Transport for Wales has taken over the rail line through Ludlow, with international rail company KeolisAmey providing the service. There are promises of major investment in trains and stations, cheaper fares and better services. It could not come a moment too soon. Punctuality has been falling, trains are often overcrowded and the older rolling stock is getting unreliable. Unfortunately, last week was a pretty shaky start for KeolisAmey.
It can be a pleasure to travel by train. I travel several times a month, to Shrewsbury and Hereford, and often to Birmingham and other exotic destinations. But delays to trains are not only frustrating, they can lead to missed connections and appointments. Regular travellers will have noticed that the performance of Arriva Train Wales has deteriorated in recent months. I’ve been looking at the performance data.
The On Line Trains website provides invaluable data on train reliability station by station. It is the basis for the analysis in this article.
Looking at the last six months, fewer than three in ten trains arrived absolutely on time at Ludlow. However, more than two thirds of trains arrived within five minutes of the scheduled time. Nearly a third of trains were delayed by five minutes or more – that can be enough to miss a connection. Two in one hundred trains were cancelled.
There is a feeling amongst some passengers that delays in this area need to be tolerated because we are rural. I don’t agree. If we look at the 2,620 railways stations in Britain, Ludlow is 2,473rd worst for timekeeping. Pretty much bumping along the bottom.
Is there a pattern to this? Let’s first look at the raw data.
As is obvious, weather has a major impact on punctuality of Ludlow services and cancellations. But it is not the entire picture. There is an underlying trend and that trend is a decline in performance.
Ludlow station has peaked at around the 1000th worst station for delays but recently it been around the 2,500th worst. This is not all the fault of Arriva Train Wales. Network Rail shoulders a lot of responsibility for poorly maintained track.
Growth in passenger numbers has also stalled at just over 800 people arriving or departing daily.
There is considerable room for improvement. Unfortunately, it has not been a good week for KeolisAmey. The aftermath of Storm Callum and overrunning engineering works blighted Monday. Many trains ran late on Friday. The line is closed this weekend for engineering works.
Transport for Wales and KeolisAmey are promising considerable improvements.
The Cardiff to Holyhead service will use refurbished Mark 4 coaches pulled by diesel units.
The Milford Haven to Manchester service will get new CAF Civity diesel multiple units.
These trains will be introduced between July 2021 and May 2022, along with additional services such as direct services to Liverpool. Transport for Wales is promising of fare reductions between Leominster and Shrewsbury and a Community Rail Partnership on the Crewe to Hereford line. Smart ticketing will be introduced across the network, and through the extension of free travel to under-11s with half-price fares for 16 to 18-year-olds. Passengers will be able to claim compensation after a 15-minute delay, not 30 minutes as at present.
The new franchise, worth £5 billion over 15-years, has had a low-key start. The Transport for Wales brand is being rolled out and references to Arriva Train Wales scrubbed out.
It looks like being a while before we see significant improvements. They can’t come quickly enough for me.
. Network Rail uses a different performance measure to rank train operators. A long distance train arriving at its destination within ten minutes is considered on time, as is a commuter train arriving within five minutes. On this measure, Arriva Train Wales is above average. That includes all its services. My analysis relates to the trains that serve Ludlow station.