Dispute over Sunday working brings rail chaos

A rail company faced a barrage of criticism after it was forced to cancel all but one of its Sunday services today because staff have failed to volunteer to work.

London Midland came under fire after revealing that its drivers usually work on a voluntary basis on Sundays, but this week insufficient numbers have put themselves forward for the shift.

It means that trains on almost all of its routes will be idle today due to "staff shortage" - leaving thousands of passengers stranded or delayed.

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard has asked the Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, to investigate the disruptions.

Mr Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin and a member of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, told the BBC: "Hundreds of Midlands people use their trains for business and leisure.

"London Midland need to pay their staff a fair wage to work anti-social hours - and get the trains moving again."

The Birmingham-based company, which operates more than 1,200 services a day to 149 stations, said all trains will be cancelled except those on the Birmingham to Liverpool line.

London Midland runs train services throughout the heart of England, serving major cities including London, Birmingham and Liverpool, and linking scores of towns across the midlands.

The Rail Maritime and Transport Union said workers were not taking organised action, but called on the firm to address staffing problems "as a matter of urgency".

General Secretary Bob Crow said it was simply a case of staff exercising their contractual right not to work on Sunday.

He added: "Many of our members will be working as rostered and if the company has staffing problems it should sit down with us as a matter of urgency to resolve them."

Speaking for the Northampton Rail Users' Group, one of the largest towns served by the network, Shaun Hope said: "It's a shambles. How can they run an essential service on a voluntary basis? It's an astonishing way to operate a train service.'

Passengers have been advised to avoid travel if possible and arrangements have been made for other operators - including Virgin Trains and Chiltern Railways - to accept London Midland tickets.

Efforts are also being made to arrange replacement buses on some routes.

On its website London Midland apologised for the situation and advised customers: "If you're travelling by train this weekend, please be aware that there will be no London Midland trains running on Sunday 6 September 2009, except between Birmingham and Liverpool, due to a staff shortage.

"For the majority of London Midland on train staff, working on Sundays has always been voluntary.

"This weekend, so few have volunteered to work, that we have had no choice but to cancel services.

"We have made arrangements with other train operators to accept London Midland tickets...but if practical we suggest you avoid travelling."

Services will be back to normal on Monday, the firm said.

Ashwin Kumar, director of the independent passenger watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers rely on Sunday trains for a day out with the family, for shopping trips and, increasingly, to get to work.

"They will be frustrated and angry at the lack of London Midland trains this weekend and it is vital that this issue is resolved as soon as possible.

"It's also crucial that plenty of accurate and timely information is given to passengers so they can make an informed decision about their journey and make alternative arrangements."

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: "London Midland needs to get their act together. They really should have contingency plans for a situation when their regular drivers don't put their names down for Sunday shifts."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine