The dawn of a new era for rail passengers in Wales and the Borders took place last weekend as Transport for Wales takes over from Arriva Trains Wales.
James Price, Chief Executive of Transport for Wales, says that passengers can expect their rail service to be transformed within just five years. By 2023, 95% of passengers’ journeys will take place on new, higher capacity trains and there will also be 285 extra services every weekday.
“From Sunday, the Transport for Wales brand will start to appear on uniforms, around stations and on trains and posters,” he said.
“Passengers will be welcomed by the same staff, and travel on the same trains on the same routes and timetables – and, importantly, their existing tickets will all still be valid as before.
“Behind the scenes, lots more positive changes will be starting to happen, and we’ll be keeping passengers informed all the way along.”
A “railmap” of improvements has now been published for customers. “Coming Down the Track” details a raft of transformational improvements by 2025 that include new and improved stations, better services, more carriages, new and completely rebuilt trains, better-value fares, pay-as-you-go travelcards, free wifi, improved accessibility for those with mobility problems at all stations, and new websites and apps to help passengers stay informed and buy tickets easily.
Mr Price explained that the Transport for Wales team has planned all improvements with the difference a reliable rail service makes to people’s lives as the primary motivation.
“We know what reliable rail travel actually means to people, and it’s so much more than getting from A to B. It’s making a job interview in plenty of time, getting home in time to bath the children, or arriving at work well before your shift starts. This contract was awarded on the basis of exactly that – what it will deliver for passengers in Wales and the Borders.
“So this timeline has been developed with the aim of giving people confidence that the train will get them where they need or want to be on time and in comfort, using a value-for-money, reliable, frequent service. And not just to get to work or school, but also for days out and trips away – so, for example, we’ll see new fare initiatives for 6 – 18 year olds by 2020, and there will be earlier first trains with 22% more Sunday services across Wales by 2020.
“The improvements we need to get to that point – more, better trains and stations, new and more frequent services, additional capacity – will take some time to deliver. Some areas will see significant improvements more quickly – both north and south Wales will see additional services within a year, for example, there will be new services between Chester and Liverpool in the first half of 2019, and we are also extending two of these services to serve Wrexham. Added to this, the frequency of the service from Wrexham to Bidston will be doubled by 2022.
“The way in which we have planned the improvements programme means that the service will be unrecognisably better for people by 2025. Importantly, we will be operating a model that incentivises the operator of Transport for Wales Rail Services to grow the service but does not allow excessively high profits to be made. A cap will ensure that any additional profit will come back into Transport for Wales to be reinvested in transport.
“We really are putting our money where our mouth is. Rather than the industry standard of 30-minute delay repay, there will be a new commitment to refunds for delays of 15 minutes or more from January 2019.