London Midland will be punished if it breaches contract

By Ian Dipple Tuesday 27 November 2012 Updated: 29/11 15:59

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BROMSGROVE Rail User Group (BRUG) has welcomed the Government's warning to train operator London Midland that action will be taken against it for breach of contract if its service does not improve.

Passengers have faced weeks of cancellations and disruption across the network as a result of a driver shortage the company is dealing with.

Since the start of October, more than 500 services have been affected and, although promises were made that the situation would ease in the near future, disruption has continued.

Redditch MP Karen Lumley recently met with London Midland's managing director Patrick Verwer to demand improvements be made to the service as soon as possible.

And, in a letter to Mrs Lumley, Transport Minister Norman Baker acknowledged the current situation was not good enough and said all options were on the table to deal with the matter, including financial penalties or even stripping the firm of its franchise.

"I agree that if London Midland's poor performance causes it to breach its contract, the Department should take action against the operator.

"The Department is monitoring the situation extremely closely to ensure normal services are resumed as a matter of absolute priority," he said.

Mike Posonby, chairman of BRUG, said: "This situation is unnaceptable to rail passengers who are then left stranded on station platforms awaiting a train that will never arrive.

"Moreover, these widespread train cancellations this past six months is also a fundamental breach of contract on the part of London Midland with their client, the Government department DfT Rail."

He added staff holidays, sickness and other planned leave was nothing new for firms and most other businesses managed to make arrangements so its customers were not inconvenienced.

"But not London Midland, for they apparently have no plan B, no back-up and no ability to anticipate staff shortages.

"In case the MD of London Midland has not noticed, there is an army of good quality and well qualified men and women out there seeking jobs.

"All he needs to do is employ more staff and train them to the professional standards of Britain's excellent railway drivers.

"For to do otherwise leaves London Midland open to significant financial sanctions for breach of contract."

Mrs Lumley said: "Since the first delays took place, I have taken a hardline stance on this issue.

"As a result of this, I am pleased the Department for Transport have informed me it is now watching the situation extremely closely."

She added Mr Verwer had promised all services would be running on time from next Sunday (December 9).

A petition, which has also been set-up in a bid to improve the situation, can be found at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/40453 to sign the petition.

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