Posted: Sun 30th Apr 2023

Transport watchdog demands urgent action from Transport for Wales to improve rail service reliability

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Apr 30th, 2023

Transport Focus, an independent watchdog for transport users, has challenged Transport for Wales (TfW) to urgently deliver a more reliable rail service following months of disruption for passengers.

Passengers have experienced numerous service cancellations, short stopping of services, and rail replacement services, resulting in significant overcrowding on popular routes, uncomfortable journeys, and delays in dealing with passenger complaints.

David Sidebottom, director at Transport Focus, stressed the importance of reliable and dependable services, urging TfW to take urgent action.

TfW has faced major operational issues due to some trains being out of service for essential repairs and others being unreliable on the Cardiff to Holyhead and Cardiff to Manchester routes.

Flintshire rail commuters have endured intermittent train services and rail replacement buses for journeys to Wrexham and the Wirral.

The disruption has been caused by TfW taking its leased Class 150 units from the Wrexham to Bidston line to fill gaps left elsewhere on the Wales rail network due to the withdrawal of Class 175 trains.

The 175s were taken out of service for additional maintenance checks after a series of fires, attributed to a build-up of debris, leaf litter, and other contaminants in the units’ under-floor engine bays.

The withdrawal of a large number of 175’s trains has resulted in a shortage of rolling stock for the rail operator.

The Office of Road and Rail (ORR) issued an improvement notice to TfW after the rail operator failed to ensure passengers and employees were not exposed to the risk following the fires on the 175s.

After weeks without trains, in early April, TfW introduced its long-awaited Class 230 trains on the Wrexham to Bidston line, described as a ‘soft launch’ allowing TfW to monitor the trains and make alterations if needed.

However, these new trains have encountered some technical issues which appear to be getting better but they do not run on weekends as TfW said: “We currently do not have the maintenance cover needed should there be an issue.”

In Transport Focus’s latest survey, passengers rated TfW in joint bottom place for overall satisfaction (alongside TransPennine Express), with only 69% of passengers satisfied with punctuality.

TfW also recorded significantly more cancellations than other major operators, with 12% of trains cancelled in March, according to the Office of Rail and Road.

The watchdog’s letter called for an action plan with timescales for restoring service performance and reliability for passengers.

This included addressing the provision of information, monitoring and improving the experience of replacement services, and giving greater focus to complaint handling quality.

With rail users responding to the recent survey putting TfW in joint bottom place for overall satisfaction, Transport Focus urged TfW to show clear empathy and support for its customers, potentially offering reparation to compensate passengers for the detriment and incentivise them to return once services are restored.

The letter in full: 


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