Anger at packed West Midlands trains despite social distancing advice

Rail bosses are urging commuters to only travel when essential after passengers complained about packed West Midlands trains during the coronavirus outbreak.

Luke Millichamp took a video of the packed Stourbridge to Birmingham line
Luke Millichamp took a video of the packed Stourbridge to Birmingham line

Bank worker Luke Millichamp posted a video of the 6.39am train from Stourbridge to Birmingham New Street today, labelling the busy carriage as "disgusting" and "embarrassing".

Social distancing advice is for people to stay two metres apart during the coronavirus pandemic to stop Covid-19 from spreading. But passengers on the train were forced to rub up next to each other due to a lack of carriages and space.

Mr Millichamp blamed West Midlands Railway after bosses reduced the number of trains to create an emergency timetable but the train franchise said anyone whose journey is not essential should not travel.

Mr Millichamp, 25, said: "I live in Cradley Heath and commute into town every day. I work at a bank and we have a lot of customers who still need help, so it's not possible to work from home yet.

"I think the Government need to lock it down, whether people should go into work, because a lot of employers are staying open. I'm not in a position to just say 'I'm not coming in' in case I lose my job.

"I've got no choice, and I think a lot of people are the same."

He added: "It's been awful on the trains for ages. But services used to be every 15 minutes and now they are every hour – it's like a Sunday service.

"It doesn't make sense why they've done this. We are all crammed on smaller trains. If one person has coronavirus then we all have it. It does make me worry.

"People were wary and angry this morning. And it's slowly getting worse."

Mr Millichamp posted a video on Twitter showing the situation this morning and wrote under the handle @HateWMR: "You’re endangering the health of all your passengers. two carriages and a late running train for the first service of the day. This is disgusting and embarrassing."

Among the passengers forced to cram into a busy train was Sarah-Jayne Marsh, the chief executive of Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust.

"I do understand the reason for reducing the number of train services but we need to increase the carriages on them as I'm closer to other passengers than I was this time last week and the two-metre rule is *impossible* to uphold," she wrote on Twitter.

"I will stop ranting in a minute but WHERE THE HELL IS EVERYONE GOING TODAY?!

"My train is packed (standing room only) and we're only half way into Birmingham. We need to shutdown EVERYTHING non-critical NOW."

Jonny Wiseman, customer experience director for West Midlands Railway, said: "In these exceptional times, the railway is for essential use only. Anyone whose journey is not essential should not travel.

"The rail industry has moved very quickly to bring in a reduced, emergency timetable from today. We are monitoring performance carefully and will make necessary adjustments to ensure safe travel.

"Where possible we will respond to local pressures to strengthen trains or adjust timetables if necessary."

Similar scenes were reported in London, with several social media users posting images of busy underground lines and commuters in close proximity.

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