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]
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.”
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.
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”.