Global Centre for Rail Excellence Backed by Welsh Politicia...
Proposals for a new Global Centre for Rail Excellence in South Wales has received a boost after backing from five prominent Welsh politicians.
When next year’s timetable comes into effect in December, Transport for Wales (TfW) will introduce extra trains on the Wales and Borders rail network. It will also lengthen existing services to provide more capacity.
In total, TfW will provide 6,500 new spaces for commuters.
From December 2019, more services on Valley lines will have four-car trains at peak times. Coupled with other rolling stock changes – replacing Pacers with more accessible Class 150s – this will provide space for an additional 6,500 passengers every week (Mon–Fri).
Passengers travelling between Cheltenham and Maesteg, and between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale will see the introduction of Bombardier Class 170 DMUs. Constructed between 1998 and 2005, they feature on-board passenger displays, accessible toilets, air-conditioning, wifi and power sockets. Transport for Wales is taking on the Class 170 fleet from Greater Anglia. Greater Anglia is replacing its diesel fleet with Class 755 bi-mode trains.
Passengers on long-distance services between North Wales and Manchester will travel in refurbished ‘Mark 4’ carriages. They were built between 1989 and 1992. Accessibility has been a key aspect of the refurbishment so that TfW can meet the new PRM accessibility requirements that come into effect on 1 January 2020.
Transport for Wales is also leasing converted Class 769s from Porterbrook. However, as the ROSCO is delayed in delivering the trains, TfW will provide extra Class 153 in the meantime. The first Class 769 arrived in Wales (Cardiff) on 14 March.
“Porterbrook is committed to working closely with TfW as they continue to transform the experience of rail passengers across Wales. Some of TfW’s plans depend on our innovative Class 769 trains, whose introduction into service has been subject to delays for which we apologise. We are actively working with TfW and our supply chain to deliver these trains as soon as possible. In the meantime, we have accelerated delivery of our Class 170 units and are also supplying additional trains to cover for the Class 769s and provide support to TfW and their passengers.”
Passengers said they wanted more capacity and fleet resilience. In order to meet these requirements TfW says it will keep its Pacers for a ‘short period’ during 2020. This is subject to obtaining the relevant dispensation. This dispensation is necessary because Pacer trains do not meet the new accessibility rules.
In time TfW will remove both its Pacer trains and its Class 37 locomotive-hauled trains once the Class 769s become available.
TfW introduced the Class 37 locomotive-hauled trains in May 2019. It did this to fill a capacity gap on the Rhymney Valley line in response to passenger feedback.
“Our customer research reveals that being able to sit or stand comfortably on a train is a top priority for many people, and therefore we hope that our customers will welcome plans which will mean a big increase in capacity for December.
“We’re also pleased that we’re improving the overall experience for passengers using services between Cheltenham and Maesteg, and between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale through the introduction of more modern accessible trains. [...]
“We have always focused on delivering what our customers want, and we will do all we can to provide further capacity, which is their key priority. We must remain responsive to the needs of all of our customers, even if this means changing our plans.”
The customer feedback revealed that current TfW performance regarding capacity is below expectation.
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