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

What's Wrong with Our Trains?

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It's a familiar scene for many commuters.


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


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


We go behind the scenes as Arriva work every night


Our oldest train is 4.1 million miles ?


And we see them deal with tens of thousands


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


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


And is there light at the end of the tunnel?


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


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


before Matt heads off for an hour-long train trip


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


an earlier one home. It's a scene repeated


in households across South Wales. Rhiannon MacElvenny


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


and it's Rhiannon who braves the cold first


to catch her Cardiff train. Every morning rush hour,


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


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


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


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


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


of other commuters head to their station with


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


And she says over the last few months she s experienced


overcrowding, delays and even cancelled trains.


Both Rhiannon and Matt have taken to social media


Hundreds of other commuters have vented their frustrations


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


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


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


before you reach the city centre in Cardiff.


And where there have been complaints from passengers that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Under the spotlight are Arriva Trains Wales.


Arriva are part of the largest transport companies in Europe -


Other train operators come into Wales, but since 2003


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


They're punctual and have improved timetables.


Today's passenger satisfaction survey on issues from tickets


to stations showed their overall figures remained the same.


However, satisfaction with their trains has dropped.


Arriva's overcrowding has prompted inquiries by politicians.


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


cannot actually address that demands that we have got.


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


So, what do passengers think is the answer?


More carriages on. Putting bigger trains on the tracks.


More carriages, frequent trains, more communication.


Nothing it seems is that straightforward when


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


flexibility. That means that in Wales


on the morning commute, more passengers are being


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


he knows the comfort of his trip depends on


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


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


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


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


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


Of course, overcrowding on the railways is not


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


According to the latest department for transport figures for 2015,


overcrowding rates for Manchester are higher than in Cardiff.


But the difference is they are decreasing here,


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


And that was before Arriva Trains Wales admitted


that overcrowding on its services had reached its highest level


The travelling public have gone home.


But for Simon Hughes and his team of engineers


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


burden again. We understand there are customers standing on our


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


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


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


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


in complete darkness. And if carriages


are out of service - having their wheels fixed


after damage caused by sliding on leaves,


there are few spare trains. And passengers like Matt have


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


But is it really as black and white as that?


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


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


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


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


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


can be run, above and beyond any franchise agreement.


Two years ago, this new train service and carriages


were introduced to run from Holyhead to Manchester


thanks to extra central government money.


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


One is business leader Askar Shebani in Deeside.


He thinks it's holding back the local economy.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Commuter routes from the Valleys are filling up with customers.


Surely all the additional fares from passengers sitting


or standing could help fund extra trains.


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


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


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


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


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


likes to cold fresh air. Money could be saved


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


repair, like these being assembled at one of the


largest train manufacturers - There have been enquires from Wales,


but no trains will be ordered from anywhere until


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


diesel, electric or something else. Passengers in Wales need


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


buying some existing Here is another surprise about the


rail industry. Train operating companies like Arriva Trains do not


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


rolling stock companies that control virtually the entire supply for the


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


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


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


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


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


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


It is two carriages again. And it is full.


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


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


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


Tony Miles says there are smaller companies with rolling stock that


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


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


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


hire them if somebody came up with a contract.


And were on charter this Christmas in Newport.


They used to run up and down the Rhymney Valley


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


The Customer Services Director for Arriva is Lynne Milligan.


We have specific requirements for trains here.


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


not best kind of train for this network at all.


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


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


Arriva Train Wales is now supervised by the Welsh Government.


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


contract that predicted zero passenger growth.


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


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


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


at where additional capacity was needed and as consequence spent


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


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


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


There are days where the Wales rail service is really


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


Bethan Jelfs has the difficult task tonight


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


Major events have caused problems in the past.


But lessons have been learned and Arriva say


These events take a year of planning, so as soon


as we have dates available, we start planning.


Every single train that we have is in operation.


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


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


And there must have been 1,000 people.


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


into operation. to manage the wave of passengers


all desperate to get home. 100 Newport over to


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Who cares? They're probably not enjoying it


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


for their own safety. An army of volunteers and trains


begged and borrowed ensure things But could they find carriages


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


sidings across the border, where we're told there


are some hidden treasures. I feel like a bit of


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


where rolling stock I'm actually trying to spot


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


is that we understand that there are around 18 carriages


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


parent company, Deutsche Bahn. So the question is why


are they sitting here getting rusty when they could be helping


passengers deal with overcrowding? I couldn't pick them


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


Arriva have refurbished some of these carriages


for routes in Wales. If you travel in the morning


from Chester into Manchester, or Manchester out of Llandudno


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


does the one special So they do own some trains


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


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


that have been refurbished and they're running around


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


there that could be used The trains that are left


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


unless somebody finds money to pay for it,


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


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


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


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


discussions with the Welsh The options are complex but they may


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


Rhiannon's homeward Her train was cancelled


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


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


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


but probably signalling issues. Over half the problems experienced


by passengers are not because of the trains,


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


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


disruption at Cardiff Central. But in his new signalling control


room, Route Manager Director Andy Thomas believes the changes


will deliver benefits. To put this into context, the


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


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


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


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


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


so we minimise the impact on passengers.


But as Cardiff moves into the 21st century,


its main station is decades out of date.


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


Unfortunately, the amount being spent on the network


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


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


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


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


share of network funding and for devolution of responsibility


so we can invest where it's necessary.


The UK Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, declined


His department highlighted their recent investments


But they say the provision and funding of the rail franchise


in Wales is the responsibility of the Welsh Government.


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


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


uncertainty to cause him some anxiety.


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


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


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


by train so it can take a bit longer.


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


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


delayed, they encourage you to catch an earlier train.


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


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


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


That's double the margin that similar regional franchises


So could they have used more of their profits to help


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


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


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


And this year alone, we're going to invest


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


Arriva Trains Wales is one of the most heavily subsidised


What does the Welsh Government think about their investment levels?


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


services above and beyond the franchise agreement.


But isn't the point whether Arriva Trains Wales has


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


runs because it receives such a generous subsidy


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


wherever and whenever a passenger expects.


More than it has done in recent years?


I think it stands to reason they should be investing more


in the service and I constantly raise with Arriva the need


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


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


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


year. And the nature of the franchise protect the government


from variations in cost. Today's Passenger Satisfaction


figures show Arriva's But happiness with their


trains has declined. Every day, Arriva say


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


"Here's more trains, give everybody a seat


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


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


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


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


getting the contract right But how to solve the


current overcrowding? Well, that seems to have descended


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


and Rhiannon are left to adjust their lives


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


a roll of the dice.


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