First Minister Carwyn Jones has said the Welsh Government expects the next rail provider for Wales to demonstrate a “higher quality” of rolling stock.
Current operator Arriva Trains Wales’ contract is due to end in 2018, with four bidders currently vying to take on the Wales and Borders rail franchise.
Arriva Trains Wales has come in for criticism from commuters, with many claiming they are regularly left standing on overcrowded or delayed services.
In November last year, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates AM, confirmed that future operators must provide new trains – known as rolling stock.
In the Senedd on Tuesday January 17, Caerphilly AM Hefin David questioned the First Minister for an update on plans to obtain new rolling stock at the end of Arriva’s contract.
Dr David, who has been vocal in his calls for improvement to rail services, said: “Travelling on the Rhymney to Cardiff line at rush hour on the Valleys lines is a grim experience. I know that from journeys I’ve taken myself, and the Valleys lines generally, I’m told, are the same.
“Arriva have told me several times that there is simply no rolling stock available to ease the overcrowding. They told me that a new diesel train would take approximately three years to procure from the procurement to the receipt of the stock.
“That means if a new diesel stock is ordered as part of the new franchise agreement, rail passengers may not see new carriages until 2021 at the earliest.
“What is the Welsh Government currently doing to ease the problem in the short-term with regard to rolling stock, but moreover, is there any way the Welsh Government can order new rolling stock today, or in the coming months of the new operators taking over the franchise?”
Mr Jones claimed the Welsh Government was making their expectations clear when it came to service improvements, adding: “The difficulty is that the current model involves operators who lease their rolling stock in the main, so when they do face capacity problems, they haven’t got the stock.
“In the days of British Rail, the stock was there and that’s the problem with the model that we have at the moment and its weaknesses compared to the British Rail model that existed before the early 90s.
“But we are making it clear as part of the procurement for the new contract that we expect to see higher quality rolling stock.
“It’s not going to be good enough in the future simply to say that there’s a limit on what we can procure, or there’s a limit on the quality of the rolling stock that will be running on the Welsh railways.
“We want to make sure that as the South Wales Metro rolls out, it stands amongst the best in Europe.”