What's Wrong with Our Trains? Week In Week Out


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What's Wrong with Our Trains?

Investigative series. Nick Servini goes behind the scenes at Arriva Trains Wales as it struggles to deal with the worst overcrowding on commuter trains for years.


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It's a familiar scene for many commuters.

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If there's less than three carriages, you're not getting on.

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We're tamping because we have to wait till 6.43 here.

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We go behind the scenes as Arriva work every night

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Our oldest train is 4.1 million miles ?

:00:26.:00:30.

And we see them deal with tens of thousands

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Cardiff station is not built for managing events of this size,

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Wales has #traintrouble - so how did we get here?

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And is there light at the end of the tunnel?

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All across Wales, people are getting ready for the journey to work.

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In Ebbw Vale, Matt and Tara Marshman are grabbing a quick breakfast

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before Matt heads off for an hour-long train trip

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How have the trains been? Trying to get an earlier one in or

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an earlier one home. It's a scene repeated

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in households across South Wales. Rhiannon MacElvenny

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and her partner Gareth live in Ton Pentre in the Rhondda -

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and it's Rhiannon who braves the cold first

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to catch her Cardiff train. Every morning rush hour,

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14,000 commuters pour Matt Marshman works for a web design

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firm and has found the train from his local station to Cardiff

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is much better than trying to drive. But while he's a fan,

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in recent months he says some of his journeys to and from work

:01:59.:02:02.

have seen scenes like this. So each day he and thousands

:02:03.:02:12.

of other commuters head to their station with

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a sense of trepidation. Everybody has got the same sort of

:02:16.:02:28.

thing on their mind, and I going to get a seat? If I was on the longer

:02:29.:02:34.

line I would feel a little bit more nervous. Hopefully they have got the

:02:35.:02:37.

Peter working as well! -- heaters. In a different valley,

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on a different line at Ton Pentre - Rhiannon has found the right train

:02:41.:02:45.

to get her to work. The trains you get here at 7:53am,

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arriving at 8:45am, so as long as it is on time, 15 minutes is plenty of

:02:56.:03:00.

time for me to walk over and get to work and start my shift.

:03:01.:03:01.

But some days, things don't go to plan.

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And Rhiannon has arrived late at the call centre where she works.

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It is really stressful, straightaway you are worrying about explaining to

:03:09.:03:14.

work that you're late again, and it is not by two or three minutes, it

:03:15.:03:20.

is up to half an hour, 45 minutes that I have been late. You are at

:03:21.:03:23.

the mercy of the train, there is nowhere you can go.

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Today Rhiannon's train is on time and while there are plenty

:03:26.:03:28.

of seats at her stop, they'll soon be filled.

:03:29.:03:31.

And she says over the last few months she s experienced

:03:32.:03:33.

overcrowding, delays and even cancelled trains.

:03:34.:03:38.

Both Rhiannon and Matt have taken to social media

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Hundreds of other commuters have vented their frustrations

:03:41.:03:46.

Those are the stories ? but is it as bad as all that?

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I'm joining the morning rush hour at Llandaff to get a taste.

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It's one of the last stations on a main valley line,

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before you reach the city centre in Cardiff.

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And where there have been complaints from passengers that

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I have just tried to get on the 7:50am from Llandaff into Cardiff

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city centre, it was absolutely rammed. Very few people managed to

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get on, and all the conductor could say was, there will be another one

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along in ten minutes, and I will try to get on it.

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It all 5am, from Llandaff into the city centre of Cardiff.

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It was pretty busy, standing room only, what I would have expected. At

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the train I got on had four carriages, the one before only had

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two carriages. What I have gone through is the experience for

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thousands of commuters every day, who rely on the trains to get them

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to work on time. So how did we get into this mess?

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Under the spotlight are Arriva Trains Wales.

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Arriva are part of the largest transport companies in Europe -

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Other train operators come into Wales, but since 2003

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it's Arriva who run local services and manage the stations.

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They're punctual and have improved timetables.

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Today's passenger satisfaction survey on issues from tickets

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to stations showed their overall figures remained the same.

