This week in the Senedd, I talked about the serious problems that train commuters face on a daily basis.
I’m all too familiar with this from my direct experience – I get the train to work every week – and I receive complaints from constituents about the scale of the problem.
It’s something that many readers will experience on the Rhymney line: if you need to catch a train to work at peak time, you’ll be lucky to get a seat, and luckier still if the train is running on time and reaches Queen Street without being held up outside the station.
Often, the train is packed before it reaches our station, so people have to stand the whole way down to Cardiff. It’s something that happens day after day, as cancelled or delayed trains cause a backlog trying to get onto the platforms at Queen Street. It’s true on the Merthyr, Aberdare, and Rhymney lines. Morning after morning of being late, only to face the same problems travelling home after work.
We’re told, when we complain, that all the carriages available are in use. In other words, Transport for Wales has insufficient rolling stock available to provide an acceptable level of service on too many days.
We’re told that the government has committed to introduce four trains per hour on the Rhymney line in 2022. Well, these added trains are needed now, so I’m concerned that the 2022 deadline doesn’t seem to be reflected in the Transport for Wales annual report, which has a deadline of 2023. Transport for Wales have actually indicated that they’re looking at December 2023 as a date for introducing the change, which means passengers won’t feel the benefit for over four years. I asked the Minister for clarification about this during the debate on Wednesday, but he didn’t answer me, so you can bet that I’ll be writing to him to chase up this point.
To add insult to injury, we actually used to have four trains per hour on this line when Transport for Wales took over the franchise from Arriva last year, so it currently looks like it’s going to take five years just to bring us back to square one.
And that isn’t the only thing I’ll be raising with the Minister. Because if there’s one thing that all train commuters will be unhappy about, it’s the increasing cost of travelling by train. We’re living in a time of climate emergency, when we should be incentivising public transport. But instead, people feel they’re paying more for an inadequate service. The First Minister promised a fare reduction on November 12, but as things stand, the Transport for Wales website currently shows no such reduction in fares after January. This is something else that the Minister failed to answer when I raised it in the Senedd, so I’ll push for answers.