Service improvement – but issues still to be solved
IT is just over a month since Transport for Wales took over from Arriva Trains Wales – and its performance figures may surprise you.
Every four weeks, figures are published showing how each train operator fares.
Since Transport for Wales took over on October 14, 88.9% of services ran their entire planned journey, called at all scheduled stations and arrived at their terminating station within five minutes of the scheduled time. That is up by 0.9% on the same period last year, when Arriva Trains Wales was in charge.
Some 4% of services were cancelled or were significantly late. That is down 0.4% since the same period last year.
However, the figures published by Network Rail show the number of issues which the “train company could have prevented such as defective trains or a lack of train staff” has gone up from 30.7% under Arriva to 41.5% under Transport for Wales.
Transport for Wales says it has more trains than ever off the tracks for repairs with one in four trains currently out of action.
Last week, the new operator said that a fifth of its trains were out of action and awaiting repairs due to leaves. Around 25 of its trains out of a 127-strong fleet were undergoing maintenance and repairs.
Today however, the number of trains out of action has gone up – it is now 36 out of the total fleet of 127 out of action, one in four.
While extreme weather – which is defined as temperatures below -5C or above 30C, storm winds of more than 65mph, snow of depth greater than 15cm or rainfall greater than 150mm in a 24-hour period – is blamed for 0.6% of the delays.
But Transport for Wales says that while the figures show 41.6% of delays are classed as something it could have prevented, many are things outside of its control.
The weather can also cause damage to trains and is counted within the figures as a defective train which the operator has to address.
The operator says it is looking at sending trains for repairs away from its own depots to speed up repairs.
No date for the 36 trains to rejoin the network can yet be provided.
Lack of staff is also something the operator is blamed for. That can be due to a number of reasons, according to the operator. Sickness is one, and if unforeseen sickness comes at a time when other staff are on annual leave it can result in a shortage.
If a crew is involved in a fatality, it can mean a longer spell off for the driver, for example, to receive counselling.
Transport for Wales has taken out a full page advert to apologise to customers who have experienced cancellations, delays or trains without enough carriages.
The advert which appeared in the Welsh media was titled “We’re sorry”, to apologise.
It reads: “We’re sorry that over recent weeks too many trains have been cancelled, delayed, or have arrived with fewer carriages than normal.
“We know that overcrowding and uncertainty are big challenges for peo- ple, and we want to apologise that you haven’t received the service that you deserve and expect.
“Safety is our top priority. Ongoing issues associated with recent storms in combination with ageing trains have led to an unprecedented number of our trains being out of service, and this has meant we have had to run reduced services across the whole of our network. 36 trains out of a total fleet of 127 are currently under repair.
“We are running additional buses to replace services that have been cancelled and to provide extra capacity where we expect trains will be very busy.
“This will continue for as long as is needed, but we’re also working hard to safely and effectively return trains back into service.
“Our engineers are working around the clock to repair the existing fleet of trains and keep the tracks clear of debris during the blustery and slip- pery autumn weather.
“Our maintenance depots are operating 24 hours a day, and we are working with suppliers to speed up these essential repairs.
“We know that you, our customers, deserve better from your rail services in Wales and the Borders, and this is not what you expected from your new operator.
“We apologise for the inconvenience and want to reassure you that we are doing all we can to improve service levels as soon as possible.
“You can find more information about service disruption and claiming compensation for delays by visiting www.tfwrail. wales.
“We are at the beginning of the journey to transform rail services in Wales, but change takes time”.
The letter is signed by chief operating officer for TFW Rick Davey and Network Rail’s chief operating officer Alison Thompson.