More commuter misery down the line

Delays forecast on Marston Vale line following closure of Bletchley train depot

Rail commuters could face longer delays after a modernisation scheme of the Marston Vale line took effect this week.

On Friday, London Midland trains closed Bletchley train depot as a full maintenance site and moved the majority of its staff to Northampton.

But unlike the company's adjoining routes, which run on electric rails, the Marston Vale service uses diesel trains – and qualified maintenance staff will now have to travel more than 100 miles from Tyseley in south Birmingham.

Richard Crane, chairman of the Bedford-Bletchley Rail Users' Association, said problems had already started.

He said: "The problem is that every time they want to bring a new unit onto the line, or get maintenance teams to Bedfordshire, they have to come all the way from Birmingham. And they replace a unit once or twice a week anyway, whether they have any issues or not.

"Last week we had three consecutive days where there were problems on the units. When there was a Bletchley depot, there were always one or two spare units so normal service could resume in less than half an hour. They have tried to do that under the new set-up but it has not always been the case."

The shake-up follows London Midland taking over the running of the Marston Vale route in November.

Most of the Bletchley engineering staff will move to a site in Northampton.

And while London Midland does run other diesel services, they are on routes around the Birmingham area.

Mr Crane added: "We are a little diesel service in the middle of an electric jungle.

"We are more than 100 miles from maintenance staff, and I believe the Marston Vale line will not get the level of care we need."

A London Midland spokesman said: "Although the Bletchley depot has now closed as a full maintenance site, minor maintenance work on diesel trains will still be carried out in the Bletchley area when necessary.

If a train requires major work then it will be taken to our Tyseley depot and replaced by a spare train."