AN UNDER-FIRE county train operator has been slammed for cancelling services from the city at the eleventh hour on Sunday and branded ‘a company which never fails to let its customers down’.
Great Western Railway chiefs have been criticised for their handling of the big freeze which saw services continue to be cancelled on Sunday despite a thaw setting in over the weekend.
County highways chief Alan Amos has written to GWR managing director Mark Hopwood after he was forced to miss an engagement in Oxford on Sunday, despite checking on Saturday evening that the planned service was still running.
The outspoken county and city councillor told the Observer: “I checked the internet to confirm that the 11.31am Worcester Shrub Hill to Oxford service was running but, to my amazement, when I double-checked on Sunday morning, I saw all services to Oxford had been cancelled.
“The only alternative appeared to be a three-hour journey involving two changes and a bus.
“Given the thaw had already significantly set in by Sunday morning and that the forecast was of further improvement – which occurred – I want to know who decided to cancel all these services which are only every two hours anyway and why they did not inform people on Saturday night so they could have tried to make alternative arrangements in time?
“My highways department worked very hard to keep all our roads open so it is a great pity they chose not to do the same for our trains.
“It appears GWR has become ‘a company which never fails to let you down’. Until they show they can manage the existing network competently, passengers have no confidence anything is ever going to get better with annual price increases bringing about absolutely no improvement,” he added.
Coun Amos also revealed he was in posession of regular reports about the service from Worcester to Paddington which painted a ‘truly dreadful picture of cancellations, short-running, and all manner of other issues’.
“I am advised the principal reason is “driver shortage” or lack of properly trained drivers. This is solely and clearly the responsibility of management, nobody else,” he added.
GWR failed to respond to the Observer’s request for a comment.
However a statement on their website about the disruption caused by the big freeze said: “Reducing the number of trains on the network in a planned way allows the services that do run to operate more smoothly, reducing congestion and delays during difficult conditions.”
A spokesperson for Great Western Railway said: “Planned improvement works were scheduled for the weekend between Oxford and Hanborough.
“This was planned and advertised ahead of the bad weather.
“We always intended to us replacement road transport between these two stations for the duration of the work.”
He added as a result of the bad weather conditions, the plan for services had to be amended because a number of trains were displaced due to the disruptive weather on the previous days.
“This meant there was a reduced train service operating between Worcester and Moreton in Marsh, instead of Hanborough.
“As the reduced service was short notice, we required additional road transport between Moreton in Marsh, Hanborough and Oxford.”
He added the arrangement was at short notice as the company could not be certain of the impact the weather would have on the infrastructure.
“This caused difficulties in resourcing road replacement transport.”
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