Published 23rd October 2012
London Midland, part owned by SNCF, French Railways took over the Silverlink franchise in November 2007, five years ago.
There have been sporadic bouts of industrial relations problems ever since with the root cause seemingly unresolved despite attempts to harmonise pay and conditions between former Silverlink employed drivers with Central Trains’ Drivers. The latter were paid it was claimed, £1200 annually more than the former and London Midland offered their drivers double pay on Sundays in 2009 as a quick fix.
There was a Court Case in December 2010 which prevented a Drivers’ strike just before Christmas followed by what was in reality an overtime ban with many routes not having a Sunday train service in the following months as drivers refused to work overtime. Sunday travel in March 2011 was particularly badly affected with many routes being closed and buses running instead.
As a result of the train cancellations, London Midland were in Breach of their Franchise Agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) who instead of fining them made them offer several special periods of cheap tickets for passengers as compensation.
London Midland has asked rail.co.uk to clarify the situation and said that “The first one, from 27 Dec 09-3 Jan 10, was suggested by us as part of a package of measures offered in response to a period of poor performance. We also offered to increase the number of Advance fares available. We are very happy to emphasise this point from London Midland.
LM dressed these offers up as just that, a special offer rather than suggesting it was a penalty imposed for the inconvenience caused to passengers. Behind the scenes it is understood that the DfT has previously told LM Management to tough it out against the Drivers to get them to sign up to new contracts but this is a gamble given that drivers can earn easily over £40,000 a year and that it takes up to two years to train a driver.
Many trains serving Birmingham have been curtailed for part of their journey with some cancellations. The disruption has also reached London and Crewe where some services have also been cancelled or short formed of carriages.
Coming on top of booking office closures, it seems that all is not rosy in The LM garden!
Aslef has previously said it had been trying for three years to "harmonise the conditions" of 600 drivers from two firms - Central Trains and Silverlink - which merged to form London Midland.
London Midland said the union turned down a deal which could have achieved equal terms and added that former Silverlink drivers "receive a more generous holiday entitlement".
Due to a temporary shortfall of qualified train drivers, we (London Midland) have had to cancel a number of trains over recent weeks. We’re sorry if you have been affected.
Whilst the shortfall itself should be addressed by mid-December, we are working hard to ensure the impact on our passengers in the meantime is kept to an absolute minimum. On most days we hope to run a full service.
We have a dedicated team focusing on delivering the train service on a day by day basis and as a result we have been able to run a near-normal timetable on all but a few days, compensating for the shortage with drivers who have volunteered for overtime.
In addition, our people have agreed to a number of changes to the way we resource our train services in the short term, which will further reduce the need to cancel trains.
However, on those occasions when we don’t have enough people volunteering, we will still need to make temporary alterations to the timetable, and our priority is to ensure you have the information you need to plan your journey as early as possible.
As a result, we will be providing daily cancellation updates (Monday to Friday) between 22 October and 11 December. These will be listed on this page each day at 1700hrs, and include alterations for the next day and the day after that. The information will also be sent out through our free Journey Check email alert system.
On October 22, there have also been animals on the line between Rugeley and Birmingham, and signalling failures today between Euston and Watford plus a LM train failure, all affecting LM services, not a great day for rail it seems!