Engineering work cancelled, but there’s more bad news for rail users as strike threatened

Photo courtesy of London Midland
Photo courtesy of London Midland
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Planned disruption on the rail route linking Dacorum stations with the capital has been largely cancelled, after Network Rail called off its engineering work.

Rail bosses were expected to carry out improvement work on the Euston line over the weekends of February 14-15 and 21-22, which have seen passengers asked to use the Chiltern route between Birmingham, Banbury and London Marylebone.

That work has been cancelled following a 350,000 tonne landslide that happened on the Chiltern route last weekend.

Although not all services can be reinstated at short notice, a special timetable will be in place over the two weekends.

Network Rail’s executive director for operations and projects Phil Bearpark said “Network Rail’s decision is in the best interests of passengers who would have been left with no alternative services to and from London when work on the West Coast Main Line at Watford took place.

“We are working very hard with Network Rail and other train operators to put in place a timetable that makes best use of the space now available. This will mean that passengers are able to travel to and from London on direct services rather than taking diversionary services, which is really good news. But we are reacting to fast-moving events and I would ask that customers bear with us over the next few days as we clarify details of which trains will be available.”

Patrick Verwer, managing director London Midland which runs the route, said: “Postponing the work at Watford is the right thing to do. Having two main lines from London to the midlands blocked could have caused severe disruption across the whole of the rail network as passengers and freight trains would have very few travel options available.”

But the positive news for commuters is followed by a potential strike threat between Euston and Tring stations on the London Midland-run West Coast mainline.

Rail union RMT has begun balloting members for both strike action and action short of a strike over the victimisation of union member Steve Caldwell – a senior member of platform staff at nearby Watford station.

The industrial action proposed aims to combat ‘a string of trumped-up charges’ against Mr Caldwell, who, according to the RMT, has more than 32 years unblemished service and a string of commendations for delivering top quality support to the travelling public and for saving lives.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “The treatment of RMT activist and long-standing staff member Steve Caldwell by London Midland has been nothing short of shocking.

“He was suspended for four months while a string of bogus charges were subjected to flawed processes, including the use of concocted witness statements, and despite the fact that those initial charges have since been withdrawn Steve has still ended up being punished in an action which makes a mockery of the principles of natural justice.

“Now, to pile on the harassment, the manager due to a give a verdict on his wholly unwarranted sanction has disappeared on a cruise for a month.

“RMT has no choice to ballot our London Midland for members for action to defend workplace justice. That ballot will begin this week and the union remains available for talks.”