A RAIL boss has apologised to commuters following months of performance issues, promising better times will come.

Steve Fisher, head of on-board experience at West Midlands Trains, was answering questions from Worcester News readers, a sister paper to the Hereford Times.

The questions ranged from staffing levels to new carriages and timetable changes.

Mr Fisher said: “The first thing to say is a big sorry to all customers - the level of service has not been acceptable.

“We have an improvement plan to turn things around and have made some changes, large and small like the December timetable.

“We have also settled the industrial dispute with the RMT and we brought additional trains into the fleet.”

On the subject of recruiting additional staff, Mr Fisher confirmed the company is hiring 80 additional drivers, train crew and managers to ease some of the pressure on services, particularly those between Hereford and Birmingham via Worcester.

Mr Fisher added: “In December we put on additional carriages on the 6.25am from Worcester, the 6.47am from Malvern, the 7.09am from Hereford and the 8.36am from Malvern.

“We would love to do more but we don’t have any more carriages at the moment.”

West Midlands Trains has faced significant challenges over the last few months, with MPs including Robin Walker and Harriett Baldwin, as well as West Midlands mayor Andy Street, threatening the firm could lose its franchise.

Mr Fisher said “good things are coming” to passengers, but that the proof would be in the performance.

He said: “The only way we are going to rebuild trust is through running a reliable service that people can rely on.

“These are all just words until then, passengers will believe what they can see.”

Mr Fisher said the company is working on simplifying its timetable to make the service less vulnerable to disruption, as services are often left without crew because of different staffing levels at different times.

West Midlands Trains’ five-point plan involves making the timetable simpler, hiring more train crew and increasing availability, improving train maintenance, improving delay responses and working to reduce congestion at Birmingham New Street and London Euston stations.

The plan was brought in following the departure of managing director Jan Chaudhry Van der Velde, who was replaced by Julian Edwards in January.