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Train services continue to be affected in aftermath of storm of Storm Arwen

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Storm Arwen had a major impact on rail services over the weekend and services will continue to be affected this week.

Speed restrictions were in place across much of the network across the weekend with wind speeds of up to 90mph in some parts of Wales.

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The extreme weather throughout Friday night and early Saturday morning resulted in damage to overhead line equipment and fallen trees and debris landing on the track creating a hazard for trains.

Network Rail worked throughout the weekend to reopen as much of the network as possible by Monday morning. However, where TfW trains have run over debris, they need to be returned to the depot for safety checks and to be repaired, and this will impact rail services this week.

TfW is encouraging all customers to check before they travel using https://journeycheck.com/tfwrail

Work continues on clearing debris on the railway following Storm Arwen (Image: Transport for Wales)

Jan Chaudhry-Van der Velde, Managing Director of TfW Rail said: “Storm Arwen had a major impact on rail services over the weekend with many lines closed by fallen trees and other obstructions.  This caused damage to a number of our trains, and our fleet engineers have worked through the weekend checking the damage and repairing rolling stock in our depots. 

“It will take some time to complete all the repairs, and this will have an impact on train services in the meantime.  I would encourage customers to check before travel for the latest updates.

Rachel Heath, Operations Manager at Network Rail Wales & Borders, said: “Our teams have been working around the clock to clear-up the aftermath of Storm Arwen. It’s thanks to their hard work, in very challenging conditions, that we managed to re-open most lines by Monday morning.

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“Once again, it is a reminder of the challenges we face on the railway during periods of extreme weather.”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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Transport for Wales

£40m refurbishment of TFW’s long-distance trains now complete

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Transport for Wales (TfW) has announced the completion of work to refurbish its fleet of Class 175 long-distance trains.

Train manufacturer Alstom has been working to refurbish the 27 Coradia trains at their Technology Centre in Widnes, Cheshire, as part of TfW’s £40 million investment in its current fleet of trains.

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Since the first train re-entered service in the summer of 2019, customers have been benefiting from improved facilities, including USB and electric charging points, brand new toilet seats, re-covered seats, new carpets and new interior fittings. The trains have also been rebranded on the outside with TfW’s grey and red livery.

The Class 175s form the backbone of TfW’s express services, operating services across the Wales and Borders network through South, North and West Wales and the Borders. The refresh of these trains is one part of TfW’s £40 million refurbishment programme – work to refurbish the Class 153 and 158 fleets is nearing completion, and work is also ongoing to refurbish the Class 150 Sprinter trains.

TfW are also investing over £800 million on a fleet of brand new trains, which will begin to enter service across the Wales and Borders network later in 2022.

TfW Class 175 Train (Image: Transport for Wales)

Stuart Mills, TfW’s Fleet Engineering Manager, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to deliver these improvements for customers, which they rightly expect to see on a modern railway network. We know being able to travel in comfort and charge devices on the go are incredibly important to our customers, whether they are travelling for 20 minutes or four hours, for business or pleasure.

“While we are building brand new trains, they take time to build and we want our customers to have a comfortable experience right now. So the completion of this extensive work is another major step to building a better railway for current and future generations.”

TfW Class 175 train at train manufacturer Alstom’s depot (Image: Transport for Wales)

Peter Broadley, Alstom’s Managing Director, Services said: “It’s great news for TfW and its customers that we have completed the refurbishment of the entire Coradia fleet as planned, and its a tribute to the hard work and professionalism of our team at Widnes, and Chester where the trains are maintained.”

David Jordan, Chief Operating Officer of Angel Trains, said: “After almost three years, it is brilliant to see our final Class 175 unit fully refurbished and ready to get back on tracks. It has been a pleasure to work alongside our industry partners to refurbish this fleet, working together to deliver modern trains that are fit for all TfW passengers.”

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(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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Charity

Look out for a loved one this Blue Monday say Samaritans Cymru

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Today marks Blue Monday, supposedly the most difficult day of the year, but the leading suicide prevention charity says feeling low can happen on any day of the year and that we need to be aware of how the pandemic is increasing those feelings amongst many of us.

As pandemic uncertainties continue, Samaritans Cymru is encouraging people to get their mugs out and share a drink with a friend, neighbour or colleague who may be struggling to cope. 

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Although winter is thought to be one of the harder seasons with dark days and frosty nights, Samaritans volunteers hear similar concerns all year round from those that contact the charity. The main concerns include mental health and illness (46%), family (34%) and loneliness (28%)*. 

National treasure Dame Julie Walters joins faces from TV and comedy, including James Acaster and Keith Lemon, and talented artists across the UK to encourage people to have a cuppa and a chat with someone they care about for Samaritans Brew Monday. 

Samaritans Ambassador Dame Julie Walters thinks people can really make a difference to someone’s day just by asking if they are OK. She said: “People go through a range of emotions throughout the year so the idea of feeling blue on one day is a load of rubbish. I’ve had my fair share of blue days and have found solace in speaking to loved ones over a glass of something or two. 

“It is a simple action that can go a long way, particularly now when so many people continue to feel isolated and lonely. It doesn’t have to be Monday, or a cuppa, connecting with someone at any time during the year shows them you are there and ready to listen.” 

