1. ITV Report

Future of our railways

Rail experts will be meeting in Birmingham to discuss the future of rail transport in the West Midlands. Photo: Geoff Caddick/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Rail experts from across the country will be meeting in Birmingham this weekend to discuss the future of rail transport in the West Midlands.

Earlier this week, the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin appeared before MPs inquiring into the 'shambles' of the West Coast mainline rail franchise.

He repeated his apology for the 'very serious' flaws in the process which led to it being scrapped last month.

The West Coast mainline franchise was awarded to First Group, despite Virgin running the route for 15 years.

But it was withdrawn on October 3 after "significant flaws" were discovered during a judicial review into the decision, launched by Sir Richard Branson.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said "unacceptable mistakes" were made by the Department for Transport and three civil servants were suspended.

Another major rail story to hit the region has been over the proposed High Speed Rail route from London to the Midlands.

This week the government announced a new deal to compensate people whose homes stand in the planned route.

Home owners have been promised the full value of their house plus up to £47,000 in cash.

In other transport news, up to 70 trains a day are having to be cancelled across the West Midlands because of a sudden shortage of drivers.

The crisis has hit London Midland services after more than 30 drivers decided to leave the company.

It has left a serious and unexpected shortfall and problems could continue - on and off - until December.

Today's conference is being run by passenger watchdog group Railfuture.

This conference comes at a time when railways are in the headlines right across the country.

In the light of the West Coast Main Line fiasco, this is certain to be an interesting meeting. Couple that with the recent London Midland driver shortages and I'm sure we'll have plenty to talk about.

– John Balmforth, Organiser

Concerned to point out that the conference will not be entirely negative, Mr Balmforth said his organisation will be giving awards at the conference dinner for the first time.

We're hoping to reward excellence in the rail campaigning community.

These awards will recognise those people whose work has been rewarded or recognised nationally.

– John Balmforth, Organiser

The event is being held at Carrs Lane Church Centre in Birmingham at 10:00am.