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Significant improvements in autumn reliability on the Abbey Line in 2018

Press release -

Significant improvements in autumn reliability on the Abbey Line in 2018

Rail passengers on the Abbey Line had a significantly more reliable service during autumn 2018, compared to previous years.

The number of seasonal-related cancellations between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey was nearly 80% lower in 2018, compared to the same period in 2017.

This follows improved working practices by Network Rail and London Northwestern Railway, to manage leaves on the line between October and December each year. A new facility was opened in the maintenance yard at Watford Junction, enabling trains to be topped up daily with sand to assist with adhesion on slippery rails.

As a result, there were 36 fewer cancellations due to a shortage of sand, and 30 fewer cancellations due to slippery rails. These two issues combined resulted in just 18 cancellations on the route between 15 October and 7 December 2018, compared to 84 cancellations over a similar period in 2017.

Autumnal weather creates significant challenges for train drivers, as wheels and rails can often become coated with a hard residue. As a result, trains often need to slow down to adapt to the driving conditions.

In previous years a special autumn timetable has been implemented on the Abbey Line, which involves skipping some stops to allow for a change in driving style and to create paths for maintenance trains to operate throughout the day. However, in 2018, conditions were managed without the need for this to be implemented, with a significant improvement in performance.

The rail industry is constantly looking for new ways of tackling the challenges posed by autumn weather, in order to provide a more reliable service to customers.

Jonny Wiseman, head of stations for London Northwestern Railway said: “We made considerable investment into our preparation for autumn in 2018, working with Network Rail to manage rail conditions. This has in turn enabled us to operate a much better service for our customers. We are constantly working to improve in this area and will be taking what we have learnt on the Abbey Line, to inform future decisions made elsewhere on the network.”

Martin Colmey, current operations manager for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “The efforts Network Rail and London Northwestern Railway made to keep the Abbey Line moving over autumn made a big difference to passengers’ journeys. Our leaf busting trains covered a total of 25,000 miles on the lines out of London Euston, through Watford and St Albans, and up to the West Midlands. We’ll build on 2018’s success on the Abbey Line, to deliver an even better service to passengers in autumn 2019”.




About West Midlands Trains

For further information on this release, call our press office on 03300 955150 or email

West Midlands Trains operates both West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway services.

  • London Northwestern Railway services operate between Liverpool and Birmingham, and on the West Coast mainline to and from London Euston.
  • West Midlands Railway services operate to destinations across the West Midlands via Birmingham New Street.

For more information on these services visit or

The West Midlands Trains franchise started on 10 December 2017 and will run until 2025/26.

West Midlands Trains operates 1,300 services a day, manages 150 stations and provides over 70 million passenger journeys a year. Over the course of the franchise, West Midlands Trains will be investing £1 billion into the rail network to deliver new trains, improved routes and station upgrades. This will include 400 new train carriages across the network and space for an extra 85,000 passengers into Birmingham and London at peak times.

The franchise is a joint venture between Abellio (70.1% share) and East Japan Railway Company / Mitsui & Co., Ltd (29.9% share in a 50:50 split). Abellio is the international passenger transport subsidiary of the Dutch national railway company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen. In the UK, Abelllio operates ScotRail and Greater Anglia train services, Merseyrail services in a joint venture with Serco and buses through Abellio London. For more information visit

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Press Office - Media Use Only

Press Office - Media Use Only

Press contact 03300 955150
Liam Bolland

Liam Bolland

Press contact Media Relations Executive

West Midlands Trains Ltd. operator of train services calling at over 150 stations across England.

Operating train services between London and North West and in and around the West Midlands region.

West Midlands Trains
134 Edmund Street
B3 2ES Birmingham
United Kingdom