Posted: Sat 28th Oct 2023

Trains services in Wales heading in the wrong direction under TfW, say opposition MSs.

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Oct 28th, 2023

Train services in Wales are heading in the wrong direction under Transport for Wales, according to opposition MSs.

Delyth Jewell, Plaid Cymru’s shadow transport minister, welcomed the announcement of an additional £125 million for Transport for Wales (TfW).

However, the South Wales East MS warned that trains remain unacceptably unreliable with only 57% of services arriving on time between April and June 2023.

She told MSs that only 29% of journeys are being undertaken on new trains despite a 95% target set by the Welsh Government for 2023.

Ms Jewell said: “People can lose their jobs if they’re not in work on time, or if they can’t get to work because their line isn’t running.

“If more passengers in Wales are to be encouraged to travel more sustainably – and we have to do that – more needs to be done to tackle the reliability of services.”

She told the chamber that she travels to work from Abercynon station but sometimes catches trains on the Rhymney line instead.

Contrasting the two railway lines, she said: “They have beautiful, immaculate trains, with plenty of space. They’re well lit, they’re modern; it is a complete contrast to the creaking, crowded, often leaky trains that we get on the Merthyr and Aberdare lines.”

The Plaid Cymru MS laid some of the blame on the UK Government, saying: “Westminster sets out our direction of travel

“Too many decisions that determine the amount of money we have to invest in trains and transport more generally in Wales are made in another country.”

Accessibility

Her Conservative counterpart, Natasha Asghar, pointed out that TfW paid out nearly £1m in compensation in 2022 alone.

The South Wales East MS raised concerns about the accessibility of train services, saying seven railway stations in Wales have no disabled access whatsoever.

“Now that’s something that really does have to change,” she told MSs.

Labour backbencher Hefin David – who represents Caerphilly – also highlighted the introduction of 11 new class 231 trains on the Rhymney to Penarth line.

He told the chamber: “What you’re going to see is the huge progress, huge visible progress that we’ve had on the Rhymney line being extended across Wales.”

Dr David said progress was never going to be immediate following the transfer from Arriva Trains Wales to TfW.

Plaid Cymru’s Sian Gwenllian criticised the Welsh Government for not accepting the offer of devolution of infrastructure in 2005.

She asked: “How can you create a new system when you have only half the powers? It’s like making a pie with only half the ingredients.”.

‘System change’ 

Responding to MSs’ concerns, Lee Waters, the deputy minister responsible for transport, said the additional £125m is not a bail-out.

He told the Senedd that budget assumptions were based on projections of rapid passenger growth and Covid “blew that out of the water”.

During the Plaid Cymru debate on Wednesday October 25, the deputy minister said TfW has essentially lost three years of revenue growth.

“Now, that’s not unique to Wales,” he said. “As we’ve seen, the pandemic also shattered the privatised franchise model for rail in England.

“The Tory privatisation model of the early 1990s is over. It has failed, just as the model of bus privatisation has failed.”

He explained that the impact of the pandemic is stabilising and ticket revenue has returned to pre-Covid levels.

In closing, he said: “We are on a journey and, by 2040, we want to see 45% of journeys being made by public transport, walking and cycling, up from 32% now.

“That requires system change – and that doesn’t happen overnight.”

Mr Waters also committed to ensuring 95% of TfW trains will be new by the end of 2024.

The Plaid Cymru motion, as well as the Conservative and Welsh Government amendments, were defeated. Tied votes saw the speaker, Elin Jones, cast her vote against in line with convention.

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