The rail operator, Arriva Trains Wales, has announced that extra carriages will be put on for services into Cardiff, starting in May.
Alongside Network Rail, Arriva has confirmed that from Monday May 22, an additional 200,000 seats will be made available for valleys commuters every year, including over 200 weekly for Rhymney Valley travellers.
The operator has announced an extra 130 seats on each of the 06.09 and 06.32 Rhymney to Cardiff weekday services, and 280 extra seats on peak services before 9am into Cardiff from Rhymney, Bargoed, Caerphilly, and Llanishen. The 06.32 is set to double in carriage size.
The news has been hailed as “one of the most significant improvements to valleys commuters in a decade”.
Arriva Trains Wales has come in for criticism from the borough’s commuters, with many claiming they are regularly left standing on overcrowded or delayed services.
The operator’s contract is due to end in 2018, with four bidders currently vying to take on the Wales and Borders rail franchise.
Arriva claimed that increased capacity on services has been achieved using the same number of trains at their disposal, but added discussions with the Welsh Government are ongoing to explore every opportunity to source more rolling stock.
Arriva Trains Wales Customer Services Director, Lynne Milligan, said: “We’re delighted to make these improvements and are confident they will make a real difference for our passengers.
“This is one of the most significant improvements to valleys commuters in a decade, since the opening of the Ebbw Vale line.
“Improving the passenger experience is something we are passionate about and we are confident that these changes will make a positive impact for people travelling into Cardiff during the commuter peaks.
“With only a limited number of trains in our fleet and the lack of availability in the UK we have had to work hard to get the most from what we’ve got.
“This is a great example of working with our partners in Network Rail and the Welsh Government to deliver real change for the better for the people of Wales.
“The new signalling in the Cardiff area which was delivered in January is enabling us to run more trains through Cardiff per hour, which means that our planners have now been able to give careful consideration to where this can be most effective.”
— Hefin David AC/AM (@hef4caerphilly) March 30, 2017
Caerphilly AM Hefin David, who has been vocal in his calls for improvement to rail services, welcomed the news.
Dr David said: “Since last May, I’ve been in touch with Arriva Trains Wales on a number of occasions about the state of the Rhymney to Cardiff Valleys Lines service.
“I’ve been lobbying Arriva to improve this service and reduce the overcrowding. This is good news and I’m pleased to see it, but more still needs to be done and I’ll keep on lobbying.”
Andy Thomas, Wales Route Managing Director at Network Rail Wales, added: “More trains are travelling through Cardiff than ever before thanks to the work we completed over Christmas to modernise the railway in South Wales.
“The Cardiff Area Signalling Renewal (CASR) project has helped to bust congestion and deliver a more reliable railway across the Cardiff and Valleys network, as well as providing a brand new platform and waiting area at Cardiff Central.
“This work is a cornerstone of our Railway Upgrade Plan to build a bigger, better railway here in Wales. We will continue to work with our partners Arriva Trains Wales and Welsh Government to improve our railway for passengers.”
Arriva Trains Wales tested the new services on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 March, on the 07.09 service from Caerphilly to Cardiff. The results can be seen in the video below.