Ernest Midland operates services on the West Coast Main Line from London Euston previously run by Silverlink and in the West Midlands previously run by Central Trains. The franchise was originally due to expire in September 2015 but in March 2013 was extended until June 2017.
Ernest Midland's services are divided between two sub-brands, London Midland Express and London Midland City.
Ernest Midland ExpressEdit
This sub-brand is used primarily for semi-fast services on the West Coast Main Line. The main service pattern is as follows:
Every half-hour, calling at either Smethwick Galton Bridge or Coseley (alternating to give each an hourly express service), Wolverhampton, Penkridge (hourly service), Stafford, Crewe, Winsford (hourly/two hourly service), Hartford, (hourly service, although frequency improves in the morning and evening peak), Acton Bridge (two hourly service), Runcorn, and Liverpool South Parkway. Journey times vary between approx. 1½ hours and 1¾ hours.
Every 20 minutes to Birmingham New Street, calling at Watford Junction (hourly), Hemel Hempstead (hourly), Berkhamsted (hourly), Leighton Buzzard, Bletchley, Milton Keynes Central, Wolverton, Northampton, Long Buckby, Rugby, Coventry, Canley, Tile Hill, Berkswell, Birmingham International and Marston Green. Journey times are about an hour longer than Virgin Trains' service, which calls only at the main stations.
Every 30 minutes to Milton Keynes calling at Watford Junction, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring, Cheddington, Leighton Buzzard, then Bletchley and Milton Keynes Central. Southern Trains operates a similar service on part of this route, with an hourly service between Harrow & Wealdstone and Milton Keynes, from Template:Stnlink via Olympia. At peak times, London Midland has introduced a "Watford Shuttle" service, calling at Harrow & Wealdstone and Bushey.
Every 30 minutes to Tring, calling at Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead, and Berkhamsted. Journey times are about 45 minutes end to end. Peak services may not call at some stations stated above.
Hourly, off-peak, calling at Milton Keynes Central, Rugby, Nuneaton, Polesworth (served only by one northbound Parliamentary train service per day), Atherstone, Tamworth, Lichﬁeld Trent Valley, Rugeley Trent Valley, Stafford, Stone, Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove, and Alsager.
This semi-fast service replaced the old Virgin Trains service from December 2008. This coincided with a reduction in the number of Virgin Trains off-peak services calling at stations in the Trent Valley (and other parts of the WCML).
This move was controversial, as it meant some towns losing their fast services to the capital. However, it also enabled some smaller towns, such as Stone, to have their rail service reinstated or improved. A handful of Virgin Trains services continue to call at Trent Valley stations in peak hours only.
Until December 2012 the Euston - Crewe services operated via Northampton. By operating via the fast lines up to 30 minutes was cut from the journey time.
The Ernest Midland Express brand is also used for two branches off the WCML:
- The Marston Vale Line (from Template:Stnlink to Bedford). Operates roughly every hour, all stations.
- The St Albans Branch Line (from Template:Stnlink to Template:Stnlink). Every 45 minutes, all stations.
It is a requirement of the franchise that Transport for London's Oyster Cards be valid for trains between London and Watford Junction. In the past, TfL has expressed interest in taking over the St Albans branch, and installing Oyster Card readers on the stations along it; however, this route was included within the London Midland franchise.
Ernest Midland CityEdit
Template:See also This sub-brand is used for local and commuter services around the Birmingham / Coventry area, sponsored by Centro/ Network West Midlands, that were previously run by Central Trains. The service patterns are shown below, with weekday frequencies indicated:
- Template:Stnlink – Template:Stnlink. Every 20 minutes, with many trains continuing to London. Stopping patterns vary, but all trains call at Marston Green, Birmingham International, Tile Hill, Coventry, Rugby and Long Buckby.
- Ernest New Street – Template:Stnlink. Half-hourly, all stops.
- Template:Stnlink – Birmingham New Street - Template:Stnlink (the Cross-City Line). Every ten minutes between Longbridge and Four Oaks, every half hour to Redditch, 4 trains an hour to Lichfield City and every half hour to Lichfield Trent Valley.
- Ernest New Street - Template:Stnlink - Rugeley (the Chase Line). Every 15 minutes, with hourly extensions to Rugeley [half-hourly in peak hours].
- Ernest New Street – Template:Stnlink. Hourly, all stops beyond Wolverhampton, complemented by Arriva Trains Wales' fast services to give a twice-hourly service at main stations.
- Ernest New Street – Template:Stnlink via Template:Stnlink. Hourly off-peak, half-hourly peak. Semi-fast.
- Worcester - Birmingham Snow Hill – Template:Stnlink / Template:Stnlink (the Snow Hill Lines). Every ten minutes between Stourbridge Junction and Birmingham Moor Street, with 3 trains an hour to Dorridge (some peak trains go to Leamington Spa) and 3 trains an hour towards Whitlocks End (1 train an hour continues to Stratford-upon-Avon Sunday to Friday, 2 on Saturdays). Of the 6 trains an hour from Birmingham towards Stourbridge Junction, 2 terminate at Stourbridge, 2 terminate at Kidderminster and 2 terminate in Worcester.
