Posted: Tue 4th Apr 2023

New Class 230 hybrid train debut on Borderlands Line hit by delays and cancellations

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2023

Transport for Wales (TfW) introduced the first battery-hybrid trains in regular passenger service in Wales on the Borderlands Line between Wrexham and Bidston on Monday.

However, the debut has not been without teething problems.

TfW owns five diesel/battery Class 230 trains, which use the bogies and aluminum bodyshells of withdrawn London Underground trains.

They were intended to come into service in 2019, but TfW only took delivery of units from Vivarail in July 2020.

Staff training requirements were hampered by the pandemic, leading to further delays. Other delays have been caused by what TfW called “thermal incidents”, including a small fire on one of the units due to overheating batteries.

Vivarail then went into administration, causing a further headache for TfW.

Following a period of fault-free testing, TfW finally decided to run the Class 230 passenger service on the Borderlands Line, initially with a 2-hourly service and rail replacement buses filling in the gaps.

The first service for fare-paying passengers departed Wrexham Central at 7:31 am on Monday.

It arrived at Shotton on time at 8:05 am, but from there timings began to fall away.

The train arrived at Bidston only four minutes late, but with only one train working the line, there is little margin for delay.

The train lost more time on the return to Wrexham, which meant the 9:35 am train left Central Station six minutes late and was eight minutes late at Bidston.

During the morning and afternoon, the delay to the service ticked up, and by 1:30 pm, it was running nearly 20 minutes late.

The 2:58pm from Bidston arrived at Wrexham General 3:54pm, 25 minutes late.

With no chance of pulling back any time the return leg to Bidston was cancelled.

The unit later left Wrexham at 5:42 pm but was 59 minutes late at Shotton, where it was terminated due to traction equipment problems.

Tuesday saw a similar story, with delays of up to 25 minutes and more cancellations.

Speaking to Deeside.com, Dr Andrew Potter Professor of transport & logistics at Cardiff University said: “The first day in service could definitely have gone better, and I think TfW will be disappointed too given the time and effort that has gone into bringing these units into service.”

“Any introduction of a new train is going to have a few teething issues, despite the testing that has happened, but the aim would have been to get through the whole day.”

“Given the unit apparently failed on the final journey to Bidston is unfortunate and hopefully there will be improved reliability over the rest of the week.”

He said: “The concern will be whether the units are able to maintain the existing timetable and yesterday suggests this might be challenging.”

“Given the end-to-end journey times, there is little scope for catching up any late running. This then leads to journeys either running short, for example turning around at Wrexham General, or being cancelled altogether.”

“Passengers want a reliable train service and it will be important for the new trains to provide this.”

“Once the units are in more regular service, it will be easier to assess if the issues on journey time can be addressed.

Dr Potter is optimistic about the new trains providing a better on-board experience for passengers used to 1980’s rolling stock that has operated on the line for years.

On the launch of the Class 230’s on Monday, Alexia Course, Transport for Wales’ Chief Commercial Officer, said: “We’re delighted that the first Class 230 train has entered service.”

“With hybrid engines and modern facilities, these trains will significantly improve the customer experience on the Borderlands Line by providing better facilities and increased capacity.”

We have asked TfW for a comment on the performance of the Class 230 to date.

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