West Coast Main Line Cuts Dispute

Proposals to cut services to Coventry and Rugby have not had a good response from council leaders and MPs.

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Coventry Railway Station

The Government has promised to listen to apprehensive West Coast Main Line commuters after it announced controversial plans to cut services to Coventry, Rugby, the Black Country and Birmingham International.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “The Department for Transport have launched a consultation into the plans but nothing had been decided.”

She also advised rail-users to put their views forward and tell Ministers about the type of service they want.

She delivered the pledge in the House of Commons as MPs from across the West Midlands criticized plans to decrease congestion on trains by missing out stations.

The Department for Transport set out the proposals in a discussion about the future of West Coast Main Line long distance services.

It cautioned that some trains are “very busy”, with passengers complaining of overcrowded carriages.

Thus it suggested “reducing the number of stops required at intermediate stations” to guarantee services between Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow were quicker and less congested.

However, this will mean that fewer services will stop at Birmingham International, Rugby, Coventry, Wolverhampton, and the Sandwell and Dudley railway station.

The idea has been criticised by council leaders across the West Midlands, who have said that this will only result in worse services for people near the stations that are being cut out but also for people who live in Birmingham and need to commute to other parts of the West Midlands.

Ms Perry told MPs that the Government was ready to listen.

She said: “A very legitimate question that is asked in the consultation is causing alarm and has been raised several times.

“It is right to ask people, communities and local authorities what sorts of trade-offs they want. Do they want faster journey times? Do they want more connectivity?”

She said: “Government Ministers and officials can sit and design timetables that look perfect on paper, but unless they deliver what is required on the ground – a train service that works for those who use it and maximises the economic potential of transport, which are things that have to be pulled through locally – we will not be doing a service to the communities that we serve.

“Questions such as ‘what would a reduced service to Coventry look like?’ are genuinely questions; there is no vision or master plan. We want as many people as possible to help answer these questions, and those trade-offs are vital.​”

Speaking in a Commons debate which was attended by the Minister, a number of MPs condemned the proposed plans for cutting services.

Coventry South MP Jim Cunningham (Lab) said: “It is interesting to note that journeys to and from Coventry have tripled over the past decade, from 2.35 million in 2004-05 to 6,252,888 in 2014-15.”

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