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However, satisfaction with their trains has dropped.

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Arriva's overcrowding has prompted inquiries by politicians.

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Deeply frustrating for us, but even worse for our customers. Because we

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cannot actually address that demands that we have got.

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The number of train journeys in Wales has risen from 18 million

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So, what do passengers think is the answer?

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More carriages on. Putting bigger trains on the tracks.

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More carriages, frequent trains, more communication.

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Nothing it seems is that straightforward when

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I've come to Manchester to meet rail industry expert Tony Miles.

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He says Arriva's much discussed zero growth contract did give them

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You were locked into the number of trains you have got at the beginning

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for the whole length of what, in Wales, is quite a long contract. And

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that is the problem. How do you predict what will happen

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in 15 years' time and how it right? We didn't predict the number of

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people that would use public transport. It was lovely to have

:07:30.:07:32.

everything nice and secure and signed off, but it gave no

:07:33.:07:33.

flexibility. That means that in Wales

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on the morning commute, more passengers are being

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crammed into the same number Back with Matt on his journey ?

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he knows the comfort of his trip depends on

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how many carriages turn up. Three carriages this morning, which

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is good, a lot of happy and smiley faces getting on the train this

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morning. If there is less than three carriages, it is a gamble whether

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you going to get on not. If you are a little further away from the doors

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than someone else and it is only two carriages, you are not getting on.

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Of course, overcrowding on the railways is not

:08:12.:08:13.

A busy station like this in Manchester is a case in point.

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According to the latest department for transport figures for 2015,

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overcrowding rates for Manchester are higher than in Cardiff.

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But the difference is they are decreasing here,

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but in Cardiff are on the rise at a faster rate than anywhere else

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And that was before Arriva Trains Wales admitted

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that overcrowding on its services had reached its highest level

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The travelling public have gone home.

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But for Simon Hughes and his team of engineers

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at the Cardiff train depot, their timebable has only just begun.

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-- timetable. This depot in Cardiff get 60-70

:08:59.:09:10.

trains every night, and we have people who will clean, fuel, repair

:09:11.:09:13.

and maintain the trains and put them back out to service the next day.

:09:14.:09:15.

With an average age of 27 years, Wales' fleet of trains are some

:09:16.:09:18.

Our oldest train is some 4.5 million miles. Sometimes they turn up with

:09:19.:09:27.

some unknown defect that we have to repair. That takes people away from

:09:28.:09:32.

doing their day job and onto repairs, and it is more maintenance

:09:33.:09:35.

burden again. We understand there are customers standing on our

:09:36.:09:40.

trains, there are failures in the fleet, and we are working really

:09:41.:09:45.

hard to train to mitigate that. -- to try and mitigate that.

:09:46.:09:47.

Even with the best efforts, old trains will break down -

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This carriage is in darkness, and I don't think they know, because it is

:09:50.:10:02.

in complete darkness. And if carriages

:10:03.:10:04.

are out of service - having their wheels fixed

:10:05.:10:05.

after damage caused by sliding on leaves,

:10:06.:10:07.

there are few spare trains. And passengers like Matt have

:10:08.:10:11.

to deal with the consequences. Loads and loads of people with only

:10:12.:10:24.

two carriages available, we had, people left on the platform. We had

:10:25.:10:31.

people standing, not a lot of room for anybody at all. It is

:10:32.:10:38.

unbelievable the amount of people who can voice their opinions, and

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you can actually hear the tweets and things going on in the background.

:10:42.:10:43.

Arriva's contract continues until 2018, and it's often used

:10:44.:10:46.

to explain why more trains can't be added until then.

:10:47.:10:50.

But is it really as black and white as that?

:10:51.:10:57.

This station here in Ebbw Vale did not even exist in 2003 when

:10:58.:11:05.

company-mac took cover, but in 2008, and new line was introduced, and

:11:06.:11:10.

thanks to extra money from the Welsh Government, three additional trains

:11:11.:11:16.

were least, taking passengers from here down to Cardiff, so it seems

:11:17.:11:20.

that where there is a will, and more money, extra trains, and services

:11:21.:11:27.

can be run, above and beyond any franchise agreement.

