Posted: Fri 1st Dec 2023

Flintshire politician challenges Welsh Government Minister over Wrexham Bidston line issues

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Dec 1st, 2023

A Flintshire politician has challenged the Welsh Government Minister to intervene directly with Transport for Wales (TfW) to end the use of rail replacement buses on the Wrexham to Bidston line.

Recently, Alyn and Deeside MS Jack Sargeant held a series of meetings with users of the Wrexham to Bidston line, gathering feedback and understanding their grievances, particularly regarding frequent cancellations and the reliance on bus replacement services during peak commuting times.

From December 10, there will be an increase in train frequency on the line to one every 45 minutes, an improvement from the current hourly service, a move welcomed by Mr Sargeant.

In the summer, TfW published a 5-step plan it hoped would resolve issues with rail services on the Wrexham to Bidston line.

This followed months of train cancellations due to trains on different lines being taken out of service following a series of fires on Class 175 units, leaving TfW short of rolling stock.

New Class 230 trains have been introduced on the line but are struggling with reliability and adhering to the hourly timetable.

On Thursday, a Class 197 diesel multiple-unit commenced service on the line, debuting without any prior announcement from TfW.

TfW has confirmed to that, starting December 10, two of the new Class 197s trains will join one Class 230 train on the Wrexham Central to Bidston line.

This addition will boost the train frequency to one every 45 minutes, an enhancement from the existing hourly service.

In the Senedd on Wednesday, Jack Sargeant expressed that more needs to be done to meet the community’s expectations for reliability and direct communication about service improvements.

He said: “The Minister will be aware I’ve raised the topic of the Wrexham-Bidston line on several occasions here in the Senedd. It was just last week I met again with residents who rely on the Wrexham-Bidston line. They’re frustrated by the cancellations, they’re frustrated by the use of the bus replacement services, especially at those peak commuting times to get to work and to get back from work in particular. I’m aware of the Transport for Wales announcement of the 45-minute increase in frequency on the line, and, of course, I welcome this, however, I am seeking your further intervention again, Minister, to push Transport for Wales to further improve the reliability on the line, to end the use of bus replacement services and the need for them, and, importantly, to communicate directly with the residents in Alyn and Deeside about the delivery and the progress on these much-needed improvements.”

In response, Minister Julie James acknowledged the inferior experience of passengers and expressed regret for the disruptions. She detailed the government’s engagement with local representatives and user groups, underlining a five-point improvement plan led by a dedicated manager.

She said: “I think it is fair to say that passengers have had a very poor experience using the rail services, and indeed the rail replacement services, on the Wrexham-Bidston line. I think we would put our hands up to that; we’re very sorry for all of the disruption that’s gone on there. We have engaged closely with local reps—yourself, of course; you’ve raised it a number of times—and rail user groups to understand the challenges that have been faced. Transport for Wales have implemented a five-point improvement plan that’s being delivered by a dedicated manager for the line, which is, I think, now making a positive difference to the performance of the service. I hope you know who that dedicated manager is, but, if you don’t, I’m very happy to put you in touch with them, and that’s the direct route to communication, then, for residents. I’m very pleased that we have that dedicated manager in there to make sure that the improvements happen.”

The minister said, “We do recognise that more needs to be done, which is why Transport for Wales are implementing a new timetable on the line from this December” – she went on to incorrectly state that the new timetable would start on December 1 – “that’s from the day after tomorrow, by my reckoning.”

She said. “They are confident this will provide a more reliable and frequent service for all passengers, very specifically including those who rely on the line to travel to and from work.”

“I’m sure, Jack, that you’ll be able to keep me in touch with the improvements there and let me know whether they are working very well or not working as well as we’d like.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Sargeant said:

“This is an important service for residents in Alyn and Deeside and we need to get it right. We have seen some improvements but reliability and the end to using bus replacements is really important. I will be following this question up by contacting Transport for Wales directly.”

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