A 45-year-old British Leyland 142 Pacer train arrives in Penarth . Transport for Wales told AMs yesterday that they’re not going to bother putting anti-lock braking mechanisms on these trains

It now seems as though “dust” and not “leaves on the line” may  have been responsible for the chaos on rail services to Penarth and the rest of Wales last autumn.

[In October 2018 the Welsh Labour Government’s nationalised rail undertaking Transport for Wales took over the rail franchise formally operated by the German company Deutsch Bahn (under the Arriva Trains Wales banner)  – but almost immediately ran into massive problems with many hundreds of rail services being cancelled. Transport for Wales blamed leaves on the line and also castigated Arriva Trains for the  poor standard of maintenance on the trains that it inherited from them]

A Pacer 142 Class Transport for Wales cab in Penarth . The drivers have to use great skill to prevent wheels skidding in the autumn – but last autumn was no different from that of previous years

Now the track operators – the nationalised company Network Rail – has told a Welsh Assembly Committee that there actually were no more “leaves on the line” in Wales last autumn than there had been during the Autumn of 2017 – when Arriva was operating Welsh trains .

Network Rail’s managing director of Wales and Borders – Bill Kelly –  told AMs in the a Welsh Assembly Infrastructure Committee yesterday  that “One of the things we’re now looking into is dust. We’re deploying new technology on to film the rail interchange to see what’s going on.”

The Welsh Labour Government’s Transport for Wales trains are still using old Arriva rolling stock

Network Rail also said that – contrary to earlier statements – the handover of  trains and operations from Arriva Trains Wales  to Transport for Wales had actually gone smoothly – a statement which appears to directly conflict with the contentious statements made last month  by both Transport for Wales and the Welsh Labour Government’s Transport Minister Ken Skates.

Both Transport Minister Skates and Transport for Wales had  blamed Arriva‘s allegedly low standards of maintenance for the problems encountered by Transport for Wales after the takeover.

Welsh Labour Transport Minister Ken Skates refused to apologise for the chaos on Transport for Wales rail services – and blamed “leaves-on-the-line” and “Arriva maintenance” for the problems. It turns out he was wrong on both counts.

In November last year Labour Transport Minister Skates had publicly claimed “leaves on the line” for the problems of  Transport for Wales. Yesterday however Network Rail said that at Trehafod – one of the most leaf-free tracks where vegetation had been cut back – there were 5 times the number of incidents of wheel adhesion problems as were experienced elsewhere  – leading experts to the conclusion that something other than leaves is causing the lack of adhesion

It’s also now turned out that Labour’s Ken Skates was also wrong in November to blame Arriva‘s allegedly low standards of maintenance. Skates had told AMs “‘We inherited a fleet of trains that have been very poorly maintained, which we did not have full and proper access to ahead of inheriting them,”.

However – according to Network Rail and Arriva (Deutche Bahn) –  Skates’s allegations were wide of the mark . The handover went well and Arriva actually spent £29,500,000 more on maintenance than they were committed to do by their contract .

This was a point picked up in yesterday’s committee hearing by AM Mrs Bethan Sayed  who asked Arriva whether – as the previous franchise holder – they felt they had been “scapegoated” by Welsh Labour Government.

Mrs Sayed  told the committee ” It looks quite unprofessional of the [Welsh Labour]  Government to act in this way”.


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  1. gareth says:

    Tell them to buy a Dyson V12 that will clear the dust

    • Frank Evans says:

      Our local MP reads this and want to know the name of man who invented the Dyson cleaner.
      Maybe he could raise an urgent point of order with the his friend Bercow to investigate.

  2. snoggerdog says:

    is it hinckley dust?

  3. George says:

    Ken Skates hasn’t got a clue, he is to transport what I am to advanced knitting. In other words hopeless. The trains in Wales are still the same old same old and nothings changed. (Well GWR are running new IETs through Wales so not strictly true). The people who fixed the problems this year are the same as last year so there is no difference. They just transferred from Arriva to WTF. In a few years they will have new trains but don’t hold your breath. When they do get new trains if MR Skates is still around expect some grinning, more grinning and hype about investment, world class, blah blah. Somehow I doubt it will be him. He will have move onto advanced knitting.

  4. Lesley says:

    You only have to look at the trains to see they were poorly maintained, let alone go on a journey on one. No amount of figures given by Arriva tells me otherwise

    • George says:

      The trains are knackered,average age of fleet is 28 years with some in their 40s. They do refit them now and again and paint them. I think the next step before new trains is more paint, this time red I think. As I said the same people maintain them now as before, they have to be serviced to a certain level for safety reasons. However old junk is old junk. I am not defending Arriva because they knew they should have replaced some of them years ago. Mr Skates also should have got his wallet out a long time ago. The spend now for new trains is only significant because its what they should have spent over the years. So knowing all this you will have to settle for old rubbish trains for a while more before they can roll out the media hype. Shamebles of a franchise system leading to poor services, hence why its being reviewed. Glad I don’t have to use the things.

  5. George says:

    Forgot to mention, in the drivers cab picture if you can move that lever and press a couple of buttons your reward is 50k a year. No wonder why tickets keep going up. Someones got to pay for them. I know theres route knowlege and some other bits to go with it but come on what other job pays as well. Why do they get thousands of applications for drivers, it is certainly not the glamour of driving a knackered pacer up the valleys.

    • snoggerdog says:

      the union helped them get a decent wage,& now mrs may is writing to the unions with the carrot of workers rights,even the enemy of the tories come in handy when your politically drowning .also 50k is not just gilding the lily its reinventing it! ( Q.how can you reinvent a lily? see previous above.

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