Rail boss urges patience after Transport for Wales' first year

By Brian Meechan
BBC Wales business correspondent

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Class 170 trainImage source, Richard Jones/MLA Photography/TfW
Image caption,
New trains like these are expected to run between Cheltenham, Cardiff and Maesteg from December

The boss of Transport for Wales has admitted he understands passengers' frustration as TfW marks the first year of running the nation's rail services.

Overall, 82% of passengers are satisfied, the same as 2018, according to the latest official survey.

But travellers reported seeing an improvement in how delays have been dealt with since TfW took over from Arriva Trains Wales.

"We've tried very hard," said TfW chief executive James Price.

He recognised there was frustration at the pace of change, with operators "playing catch-up" after damage to trains in last autumn's storms.

TfW brought in trains from elsewhere to plug the gaps, although there will be delays in bringing in 10 new four-car trains for the valleys lines.

"We've delivered everything we said we'd deliver, sometimes in a slightly different way, because the mix of rolling stock is different," Mr Price said.

"The thing I'd really like to see us focus on is unit availability - and then moving into transforming the network, particularly the Metro, in the coming year."

TfW chairman Scott Waddington said: "There is a lot of expectation out there and rightly so. The service hasn't been where it should be in the past.

"But the scale of project we have is going to take time to deliver properly and effectively."

He appealed for patience and said he was confident people would see "real change" over the next four to five years.

Christine Boston, Wales director of the Community Transport Association and chairwoman of advocacy body Transport Cymru, said positive steps had been made, but it was not easy, with rural communities to serve too.

"It's a tough job, they got off to a particularly difficult start, they have an extremely broad and challenging remit and public expectation is very, very high.

"I think we have to be realistic, we can't expect transformation in transport overnight."

Image caption,
Commuter Matthew Marshman - and standing room only on his train into Cardiff

But passenger Matthew Marshman, who travels daily from Ebbw Vale to his IT job in Cardiff, said it was "disheartening" change had not been felt yet, while fares have gone up.

"It's business as usual for me - no difference in my daily routine, still particularly busy, often late, often limited in carriage numbers.

"We looked forward to change happening and it hasn't happened. Fingers crossed it will be coming soon."

TfW oversees public transport strategy for the Welsh Government and is working in partnership with train operator KeolisAmey, which was awarded the 15-year, £5bn contract.

Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates said: "It's clear that there are significant challenges and this journey will take time, but we have ambitious plans to transform transport across Wales to deliver a fully integrated network, with customers at the heart of everything."

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