:11:28.:11:28.

Two years ago, this new train service and carriages

:11:29.:11:31.

were introduced to run from Holyhead to Manchester

:11:32.:11:34.

thanks to extra central government money.

:11:35.:11:39.

But in North Wales there are people as unhappy with their rail service

:11:40.:11:42.

One is business leader Askar Shebani in Deeside.

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He thinks it's holding back the local economy.

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It is not really a railway network that our employees can use

:11:54.:12:01.

businesses can use. They have used it, they were either late to work or

:12:02.:12:07.

they could not access work, and so they can lose their jobs if they

:12:08.:12:11.

continue to use that, so they have given up. Whole rail infrastructure

:12:12.:12:16.

is very poor. Nothing has really improved here at all.

:12:17.:12:19.

It was once thought that rail travel would be going out of fashion.

:12:20.:12:22.

Now there's a scramble to try and deal with the growing demand.

:12:23.:12:26.

Commuter routes from the Valleys are filling up with customers.

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Surely all the additional fares from passengers sitting

:12:30.:12:31.

or standing could help fund extra trains.

:12:32.:12:41.

The rail industry is full of surprises. For example, it may

:12:42.:12:47.

surprise you to learn that Arriva Trains's services are some of the

:12:48.:12:53.

most heavily subsidised in the UK. They receive anything between 110

:12:54.:12:58.

and ?160 million per year, because while some routes make money through

:12:59.:13:03.

fares, many of us don't, because they are carrying what the company

:13:04.:13:04.

likes to cold fresh air. Money could be saved

:13:05.:13:05.

if Arriva could get more Trains that don't need constant

:13:06.:13:07.

repair, like these being assembled at one of the

:13:08.:13:11.

largest train manufacturers - There have been enquires from Wales,

:13:12.:13:13.

but no trains will be ordered from anywhere until

:13:14.:13:18.

it's clear which company wins And whether our trains will be

:13:19.:13:21.

diesel, electric or something else. Passengers in Wales need

:13:22.:13:27.

a solution before then, so for now it's a case of Arriva

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buying some existing Here is another surprise about the

:13:32.:13:43.

rail industry. Train operating companies like Arriva Trains do not

:13:44.:13:49.

actually own their own trains, they lease them from just three private

:13:50.:13:56.

rolling stock companies that control virtually the entire supply for the

:13:57.:14:02.

country. So why do Arriva Trains not simply release more trains? Well,

:14:03.:14:09.

here it seems there is a problem. There are no trains to lease, no

:14:10.:14:13.

diesel locomotives that fit our roots and our fleet and maintenance,

:14:14.:14:16.

that we can go out there in get. They do not exist.

:14:17.:14:17.

It's hard for commuters to believe there are no spare trains.

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For Rhiannon and her partner, it means the commute home especially

:14:24.:14:26.

It is two carriages again. And it is full.

:14:27.:14:41.

We now have to wait until 6:43pm here, the next train, if that is on

:14:42.:14:47.

time, so we now have been nearly 45 minutes late.

:14:48.:14:50.

It's true that the three big rolling stock companies don't

:14:51.:14:52.

Tony Miles says there are smaller companies with rolling stock that

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They've been able to make some of those available to railway

:14:59.:15:05.

They used to use them from North Wales to the north of England.

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They're very expensive to use but they're there and they'd happily

:15:12.:15:14.

hire them if somebody came up with a contract.

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And were on charter this Christmas in Newport.

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They used to run up and down the Rhymney Valley

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So could they run up and down the same routes again?

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The Customer Services Director for Arriva is Lynne Milligan.

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We have specific requirements for trains here.

:15:36.:15:43.

Locomotive and coaches are useful on Rhymney Valley here but they're

:15:44.:15:46.

not best kind of train for this network at all.

:15:47.:15:48.

But as a short-term measure, in recent months, couldn't you just

:15:49.:15:51.

We've already put into North Wales a locomotive and coaches

:15:52.:16:00.

