MP hits out over 'unacceptable' cancellation of direct rail service to London

The public must get answers over the cancellation of the county's direct rail service to London – and a date for when it will start again.

The county's direct rail service to London will be cancelled from today onwards
The county's direct rail service to London will be cancelled from today onwards

Avanti West Coast announced last week that its daily rail service, direct to London from Shrewsbury, would be cancelled for the foreseeable future.

The company has been met with strong criticism over a lack of consultation on the decision – and a failure to tell MPs and council leaders that it was taking place.

Shrewsbury & Atcham Conservative MP, Daniel Kawczynski, said it was unacceptable that a vital route from the county to the capital had been cut off.

He said: "Avanti are giving a variety of reasons that they have stopped this service, the strikes being one of them. I want to get to the bottom of it and make sure we put Avanti under scrutiny to re-instate this service as quickly as possible.

"Shrewsbury's number one income generator is tourism, this umbilical chord to the capital is vital for our county and we fought too hard to get the service to allow it to be cancelled by Avanti."

He added: "None of us were informed and when we are talking about a service of this magnitude, one with such overarching economic consequences for our communities, it is totally unacceptable for a company in this day and age to take this decision without full and proper consultation.

"This is going to get a huge amount of scrutiny and we will continue to pressure Avanti – you cannot just cut the county off from the capital, it is not a route to some small provincial town, it is the direct route to the capital."

Mr Kawczynski's party colleague, Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard has already been vocal in his criticism of the move, while the Labour leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, has also described the change as unacceptable.

Mr Kawczynski said it was a rare issue where Telford and Shropshire rivalry would be put aside.

He said: "There are moments when the Telford and Shropshire competitive spirit can and should be set aside and when we should join forces.

"I very much hope to be working in collaboration with Shaun Davies and others to instigate a local campaign to see this service reinstated."

Mr Kawczynski said he had spoken to rail minister Wendy Morton over the issue, who had told him she would facilitate a meeting on the issue through her office at "the earliest opportunity".

Avanti has blamed a combination of factors for the decision, including ongoing strikes, and drivers making themselves unavailable for overtime "in a co-ordinated fashion".

A spokesman for the firm said: “From August 14 until further notice, we will be introducing a reduced timetable on our services.

"This is due to the current industrial relations climate which has resulted in severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels, as well as the majority of drivers making themselves unavailable for overtime in a co-ordinated fashion, and at short notice.

"As a result of this, customers have faced multiple short-notice cancellations on our network which has had a severe impact on their plans. This decision was not taken lightly, and we are sorry for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this will cause. Customers will however be able to travel with greater certainty using connecting services to and from Wolverhampton.

"We urge the rail unions to engage in meaningful industry reform discussions around modernising working practices and developing a railway fit for the 21st century and we look forward to further talks on this.”

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