End of line as arriva hands over to new train company
RAIL passengers are bracing themselves as Arriva Trains Wales hands over the keys to new operators this weekend.
Transport for Wales and Keolis Amey will take over operation of the Wales and Borders franchise tomorrow. The company, branded as Transport for Wales Rail Services, announced plans for a series of improvement to services in coming years when Keolis Amey were awarded the franchise in May.
They said that by 2023, 95% of passenger journeys will take place on new, higher capacity trains with 285 more services each weekday.
During Arriva Trains Wales’ 15-year stewardship of Wales’ commuter services there have been huge increases in passenger numbers while the nation’s rolling stock has aged.
Passengers at Queen Street Station in Cardiff shared their views on rail services with the South Wales Echo.
Ciaran Fitzgerald, 23, is a student at the University of South Wales and uses the service for his daily commute between Cardiff Central and Queen Street stations.
“Sometimes it is difficult to get a seat and standing can be quite difficult because of my disability – I have cerebral palsy,” Ciaran said.
“I haven’t seen any of the plans but if they can decrease the amount of over-crowding and put on more carriages that would be great.”
Ciaran said staff were always helpful and he hadn’t experienced difficulties with disabled access at stations.
He added: “There have been quite a few delays recently so if that could be refined that would be an improvement.”
Stephen Jenkins, 58, takes the train from Lisvane and Thornhill station about three times a week, usually outside peak times.
He said he rarely has trouble with over-crowded or late services, but admitted he is fortunate not to have to catch the train during rush hour.
“My son tells me it is absolutely crowded every day and he can never get a seat and he uses it every day at peak times,” Mr Jenkins said.
“Capacity should increase especially for rugby and football internationals and stuff like that. That is a specialist thing really but you can imagine how bad it gets.”
Transport for Wales Rail Services announced that almost all of its inherited fleet is due to be replaced by 2023, with half of the new trains manufactured by CAF at its factory in Llanwern, Newport.
The current rolling stock has been widely criticised for being out of date and in a poor state of repair.
Caitlin Perry, 21, from Barry, said: “It’s not so much the quality of the trains but they are always so dirty and messy – empty wrappers on the floor and stuff like that.
“If that was improved it would make it generally more pleasant.”
Transport for Wales chief executive James Price said passengers can expect their rail service to be transformed within five years.
“The way in which we have planned the improvements programme means that the service will be unrecognisably better for people by 2025,” he said.
“Importantly, we will be operating a model that incentivises the operator of Transport for Wales Rail Services to grow the service but does not allow excessively high profits to be made.
“A cap will ensure that any additional profit will come back into Transport for Wales to be reinvested in transport.
“We really are putting our money where our mouth is. Rather than the industry standard of 30-minute delay repay, there will be a new commitment to refunds for delays of 15 minutes or more from January 2019. That journey starts on Sunday.”
■ More – pages 26&27
Arriva Trains Wales leaves Wales this weekend
An image of proposed new trains which will replace the current fleet by 2023