Arriva Train Wales is now supervised by the Welsh Government.

:16:01.:16:07.

I'm meeting the minister in charge, who is critical of the 2003

:16:08.:16:10.

contract that predicted zero passenger growth.

:16:11.:16:14.

So can they help Arriva conjure up the much-needed stock?

:16:15.:16:21.

But the problem would be even worse if the Welsh Government did exactly

:16:22.:16:27.

what you said we should have done five years ago and looked

:16:28.:16:30.

at where additional capacity was needed and as consequence spent

:16:31.:16:34.

an additional ?25 million a year on the franchise which otherwise

:16:35.:16:37.

We're not responsible, we're not obligated to spend that money.

:16:38.:16:44.

We're doing that because the problem been so pressing.

:16:45.:16:52.

There are days where the Wales rail service is really

:16:53.:16:55.

Good afternoon and welcome to the Arriva Trains briefing...

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Bethan Jelfs has the difficult task tonight

:17:03.:17:05.

Ticket sales are just over 71,000 so this is going to be our busiest

:17:06.:17:12.

Major events have caused problems in the past.

:17:13.:17:18.

But lessons have been learned and Arriva say

:17:19.:17:20.

These events take a year of planning, so as soon

:17:21.:17:30.

as we have dates available, we start planning.

:17:31.:17:31.

Every single train that we have is in operation.

:17:32.:17:36.

I know people think we've done nothing but, yes, we do hire in.

:17:37.:17:40.

But not all passengers have had a good journey to town.

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And there must have been 1,000 people.

:17:50.:17:56.

We have had word the game is about to finish so we need to put things

:17:57.:18:15.

into operation. to manage the wave of passengers

:18:16.:18:17.

all desperate to get home. 100 Newport over to

:18:18.:18:23.

platform one, please. Ultimately it's 40,000 people

:18:24.:18:27.

catching train for an event. We're seeing these figures more

:18:28.:18:30.

and more regularly so we have to have some crowd-management

:18:31.:18:33.

measures in place. How long have you had to queue? Not

:18:34.:18:40.

too long, to be fair. 20 minutes. Cardiff Station wasn't built

:18:41.:18:48.

to manage events of this size so we use every inch of the station

:18:49.:18:51.

to move people around. We've heavily invested in having

:18:52.:18:53.

extra people at events. The weather is not very good so we

:18:54.:19:13.

have foil blankets and sweets. The interaction with customers is really

:19:14.:19:18.

key. You've got to take it as it comes. There's lots of people. There

:19:19.:19:26.

is no flow! It's static! Compared to last year this is far better, people

:19:27.:19:31.

coming out of town, but something needs to be done, I think. We won!

:19:32.:19:34.

Who cares? They're probably not enjoying it

:19:35.:19:41.

greatly but we try and get the message to them that it's

:19:42.:19:43.

for their own safety. An army of volunteers and trains

:19:44.:19:46.

begged and borrowed ensure things But could they find carriages

:19:47.:19:48.

on a more regular basis? I've come to these to these

:19:49.:19:59.

sidings across the border, where we're told there

:20:00.:20:01.

are some hidden treasures. I feel like a bit of

:20:02.:20:04.

a train-spotter, because I'm at Long Marston in the Cotswolds,

:20:05.:20:07.

where rolling stock I'm actually trying to spot

:20:08.:20:10.

some Mark 3 carriages. But the reason I'm here

:20:11.:20:18.

is that we understand that there are around 18 carriages

:20:19.:20:21.

belonging to Arriva Trains Wales that are now owned by their German

:20:22.:20:29.

parent company, Deutsche Bahn. So the question is why

:20:30.:20:34.

are they sitting here getting rusty when they could be helping

:20:35.:20:40.

passengers deal with overcrowding? I couldn't pick them

:20:41.:20:42.

out from my location. But we know in the past,

:20:43.:20:44.

