Posted: Wed 17th May 2023

Calls for Wrexham-Bidston line to be handed to another rail operator raised in Senedd

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, May 17th, 2023

A call by an influential rail user group for the transfer of the Wrexham-Bidston rail line to a different operator was brought to the forefront in the Senedd on Tuesday.

North Wales MS Mark Isherwood called for a Welsh Government Statement on the Borderlands rail line, highlighting local concerns about the “incompetence” of the current operator Transport for Wales (TfW).

Speaking in yesterday’s meeting of the Welsh Parliament during the Business Statement, Mr Isherwood, quoted the Wrexham-Bidston Rail Users’ Association Committee (WBRUA) who have voiced concerns, along with others, about the service on the rail line and highlighted calls for it to be transferred to another operator.

WBRUA believes the line should be transferred to Merseyrail due to TfW’s ‘inability’ to deliver an acceptable service.

The WBRUA has called for an independent review of TfW by the Welsh Government.

Over recent months passengers have been forced to use a slow bus replacement service due to the withdrawal of trains from the Borderlands Line.

This is due to trains on different lines being taken out of service following a series of fires leaving TfW short of rolling stock.

Since TfW took over the line in 2018, there have been numerous service suspensions due to maintenance and staffing issues.

The WBRUA has criticised TfW for its lack of clear communication with passengers and the impact on the local economy and road congestion.

TfW’s introduction of new rolling stock has been delayed due to various issues, including “thermal incidents” involving overheating batteries.

The WBRUA has suggested that these issues could have been avoided with better management and has called for an independent review of TfW.

The group also suggested that the line should be transferred to an operator like Merseyrail, which has a better focus on the Mersey-Dee region.

In the Senedd, Mark Isherwood MS said: “I call for a statement from the Deputy Minister for Climate Change on the Wrexham-Bidston rail line.”

“The Wrexham-Bidston Rail Users’ Association committee issued a statement, after meeting on Friday, 24 March, and unanimously agreed that something has to change as TfW appears incapable of delivering an acceptable service on the Wrexham-Bidston line’.”

“They added that, ‘This Association is not alone in voicing its criticism; other Rail User Groups have the same concerns about this operator’s incompetence’.”

Quoting the WBRUA, Mr Isherwood said: “There is already a chorus of voices saying that the Wrexham-Bidston line should be transferred to another operator…with a better focus on the Mersey-Dee region, and that the Welsh Government should instigate an independent review of TfW to determine where the root cause of the problems lie and what needs to be done to rectify the situation.”

“And, they said that with Transport for Wales running its first Class 230 battery-diesel hybrid train in passenger services on the Wrexham-Bidston Borderlands line, the maintenance plan is based on having just two trains in service, increasing to three in the medium term, and that it will be a significant waste of public money if all five class 230s do not enter service rotating with four in service and one out in maintenance at standby.”

“I, therefore, call for a statement on that matter also.” The North Wales MS said.

Responding, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths said:

“In relation to the Wrexham to Bidston line, there have clearly been some major issues.”

“I’m sure you’ve seen the many buses parked outside Wrexham general station, as have I, but I’m very pleased that Transport for Wales now do have their new class 230 trains on the line, and I hope those difficulties now have been rectified.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Isherwood added:

“The Minister’s response dodged the issues I highlighted, sidestepped my call for a Statement from the Deputy Minister for Climate Change and demonstrated once again the Labour Welsh Government’s attempts to avoid scrutiny.”

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