Posted: Fri 14th Apr 2023

Rail watchdog issues “improvement notice” to Transport for Wales over passenger risk following train fires

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Apr 14th, 2023


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A railways watchdog has issued an ‘improvement notice’ to Transport for Wales (TfW) after the Welsh government-owned rail operator “failed to ensure passengers and employees are not exposed to the risk” following a series of fires on the operator’s Class 175 trains.

A TfW Class 175 unit caught fire near Wrexham while travelling from Holyhead to Cardiff Central. This was followed by two further fires, both at Wilmslow, on 22 February and 1 March 2023.

All three fires were attributed to a build-up of “debris, leaf litter, and other contaminants” in the units’ under-floor engine bays.

Acknowledging that the three incidents in quick succession would “raise concerns”, TfW decided on 2 March to temporarily withdraw from service all 175 units that had not been through the cleaning programme.

Built by Alstom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the 175 diesel multiple units serve as the backbone of express services operating across the Wales and Borders network through South, North, and West Wales.

The withdrawal of the trains resulted in the operator facing a “shortage of rolling stock”, which affected the Wrexham to Bidston service.

The Class 150 units that typically serve this line were relocated to other lines across Wales to cover the routes that the 175 trains usually operate on.

The move left commuters in Flintshire travelling to Wrexham and the Wirral reliant on a rail replacement bus service, which takes twice as long.

The Office of Road and Rail has published details of the improvement notice this week on its website, the notice was served to TfW on March 17.

The notice states: “Transport for Wales Limited as the Train Operator has failed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that passengers and employees are not exposed to the risk of harm.”

“Furthermore, the operator has failed to implement effective arrangements for the organisation, control, and monitoring of the maintenance of the Class 175 fleet, necessary to ensure the safe operation of the transport system.”

Jan Chaudhry-Van der Velde, Chief Operations Officer at Transport for Wales, said:

“The safety of our customers and colleagues is always a top priority for Transport for Wales.”

“As soon as we identified a reoccurring engine problem with our Class 175 trains, we delivered a programme of urgent safety checks and engine repairs.”

“We also increased the monitoring of train maintenance activity on these trains, maintenance which is carried out on our behalf by CAF Rail UK at its depot at Chester.”

“Unfortunately, carrying out this vital work has left us with a temporary shortage of trains. However, it’s important to reiterate that safety is always our main concern, and this work is essential.”

“As the Class 175s continue to work through the repair programme, the train shortages should ease, and the timetabled service can be restored.”

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