TRANSPORT for Wales has warned that train services are now expected to be disrupted until further notice, because of a combination of autumn conditions and recent storm damage which has left more trains than usual out of service for repairs.
One member of the National Assembly for Wales has protested that the cancellations are affecting mid-Wales more seriously than on other routes, particularly in south Wales.
Russell George, AM for Montgomeryshire, asked: ‘What is the rationale for preventing cancellations on Valley lines by cancelling services in other areas, which is what is effectively happening? When Transport for Wales, each day, makes its planned cancellations, does it take into account the social and economic impact of those issues as well, such as on Betws-y-Coed and Tenby, which have year-on-year tourism, or in Newtown and Welshpool, where students go to college on an infrequent service?’
Transport minister Ken Skates admitted that a lack of investment in trains during the previous franchise could have been a factor. He said: ‘There have been unprecedented weather conditions, and the Member is right that other rail services might not have suffered quite so badly, but that's because, probably, other rail services had the investment that Arriva Trains Wales rolling stock should have had.’
Mr Skates went on to deny that any part of Wales was receiving preferred status when the cancellations were decided. He said: ‘There are no arbitrary prioritised cancellations of certain services over others. The prioritisation is based on a number of factors, including the availability of bus replacement services. However, I am conscious of the need to assure people that fair play is being applied across Wales and across all services.’
The problems which have affected trains in Wales include the lack of wheel slide protection on the existing fleet, which is suffering from an exceptional number of wheel flats after losing adhesion on slippery railheads.
The new concession, which is operated by Keolis Amey under the TfW brand, took over from the Arriva Trains Wales franchise in October. Major improvements are promised, including new trains to replace most of the existing fleet. The headline investment will be almost £5 billion.