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Commuters to face two more years of crowding.

Byline: RUTH MOSALSKI Local Government Reporter

COMMUTERS will face overcrowding on streched train services in Wales for at least two years, one of the nation's leading transport experts has warned. Professor Stuart Cole said there was no easy or quick resolution to the lack of rolling stock that has left commuters on some key morning and evening services, mainly in south east Wales, livid at overcrowding and cancellations. Prof Cole, of the University of South Wales, said the only solution to overcrowding is more trains but that is likely to take a minimum of two years because of the lack of available diesel trains in the UK, where the bulk of lines are electrified.

He said: "There is no immediate solution to overcrowding unless some trains become available."

He said older diesel trains would only become available when newer trains were brought in on routes like the Great Western line.

He added: "We know that Great Western have new trains coming from Japan and they will gradually be tested and put into service. We will see them operating in the next year. They could be operating in Cardiff in the next year and they will replace the Intercity 125 but those trains can only be used on certain routes.

"They can't be used on the Valley lines because they are the wrong size and shape, they are too long. But there is a possibility, if the trains are available they can do the long-distance work like Carmarthen to Manchester and Aberystwyth to Manchester, so the trains currently on those routes could be used for the Valley lines."

However, he said a lot of the Great Western trains were already set to be leased to Scottish rail companies. He said Wales was competing with both Scotland and Newcastle for replacement diesel trains.

Prof Cole said: "They are undoubtedly looking at trains which are becoming available in different parts of the UK which could be used on the long distance routes and then take those existing trains from the long distance routes to the South Wales and Valley lines.

"Over the next two years, there will be trains which become available from the rolling stock companies."

But, some of those will be electric, rather than the required diesel trains, but there are "all sorts of possibilities" of adapting them. He said when the franchise was awarded to Arriva Trains Wales in 2003, it was "flawed from the start".

Prof Cole said the rolling stock used by the company was now 40 years old and liable to need extensive maintenance.

He said: "They should have been scrapped 20 years ago but they haven't been. The trains are old and therefore not able to perform in the way of a newer train. They were designed as buses and put on the track as a quick way to improve capacity. There was no additional rolling stock either so the franchise was going to run until, eventually, the trains became unusable."

He said that rapid growth in demand since 2006 had put even more pressure on the old rolling stock. The train operator regularly feels the wrath of commuters fed up of trains which are too busy, British trains are owned by rolling stock companies. There are three in the UK and they lease them to train operators. New trains have to enter the chain somewhere to free up others.

He said, realistically, it would be at least two years before any new rolling stock was likely to find its way to South Wales.

It is possible for Arriva Trains Wales to hire trains for large events from Great Western Railway as it runs fewer services at the weekend but that is only of limited assistance.

And, Prof Cole pointed out, new trains are only so much use unless Cardiff Central is expanded to cope with more services.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 18, 2016
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