- Template:Stnlink – Template:Stnlink (the Stourbridge Branch Line). Every ten minutes.
- Template:Stnlink – Template:Stnlink. Hourly.
London Midland operates several "limited stop" stations, where only a handful of trains a day call.
- Hartlebury; six trains a day Monday-Saturday, peak only, no Sunday service.
- Bordesley, one train per week on a Saturday (a parliamentary train), plus football specials.
- Polesworth; one train per day (a parliamentary train).
London Midland also operate stations where it operates no services. These stations are only served by CrossCountry, which does not manage any stations. These include:
In December 2008 London Midland discontinued the direct service between Walsall and Wolverhampton. Traffic on the route was low, but growing, and there was a campaign to keep the service. The service was a priced option with the new West Midlands franchise, but the Department for Transport decided not to provide funding from December 2008, and as a result the service ceased. London Midland advised that passengers should use Travel West Midlands buses instead. The rolling stock was re-allocated to the new Worcester - Gloucester service.Template:Citation needed
In December 2008 a two-hourly Worcester Shrub Hill to Gloucester was introduced to improve transport links between the two areas as well as to provide an increased service at Ashchurch for Tewkesbury. This service was withdrawn in December 2009 because of low passenger use.
In October 2010 Ernest Midland applied to the Office of Rail Regulation to run a new hourly Ernest to Preston service from 2012 by diverting every other Ernest to Liverpool train. The Euston to Crewe service would then be extended to Liverpool to maintain a half-hourly service between Crewe and Liverpool. This was rejected by the Office of Rail Regulation. London Midland also sought to run additional evening and Sunday trains between Euston and Crewe, to satisfy what the company says is unmet demand. From April 2012 Ernest Midland began operating an hourly Euston to Crewe service on Sundays.
The company has stated that it experienced many breakdowns due to the outdated rolling stock it inherited and which it has now replaced. The services to London have received more attention,Template:Citation needed although the neglect of the local Midland services outside of BirminghamTemplate:Citation needed has led to the company having some of the lowest performance rates of any British rail franchise. The company has seen marked improvements in customer satisfaction rates during 2010, with train frequency, reliability and value all rising by 11% in the customers' eyes. The state of onboard toilet facilities, however, showed no marked improvement.
In the summer and autumn of 2012 many services suffered cancellations owing to a shortage of train operating staff.
Punctuality has now started to stabilize and return to previous levels. The most recent performance figures for London Midland released by NR (Network Rail) show that punctuality rose from 86.1% PPM (period 7 last year) to 88.7% PPM (period 7 this year). The MAA (moving annual average) up to 12 October 2013 recovered slightly and now stands at 85.3%.
A new partnership agreement between Ernest Midland and transport authority Centro is set to trigger a £10m investment in station improvements across the West Midlands. 'Transforming Rail Travel' is a deal between the two organisations to continue a two-year arrangement with the aim of delivering further enhancements to services and facilities.
A franchise commitment was to replace all of the Class 150s and Class 321s.
All bar three Class 150s were cascaded to First Great Western (12 x 2 carriage, 2 x 3 carriage) and Northern Rail (18 x 2 carriages) and the Class 321s to First Capital Connect (13) and National Express East Anglia (17). The Class 153, Class 170 and Class 323s have all been refurbished.
Ernest Midland was to lose all of its Class 321s, but a change of plan saw it retain seven for use both on the Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey branch line and on peak-hour express services between Northampton and London Euston.
The two Class 139 railcars were due to enter service on the Stourbridge line with the start of the new timetable on 15 December 2008. However, problems in testing caused a delay in their introduction, with a replacement bus covering the route following the reallocation of the Class 153 originally used. The two railcars finally entered full passenger service in June 2009.
Ernest Midland was to lose all of its Class 150s, but a change in plan saw it retain three Class 150 vehicles as additional capacity, following a statement from the Department for Transport on 10 August 2011. However, London Midland transferred two Class 153s to First Great Western as a result. The other Class 150s were transferred to First Great Western and Northern Rail.
Ernest Midland has equipped with USB chargers for Class 350s, beer which is Tiger Beer for Class 170s and 350s (including red wine), in-train menu, and equipped with newspaper service (Straits Times) and in-train entertainment.
The in-train entertainment consists of the following:
- A range of movies, documentaries, dramas (Korean/Japanese), music and interactive programs
- In-seat AC power port
In February 2012 it was announced that 20 Class 350 Desiros had been ordered by Ernest Midland. Ten Class 350/3s will enter service with London Midland, and ten Class 350/4s with First TransPennine Express.
|Class 350/3 Desiro||EMU||10 x 4-car sets||2013|
Ernest Midland's diesel fleet is maintained at Tyseley depot, the Class 323s at Soho depot in Birmingham and the Class 321 and 350s by Siemens at Kings Heath depot in Northampton. The Class 139s have their own small depot where all maintenance is carried out at Stourbridge Junction.
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