Belfast Telegraph

Rail passengers set out priorities for next operator

Passengers are calling for an overhaul of "tired and overcrowded" train services when a new rail franchise is awarded.

Arriva Trains Wales passengers told Transport Focus their top priorities for the next operator included more seats, space to deal with overcrowding, a more punctual and reliable service and new trains.

Passengers told the watchdog they found facilities and stations outdated and in need of investment, although they rated their local staff highly.

Transport Focus called on the next operator to build on the good relationship local staff have with passengers to develop a more positive image of the new service and operator.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said: "Many passengers in Wales are currently travelling on trains well past their sell-by date.

"Older trains, carrying more passengers than the number of seats available, makes for an uncomfortable journey. Passengers deserve better.

"Persistent delays to services on parts of the current Arriva Trains Wales network have diminished the expectations of passengers.

"It's important that the next operator and Network Rail get the basics right to rebuild trust with passengers."

The new franchise is due to be awarded next year.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "This report confirms what our members are telling us all the time, that passengers value the vital service, safety and security provided by conductors and station staff.

"We will be seeking a meeting with the Welsh transport minister to ensure that when new trains and services are introduced on the franchise they retain conductors on every train and station and ticket office staffing to at least their current levels.

"We hope we can have a constructive dialogue with the Welsh Government and avoid the completely unnecessary difficulties we have had with the Westminster Government who are driving a range of disputes on our railways to drive through cuts to staff on trains and stations."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Millions of people travel into our cities by rail every day and we want the next Wales and Border franchise to deliver the high-quality services passengers deserve.

"We are working closely with the Welsh Government as it looks for the next operator for the franchise and to develop the South Wales Metro."