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Vintage Trains cancels more services after operator gets ban

Tyseley-based Vintage Trains axed services but said it was hopeful of running its popular Shakespeare Express

Shakespeare Express arrives in Snow Hill

A Birmingham steam train company ground to a halt over a safety wrangle has been forced to cancel three more railtours.

However, Tyseley-based Vintage Trains, which hasn’t been able to take bookings all year, said it was hopeful of running its popular Shakespeare Express service from Birmingham to Stratford-on-Avon.

West Coast Railway Company (WCRC), which operated the trains, has been prohibited from running services following a number of incidents over the past year.

Vintage Trains said it was in “extremely encouraging” talks with other operators but there was no hope for three popular services.

They are:

The Red Dragon to Cardiff on March 12

The Cumbrian Explorer on March 19

The Moonraker on April 9

Bob Meanley, managing director of Vintage Trains, told customers: “Along with several other tour promoters, we have been solely reliant on WCRC to operate railtours on our behalf.

“The current situation has, however, caused us to engage in vigorous discussion with other train operating companies and results are currently extremely encouraging.

“Our aim is to have steam operations back up and running as soon as possible and our target is the Shakespeare Express season. Thereafter we plan to operate a modified steam programme into the Autumn and beyond.”

Vintage operates Shakespeares Express trains from July 17 to September 4, attracting thousands of customers.

Ahead of the Shakespeare season, Mr Meanley said Vintage hoped to run several diesel hauled charters to popular seaside destinations.

However, the future for steam trains on the West Coast Main Line remains shrouded in doubt on the back of a series of incidents which has seen WCRC forced to cease rail services.

In September 2015, a WCRC train collided with the buffers at Weymouth and the month after staff on one of its trains near Doncaster turned off its train protection and earning system isolation equipment, designed to apply an emergency brake if the driver makes an error.

Serving a prohibition notice in February, the Office of Rail and Road said it considers the firm “continues to present a safety risk”.

It added: “Under the terms of the notice, the company will not be able to operate trains on the main line network until we are satisfied its governance and operations meet industry practice and are fit for the scale of its operation.

“Steps the company must take include: the introduction of clearer governance structures with proper accountability for safety; more robust risk assessments; and enhanced processes for managing staff with a focus on safety culture.”



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