Arriva have refurbished some of these carriages

:20:45.:20:46.

for routes in Wales. If you travel in the morning

:20:47.:20:49.

from Chester into Manchester, or Manchester out of Llandudno

:20:50.:20:56.

in the afternoon, you may travel And they also own the train that

:20:57.:20:58.

does the one special So they do own some trains

:20:59.:21:05.

and they've got a few So if Arriva own them and have used

:21:06.:21:10.

them before, why not now? We have the best of those trains

:21:11.:21:15.

that have been refurbished and they're running around

:21:16.:21:18.

at the moment on our network. I'm told there are carriages

:21:19.:21:21.

there that could be used The trains that are left

:21:22.:21:23.

in that field are not They're not in a good enough place

:21:24.:21:30.

to be a quick enough solution, so we're looking at other solutions

:21:31.:21:39.

that are currently being explored. But Tony Miles believes there could

:21:40.:21:42.

be life left in those carriages. They could, if they had the money,

:21:43.:21:46.

get them out of the sidings So when Arriva say there's no

:21:47.:21:49.

rolling stock out there, It's not strictly true to say

:21:50.:21:55.

there's no rolling stock out there. It's probably true to say

:21:56.:22:01.

unless somebody finds money to pay for it,

:22:02.:22:03.

it can't use the rolling What Arriva wants is more

:22:04.:22:06.

of the small commuter So why didn't Arriva secure them

:22:07.:22:11.

when they were available? We've been trying to secure rolling

:22:12.:22:22.

stock and it hasn't come to us. So we're currently in

:22:23.:22:27.

discussions with the Welsh The options are complex but they may

:22:28.:22:29.

well provide a short-term solution. Back on the daily commute,

:22:30.:22:36.

Rhiannon's homeward Her train was cancelled

:22:37.:22:38.

and she's stuck at Treforest. I'm now having to wait

:22:39.:22:45.

for my other half to pick me up Luckily he's got a day off,

:22:46.:22:49.

otherwise I'd be stuck There's not an actual statement

:22:50.:22:55.

but probably signalling issues. Over half the problems experienced

:22:56.:23:07.

by passengers are not because of the trains,

:23:08.:23:10.

but because of the track. That's Network Rail's

:23:11.:23:14.

responsibility, as well as cleaning Over Christmas, they caused major

:23:15.:23:16.

disruption at Cardiff Central. But in his new signalling control

:23:17.:23:25.

room, Route Manager Director Andy Thomas believes the changes

:23:26.:23:29.

will deliver benefits. To put this into context, the

:23:30.:23:42.

signalling system in Cardiff, 300 million, this was the biggest system

:23:43.:23:47.

commissioned ever for the UK to date. A signalling system is

:23:48.:23:51.

designed to increase the number of trains that go through Cardiff, from

:23:52.:23:57.

12 trains per hour to 16, and that resilience is important because it

:23:58.:24:01.

allows us, when things do go wrong, to recover really, really quickly,

:24:02.:24:04.

so we minimise the impact on passengers.

:24:05.:24:06.

But as Cardiff moves into the 21st century,

:24:07.:24:08.

its main station is decades out of date.

:24:09.:24:10.

It's just one example of what some say is an under-investment

:24:11.:24:13.

Unfortunately, the amount being spent on the network

:24:14.:24:24.

in Wales has only been 1% of the overall provision.

:24:25.:24:29.

That's despite having 6% of the railway lines.

:24:30.:24:34.

It's been met with resistance from the UK Government consistently

:24:35.:24:42.

but we've been equally consistent in our demand for a fair

:24:43.:24:45.

share of network funding and for devolution of responsibility

:24:46.:24:50.

so we can invest where it's necessary.

:24:51.:24:56.

The UK Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, declined

:24:57.:24:58.

His department highlighted their recent investments

:24:59.:25:02.

But they say the provision and funding of the rail franchise

:25:03.:25:09.

in Wales is the responsibility of the Welsh Government.

:25:10.:25:14.

Back with Matt, and he's just arrived in Cardiff as scheduled,

:25:15.:25:17.

Most trains run as planned but he says there's enough

:25:18.:25:23.

uncertainty to cause him some anxiety.

:25:24.:25:27.

