy carriages on 16-year-old units which run between London, Birmingham and the North West. And local MPs voiced those complaints in a meeting with LNWR bosses last week.

But taking some of the fleet out of service for refurbishment meant some trains running with four carriages instead of eight, leading to overcrowding and delays as passengers struggle to squeeze on board.

Delays and cancellations are down significantly in 2020 following a shocking second half of 2019.

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But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps ordered bosses of LNWR's parent company West Midlands Trains to stump up an extra £20million for urgent improvements or risk having its contract torn up.

The train operator responded with a video apology from MD Julian Edwards posted on social media and their five-point plan.

This includes simplifying the problematic timetable, taking on more staff, keeping more carriages on the network, getting better at dealing with delays and working with Network Rail to ease congestion at Euston and increase line speeds through Birmingham.

Mr Bowman said: "Simply put, our service has been nowhere near good enough and we know things have to change.

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"We’ve gotten to the root of what went wrong and started making hundreds of changes and improvements, big and small, behind the scenes.

"We’re adding an extra 80 drivers, senior conductors and train crew managers. This will give us more flexibility to cover holidays and sickness.

"The complexity of the May 2019 timetable has magnified individual delays and increased the time it takes to get the service back to normal. This has had a big impact on evening commuter services, even several hours after incidents have been resolved.

"From now on we will reset services at lunchtime when necessary, so that delays in the morning don’t disrupt journeys home in the evening.

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"We’re also introducing a package of measures to speed up boarding and alighting at stations, including technology to monitor passenger flow and extra platform staff to help passengers."

LNWR have already announced discounts for season ticket holders and cheaper off-peak tickets in July and August as compensation for disgruntled passengers.

And they have now added a deal offering a 20 per cent discount for online tickets to London or Birmingham. The tickets must be bought between February 15 and February 23 but can be booked for any date up to March 30.