Grayling takes train but passes buck on rail chaos
CRAMPED, too old and eternally late – just some of the criticisms regularly levelled at Arriva Train Wales’ services.
Yesterday Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling and Cardiff North MP Craig Williams joined the last of the rush-hour commuters heading home to sample the service.
Yes, he had a ticket and yes he managed to get a seat.
Should anyone have recognised him, I’m sure some of the commuters would have had a few choice words to share.
The main point of his visit was to talk about and see the station itself.
His message to commuters was however clear – it’s up to the Labourrun Welsh Government, not the Conservatives in Westminster to sort them out.
He said: “It’s not Central Government that decides to do that. It’s the whole point of devolution. It’s been handed to them. They have budgets, they have franchisee lending powers. It’s now their job to show they can get it right.
“Devolution is devolution. If they don’t or can’t deliver they will be slung out.”
Mr Grayling’s visit was on a day when hundreds of commuters would have been late for work because of a signal fault that lasted well into the morning.
“What happened this morning was very unfortunate but a train breaking down just across a junction, that’s unusual. It’s hugely frustrating but because of the work done over Christmas, the team working on the ground were able to recover it much more quickly. When you get a breakdown, now they can be much more responsive thanks to state of the art technology.
“We have just spent hundreds of millions on giving Cardiff the most modern signalling in the country. What Cardiff has got, nowhere else in the UK has got.
“It’s the responsibility of the Welsh Government as part of the new franchise to make sure there’s improved trains. There’s clearly a need to have longer trains, there’s clearly a need for new trains, but that’s part of the franchise process and it’s their job to deliver that.
“My message to commuters is that the work that took place over Christmas is the first part of a transformation.”
He said new GWR trains will be in use in Cardiff by the end of the year.
“If I were leading the franchise, I would want longer trains, and platforms and services to serve places that are poorly Wales.
“In other parts of the UK like East Anglia we have done a deal with the franchisee that we’ll replace every single train with new ones in a part of the country where they are using mainly old stock. The question is, what are the Welsh Government going to do?”
An announcement is expected this year about whether Cardiff Central will make Network Rail’s next spending programme.
While he had spent the day in meetings, none were with the Welsh Government. He had however met with Rightacres, the developers of Central Square.
“We have agreed with them on how we might integrate the station. It makes sense for it to be joined up.” He said a Metro is key for the city. “They’ve had the money provided to them from Central Government for a City Deal. There’s nothing to stop them. served now, like West
“There’s nothing about Cardiff that can stop them delivering what they have said, which is an integrated Metro system.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Improving rail infrastructure, increasing services and reducing journey times across Wales’ railway network has been a long term commitment for this government.
“We will take over full responsibility for the Wales and Borders’ Rail Franchise in 2018. This will give us a greater ability to specify services to meet passenger needs across the full franchise area.
“In the short term, we are continuing to work with the current operator, Arriva Trains Wales, to identify options for providing additional capacity on busy services.
“We are also committed to a continuing programme of rail modernisation of Wales’ rail infrastructure and will continue to press the UK Government for timely action on this.”