More than a million minutes worth of delays on Transport for Wales trains last year

Credit: Y Byd ar Bedwar

Transport for Wales train services accounted for more than a million minutes worth of delays in 2023. 

That's according to figures obtained through an invesitgation by the Welsh current affairs programme, Y Byd ar Bedwar, which has been looking into the standard of service provided by the public transport provider. 

It is the worst year on record since Transport for Wales took over the Wales and Borders network in 2018. 

In another freedom of information request, the team discovered that more than 83,000 contacts of dissatisfaction about the service had made since 2020.

One community that has been left frustrated by the local public transport service is Maesteg, in Bridgend, with some saying that they feel as if they are “stuck” there.

Aled Williams has been documenting his experiences since December using Transport for Wales trains travelling from the town to Bridgend, Cardiff and Newport. 

Many regular commuters told Y Byd ar Bedwar that the train often terminates early, without warning, in Tondu and does not reach Maesteg. Credit: Y Byd ar Bedwar

During his journeys, he says the trains have been late, overcrowded, he has missed connections and some have been cancelled altogether without alternative transport arrangements.

According to Aled, the local service is “unreliable.” 

"Sometimes, you will be waiting on the platform, and then there will be an announcement saying [the train] is late, and then later, and then later - and then, it doesn’t come at all. But there will be no prior warning that it won’t be coming, and there’s only one train an hour.

"It is happening more and more often recently” he said. “But it is harder to come back than to go somewhere.”

Currently the train from Maesteg to Cardiff leaves every hour during the week. There are means to catch the bus during the week; however, following cuts, there are no buses from Bridgend to Maesteg after 5.30pm. 

Many regular commuters told Y Byd ar Bedwar that the train often terminates early, without warning, in Tondu and does not reach Maesteg.

This is because there is a single track connecting Tondu and Maesteg stations, therefore there is no way for two trains to pass if one is running late. 

Aled Williams said that the situation is not good enough for commuters that are eager to get home. 

"On the train, it would take ten minutes, a quarter of an hour. There’s no means to walk,” he said. 

The train from Maesteg to Cardiff leaves every hour, but after cuts there are no buses from Bridgend to Maesteg after 5.30pm.  Credit: Transport for Wales

“Often, people will just have to sit in Tondu and hope that another train will come, or often ask for a lift or get a taxi which will come to around £15-£20 - that’s if you can get one at all.

“People are left stranded wherever the train decides to stop. 

“We are a small town with big towns around us: Port Talbot, Swansea, Cardiff, Bridgend.

Although this is a regular issue for Aled, he says taking a car is not an option for him. 

"There’s a lot of people here that don’t drive, it’s a fairly poor area.”

One in every five households in Bridgend do not own a car or van, and according to the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, Maesteg is considered a built-up area with deep-rooted deprivation.

“I know that I won’t be able to afford a car or lessons to be honest. 

“I am reliant on this service, and it does not work - they’re getting worse and worse.” 

According to a YouGov opinion poll, commissioned by ITV Cymru Wales in December 2023, out of 1,000 respondents who were asked what they think about the rail service provided by Transport for Wales, 45% said that they believed it was unreliable. 

As someone who has missed appointments due to local services, Aled has had to plan more carefully for important journeys. 

"If I have an appointment in Bridgend, or something like that, I tend to leave an hour earlier, just to make sure that I can get there at all. 

"It impacts people when they are trying to find a job.

"There is no point for them to find a job where they will be unable to come home from work - or if they do not earn enough money to pay the taxi back, it is better for them to just sit in the house.”

Gethin Jones, Public Affairs Manager at Transport for Wales

In an interview, Gethin Jones, Public Affairs Manager at Transport for Wales, said that the “concerns were very valid.”

“We know that there is room to improve services within this area particularly - and that’s why we have invested, since 2018, £800 million into a new fleet of trains, and to improve stations.”

The company announced that new Class 197 trains will be running on the line from the 19 February.

Although this has been the case, many commuters have told Y Byd ar Bedwar that they have not seen any change to the reliability of the service. Since the announcement, some have found themselves on services with old Class 150 trains. 

Mr Jones added: “The hope is that by the end of this year and into the next, there will be a specific fleet running from Maesteg to Cardiff. 

"On the investment that we are making, since Transport for Wales took over the franchise in 2018, we inherited old fleets of trains for example. 

"It is quite clear that there were a few years where investment into the railways in Wales wasn’t enough.

He added: “Changing railways does not happen overnight, and it is clear that we understand the amount of work ahead of us. However, what’s good is that this work is happening now.”

In a statement, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: "this has been a challenging time for the railways but it is important to recognise that performance has improved over the last few months. 

“We will continue to invest and work to provide an integrated and sustainable transport system of the highest quality.”  

  • Watch Y Byd ar Bedwar 20.00 on Monday night on S4C, Clic and BBC iPlayer

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