Agenda item

Rail Stakeholder Engagement

Nichole Sarra, Stakeholder Manager, Transport for Wales

  • Comments on what we want for Monmouthshire in the short/medium/long term.
  • Timetabling issues
  • Ticketing Issues
  • Update on Rolling Stock Delivery Programme 


Phil Inskip

·         Local Station usage




The Chair welcomed Nichole Sarra, Stakeholder Manager (Borders), Transport for Wales (TfW) who explained that there are now 5 Stakeholder Managers with the role of encouraging stakeholder engagement and then providing feedback to the planners.  The following points were made:


·         December timetable change: A timetable workshop with stakeholders was held in November.  This was followed by a report in January. Transport for Wales has committed to run workshops twice yearly.  The next one will be in mid-March 2020 with a view to better connectivity and services.

·         Rolling stock: the majority of Class 170 trains are now in service.

·         Stations: A programme of deep cleaning is in progress due to be completed by the end of March.  The Station Improvement Plan for 2020 and 2021 is expected.  Regarding the Grand Union Train proposal (possible start in May 2021) it was asked if TfW trains can connect into/out of the London trains at Severn Tunnel Junction in May 2021.  Currently there are one and 2 hour gaps; Grand Union will have 2 hour gaps.  There will be a problem in connections due to a clash at Cheltenham with the existing GWR service. This change would save 50-100 cars coming down from Lydney. These points will be passed back to the train planning team.


In relation to train/bus connections at Chepstow, TfW attended Transition Chepstow to hear the issues and it was acknowledged that a multi modal approach is necessary.  TfW is committed to looking at Chepstow train services to provide an hourly service by 2022 with improved connectivity.  It was suggested that TfW runs the bus and train services; this point will be fed back.


A Member raised the issue of the need for better connections from Lydney to Bristol. A third river crossing between Lydney and Sharpness was mooted to provide a rail link to Bristol and London. 


The accessibility problems with Abergavenny Station were discussed, noting that the delaying factor is the signals.  Network Rail, DfT and TfW provide assurances that the scheme is progressing but the action group request timescales. It was explained that significant investment is planned for the station and work has started on cycle storage, Access for All design and the signal siting.  Nichole agreed to provide an update on timescales at the next meeting (or earlier, if the information is available).


A question was raised about the potential for easement to the routing guide.  If passengers are travelling from Caldicot to Bristol they can go into Newport and double back to Bristol Parkway to Bristol Templemeads.  Passengers are not allowed to double back from Lydney via Gloucester or Cheltenham to Bristol to provide the quickest service to Bristol.  By allowing this, would add 13 additional services a day between Lydney and Bristol with no additional trains, services or stops.  The Member was asked to forward the relevant information to Nichole.


A point was raised about comparative costings, as people in rural areas are having to pay much higher fares quoting the £33 fare from Abergavenny to Ystrad Mynach and the £11 fare from Newport to Ystrad Mynach.  Abergavenny also has the greatest increase in people using the trains.  It was responded that it is quite complex with historic detail. TfW is aware of the issue.


Reference was made to pocket timetable (No.3).  Passengers travelling from Fishguard, Milford Haven and Pembroke are shown connections to London and Bristol.


Travellers from Lydney, Chepstow and Caldicot are only shown the connections to London and not Bristol.  It was requested that the connections are added to the timetable as described.


Phil Inskip presented information on local/national station usage. This is good information when campaigning for improvements.  Historical information was provided that the Department for Transport has not used the statistics when arranging the last two franchises and to determine the level of trains; concentrating on growth and the perception of decline. The Arriva franchise was let on 0% growth but, in actuality, there had been 7 years growth.  Passenger usage of the Chepstow line had grown by 130%.  This presented a problem for Welsh Government because the funding was based on 0% growth so the block grant had to be used for additional train services.  54 additional trains have been funded this way to meet increased demand.  Councils have also equally invested including two councils that bought their own trains where Welsh Government pay for their operation.


The Chepstow line was not improved because it was not situated where a council had funded rail improvements.  Secondly, as it was not in the convergence zone, it was not eligible for EU match funding.  On all other lines, the number of trains have increased.  The Arriva franchise reduced the number of trains without being in breach of the franchise.  Regarding the GWR franchise, the DfT did a study about sustainable railways and growth.  Growth was thought to be 75% but in 2020 it is 120%.  Three parts of the country where  growth is expected to be highest is between Peterbrough and Doncaster, Manchester and Liverpool and STJ and Bristol.  Despite being identified as one of the top lines lines for growth, the GWR franchise saw STJ trains to Bristol halved regardless of years of growth and the DfT’s own report.  The official report of privatisation gave the reason that the support of £1.65billion to BR in 2002 would reduce to £1billion but by 2006 was increased to £5.4billion.  When the two S. Wales franchises were let, the Treasury and DfT were in financial difficulties so growth figures were ignored.


The Chair thanked Phil Inskip for providing the Group with this explanation recognising his invaluable contribution for future strategy.