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Chiltern faces £500,000 fi ne by Paul Clifton

Chiltern Railways faces a £500,000 fi ne from the Department for Transport over breaches of its franchise agreement. The penalty concerns the late

delivery of two station improvement schemes and two breaches of requirements in relation to timetable changes. In a letter to Chiltern, the

department said that although the franchise contraventions had been remedied, a fi nancial penalty was ‘appropriate’.

Chiltern accepts that there

were technical breaches of its agreement, but says that none of them had signifi cant consequence for passengers or incurred cost to taxpayers. It says the most serious breaches were a 16-week delay in commissioning new lifts at

Aylesbury station, and a four-week delay in installing a new shelter on a platform at Northolt Park that already had one.

A statement from company chairman Adrian Shooter pointed out: ‘Since that time, we have successfully delivered £7.25m of investment in station improvements and car park expansions, started work on the largest privately funded passenger infrastructure project since before World War Two and continued to meet all the requirements of our franchise on punctuality and service quality. ‘Next month we will be

introducing brand new commuter trains at a cost of £1.2m per carriage.’ The statement concludes: ‘It

would be a cause for enormous regret if £500,000 were diverted from investment in improvement for passengers as a result of low

impact franchise breaches.’ In March it became clear that there were serious delays to its £250m project to improve journey times between London and Birmingham. Timetable improvements due in May have been postponed until September. The Chiltern Railways manager

in charge of the project has left the company. Chiltern is owned by Deutsche

Bahn and its 20-year franchise runs until 2021. Rail minister Theresa Villiers

said: ‘This government is on the side of rail passengers. I am pleased that Chiltern’s contraventions have all now been remedied. However we could not let these breaches pass without further action.’

It is intended that the penalty

will come into effect in June. ■

BTP cuts senior jobs

British Transport Police has cut the number of its senior staff by 20 per cent. Twenty-one chief

inspectors, superintendants and chief superintendants have taken voluntary redundancy. It is expected to save £9m over fi ve years. Chief constable Andy

Trotter said: ‘I have taken swift action to reduce back- offi ce costs and senior ranks. This has been a quick and cost-effective way of reducing salary costs, which safeguards money that will help increase the visibility and availability of front line offi cers and staff.’

Fares set to rise at ‘four times rate of wages’

Train fares will rise at almost four times the rate of salaries next year, according to the Campaign for Better Transport. According to wage and

infl ation forecasts from The Offi ce for Budget Responsibility, average earnings for 2012 will increase by 2.2 per cent. But regulated rail fares will

increase by an average of eight per cent, and up to 13 per cent in some cases, over the same period. Alexandra Woodsworth, the

Campaign for Better Transport’s public transport campaigner, said: ‘Times are tough for many people and they are going to get more so in the coming months. ‘With fares rising so much

faster than wages, the cost of the commute is becoming an increasingly heavy burden and there is a real danger that some people simply won’t be able to afford to get to work. ‘We’ve seen help for drivers,

but where is the help for rail passengers?’

Class 158s get ‘extensive’ refurbishment

Arriva Trains Wales has begun a refurbishment of its

Class 158 fl eet, with the fi rst unit having been returned to service in April. Passengers will have extended leg room, additional luggage storage space, electrical sockets for laptops and mobile phones, and an improved onboard passenger information system. The 24 units will now have

baby changing facilities in the toilets and there will be more room for wheelchairs. Arriva Trains Wales’

commercial director, Mike Bagshaw, said: ‘This programme to upgrade our fl eet of trains will improve the journey experience for the ever growing number of passengers using Arriva Trains Wales’ services throughout Wales and the English borders. ‘This refurbishment of the

Left to right:

Mark Williams (MP for Ceredigion), Samantha Hearne (Mayor of Aberystwyth) and Mike Bagshaw (Arriva Trains Wales)

Class 158 train is one of the most extensive the industry has seen to date, delivering an as-new train interior designed around the needs of today’s traveller.’

PAGE 6 MAY 2011

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