Rail ser­vices ‘to im­prove by next week’

South Wales Evening Post - - LETTERS - RUTH MOSALSKI [email protected]­line.co.uk

DIS­RUP­TION-HIT train ser­vices in Wales should im­prove “at the start of next week”, a cab­i­net mem­ber has said.

AM Ken Skates, the cab­i­net mem­ber re­spon­si­ble for trans­port, an­swered ques­tions about the first few weeks of the Trans­port for Wales (TFW) fran­chise when he ap­peared in front of AMS on the econ­omy, in­fra­struc­ture and skills com­mit­tee along­side two se­nior civil ser­vants yes­ter­day.

Last week, bosses for the ser­vice were grilled by the same com­mit­tee about dis­rup­tion through the first few weeks of the ser­vice.

Pressed if he could pro­vide a tar­get date for ser­vices to be op­er­at­ing as a pas­sen­ger would ex­pect, Mr Skates told the hear­ing: “A week or 10 days is what was promised by TFW... hope­fully by the be­gin­ning of next week we’ll be back on tar­get.”

Mr Skates was joined by Si­mon Jones, di­rec­tor of eco­nomic in­fra­struc­ture at the Welsh Gov­ern­ment.

They said that the “best ex­perts in Europe” had been brought in but were strug­gling to ex­plain what had caused so many trains to go out of ser­vice last month, with knock-on de­lays and can­cel­la­tions.

Mr Skates be­gan giv­ing his ev­i­dence by ex­plain­ing that get­ting the rolling stock was “like buy­ing a car. You know it’s had an MOT but you don’t know the qual­ity of the ve­hi­cle,” be­fore he was asked why the qual­ity of the rolling stock took the Welsh Gov­ern­ment by sur­prise.

Mr Skates said it wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily the state of the rolling stock which “sur­prised” the Welsh Gov­ern­ment, but the im­pact that con­di­tions had on the wheels of trains and the scale of what hap­pened.

“We’re still learn­ing more about fac­tors which may have con­trib­uted to such a vol­ume of trains out of ser­vice,” he said.

Mr Jones told the com­mit­tee that while Ar­riva Trains Wales (ATW) met stan­dards, the trains were not up to scratch, with Mr Skates adding the con­tract with ATW was “dire”.

The hear­ing was told that at one point only 86 out of 127 trains were in ser­vice as the rest were be­ing re­paired. Mr Skates said there had been a “Her­culean” ef­fort to get train num­bers back up, and it will be back to nor­mal ser­vice (103 trains) “within days”.

When asked why TFW wasn’t pre­pared, Mr Skates said: “We fol­lowed the DFT process. Trans­port for Wales un­der­took a full au­dit and in­ves­ti­gated the fleet as part of the han­dover... it’s al­ways dif­fi­cult to as­cer­tain what con­di­tion the stock is in.”

He said it was now clear: “The trains were main­tained to an ab­so­lute min­i­mum stan­dard.”

Rus­sell Ge­orge, chair­ing the com­mit­tee, asked: “Are you blam­ing the con­tract or the pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tor for the dis­rup­tion?”

Mr Skates said: “The con­tract pri­mar­ily. The con­tract was not fit for pur­pose. ATW met the terms of the con­tract, but stan­dards were very low.”

Mr Ge­orge asked why rolling stock couldn’t have been or­dered ear­lier.

Mr Jones said: “The stock we or­dered in 2017, that’s now been de­layed, was a short-term mea­sure us­ing some sec­ond-hand rolling stock.”,

“A lot of the chal­lenges we faced were as a re­sult of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion across the UK. There was a sense in 2010 there would be no need to de­velop any new diesel stock.”

A new Trans­port for Wales train.

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