Grayling takes train but passes buck on rail chaos

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

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.”

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