All I want is a consistent service, with consistent carriages,

:25:28.:25:31.

that does the job, that gets you in and out of Cardiff

:25:32.:25:34.

Luckily I work for a company that's very understanding that I travel

:25:35.:25:41.

by train so it can take a bit longer.

:25:42.:25:44.

But certainly in the past you're supposed to be sat down

:25:45.:25:47.

in your desk at a specific time, and if your train is a bit

:25:48.:25:51.

delayed, they encourage you to catch an earlier train.

:25:52.:25:58.

But on our line, with just one train an hour, it's not really possible.

:25:59.:26:05.

Arriva Trains Wales have been regarded as one of the UK's

:26:06.:26:07.

They've hit their performance targets and last year they made

:26:08.:26:12.

That's double the margin that similar regional franchises

:26:13.:26:19.

So could they have used more of their profits to help

:26:20.:26:26.

We operate about 20% more than is contractual to us,

:26:27.:26:33.

so we've really made a commitment to this business.

:26:34.:26:37.

We've invested well over ?30 million in a whole series

:26:38.:26:39.

And this year alone, we're going to invest

:26:40.:26:44.

a further ?2.5 million, despite fact that in 18 months' time

:26:45.:26:47.

Arriva Trains Wales is one of the most heavily subsidised

:26:48.:26:54.

What does the Welsh Government think about their investment levels?

:26:55.:27:03.

It's galling that we spend ?25 million a year on additional

:27:04.:27:06.

services above and beyond the franchise agreement.

:27:07.:27:11.

But isn't the point whether Arriva Trains Wales has

:27:12.:27:15.

a responsibility to invest more of its profits in the services it

:27:16.:27:18.

runs because it receives such a generous subsidy

:27:19.:27:20.

It's fair to say Arriva Trains Wales should invest in a quality service

:27:21.:27:26.

wherever and whenever a passenger expects.

:27:27.:27:30.

More than it has done in recent years?

:27:31.:27:34.

I think it stands to reason they should be investing more

:27:35.:27:36.

in the service and I constantly raise with Arriva the need

:27:37.:27:40.

He said it is galling to have to spend given this heavy subsidy that

:27:41.:28:16.

goes to Arriva. Government subsidy made up 55% of the subsidy and it

:28:17.:28:21.

now makes up 40% of that income because that subsidy declined every

:28:22.:28:25.

year. And the nature of the franchise protect the government

:28:26.:28:26.

from variations in cost. Today's Passenger Satisfaction

:28:27.:28:33.

figures show Arriva's But happiness with their

:28:34.:28:34.

trains has declined. Every day, Arriva say

:28:35.:28:37.

they're doing their best. I'd love to be able to say,

:28:38.:28:39.

"Here's more trains, give everybody a seat

:28:40.:28:41.

on those services." But we just don't have it,

:28:42.:28:43.

so for us, the challenge is how do we make the best

:28:44.:28:46.

of the service we've got? In 18 months' time,

:28:47.:28:54.

there will be a new franchise. Whoever's successful,

:28:55.:28:56.

getting the contract right But how to solve the

:28:57.:29:02.

current overcrowding? Well, that seems to have descended

:29:03.:29:08.

into a blame game with the commuters So for now, those like Matt

:29:09.:29:11.

and Rhiannon are left to adjust their lives

:29:12.:29:18.

to fit the trains. The boss said, "Look,

:29:19.:29:21.

you need to adjust your travel plans I now get the 7:23,

:29:22.:29:24.

so I arrive 8:15. So I'm about 45 minutes

:29:25.:29:32.

early for work. I'm not sure. Obviously they promise

:29:33.:29:45.

every year the service will improve and more investment has been done on

:29:46.:29:48.

the network and things like that. I've been using this service

:29:49.:29:50.

for six years and haven't At the moment it's

:29:51.:29:52.

a roll of the dice.

:29:53.:29:59.

The programme goes behind the scenes at Arriva Trains Wales as it struggles to deal with the worst overcrowding on commuter trains for years. Reporter Nick Servini investigates how we got into this situation, and what can be done to fix it.