Talented artists who have experience of mental health struggles, including Cardiff-based Nathan Wyburn of Britain’s Got Talent fame,  have also lent their paintbrushes and pencils by creating uplifting illustrations that share a message of connection with others over a cup of something and a catch up. 

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Nathan Wyburn has had his own mental health struggles and anxiety which at times stalled his creativity, but he credits the power of talking in his recovery. Nathan is known for creating art with food, including portraits of Mariah Carey and Tim Peake, so for Brew Monday Nathan created an uplifting portrait showing two people connecting, made with coffee and biscuits. Nathan said: 

“Having suffered with anxiety, panic attacks and bouts of depression for many years, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to do anything in those moments, let alone talk – but take it from me, once you open up about how you’re feeling, it can be life-changing. I’m so proud to be supporting Brew Monday and really hope my coffee art catches someone’s eye and makes them think to pick up the phone to a friend. You never know just how much a simple conversation could help someone.”  

Samaritans Cymru continues to highlight how the pandemic has widened inequalities in Wales in order to tackle the prevalence of suicide. Living in poverty, job insecurity and loneliness and isolation are all social issues which have risen during the pandemic but it is important to recognize these are all risk factors for suicide. Reaching out to those around us and asking how they are over a cup of tea or coffee, could actually be a lifesaver, 

With support from Network Rail, Transport for Wales and the wider rail industry, Samaritans will have a presence at train stations across Wales throughout January, supporting key workers and those who are travelling, providing tea bags and tips on how to be a better listener, along with their helpline details.

Bethan Jelfs, People & Change Director at Transport for Wales said: “We’re proud to once again be supporting Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign at stations across Wales to help spread the message that it is important everyone reaches out to check on family and friends and also takes time to look after their own mental health.  With almost two years of Covid-related restrictions, which has impacted on some people more than others, this vital awareness campaign is needed more than ever.”

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Krista Sexton, Head of Operational Risk at Network Rail added: “We’re proud to support Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign as it provides a simple but effective way for us to reach out to our railway colleagues and loved ones who might be needing a little extra support. The past two years, during the pandemic, have been difficult on many people’s mental health but, we know, not everybody always wants to share their concerns. 

This poignant campaign reminds us to stop and listen and encourage those struggling to open up and have a chat over a cup of tea.” 

Lead image: Samaritans volunteer has a virtual catch up for Brew Monday. (Image: Abbie Trayler-Smith)

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Carmarthenshire

Report into Llangennech train crash critical of rail industry’s approach to maintenance of freight wagons

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The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has published a report into the derailment and fire of a tanker train at Llangennech in Carmarthenshire on 26 August 2020.

The report outlines a number of recommendations, with criticism of the rail industry’s approach to maintenance of freight wagons in the UK.

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At around 11.04pm on 26 August 2020 a freight train carrying 25 tankers filled with fuel from Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire travelling to Theale near Reading, derailed near Llangennech in Carmarthenshire.

The derailment and the consequent damage to the wagons resulted in a significant spillage of fuel and a major fire. The driver, who was unhurt, reported the accident to the signaller. The RAIB report says subsequent examination of the site found that ten wagons (positioned third to twelfth in the train) had derailed, and that around 446,000 litres of fuel had escaped.

The spilled fuel caused major damage to the environment in an area which is both a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a special area of conservation (SAC), including cockle beds, natural tidal mud flats and wetlands.

Aerial view of the Llangennech derailment (Image: Network Rail)

The RAIB say the derailment occurred because one set of wheels on the third wagon in the train stopped rotating during the journey. The wheelset had become locked, probably because of a defect in the braking system on the third wagon, arising from deficiencies in the design and maintenance of components.

The sliding of the locked wheel along the railhead caused damage to the profile of the wheel treads. This meant that the wheels were unable to safely negotiate Morlais Junction, near Llangennech, damaging the pointwork and causing the third wagon to become derailed.

The following wagons derailed on the damaged track. Some of the derailed tank wagons were ruptured in the accident, and the spilling fuel ignited.

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Around 300 residents were evacuated from their homes by emergency services the night of the incident, due to the extent of the fire, which took firefighters almost two days to extinguish. 

An extensive environmental recovery operation followed, led by Natural Resources Wales. Six months later, 30,000 tonnes of fuel-soaked soil had been excavated from beneath more than 150 metres of railway track – preventing lasting environmental impact and protecting the local landscape.

The railway re-opened in March 2021, following the installation of brand-new track and signalling equipment damaged in the incident. 

The aftermath of the freight train derailment at Llangennech (Image: Network Rail)

Recommendations

RAIB has made nine recommendations. These cover a review of the actions taken by the owner of the wagons following this and previous accidents, and improvements to the maintenance processes at the locations where the wagons involved in the accident are maintained and overhauled. The probable failure mode of the braking system and the lessons learned from reconstruction tests have led to a recommendation to the manufacturer of some of the braking system components to undertake a review of their design.

A recommendation has been made to the organisations who carry out surveillance and certification of entities in charge of maintenance of rail freight vehicles to review their processes.

A further two recommendations have been made to improve the management of wagon maintenance on the railways in Great Britain, and to review the technology and systems used to alert traincrew, signallers and railway control offices to wagon defects that may lead to derailment.

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The final recommendation is for a review of the arrangements for regulatory oversight of entities in charge of maintenance and certification bodies that are not based in the UK.

The aftermath of the train derailment at Llangennech (Image: RAIB)

Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents said: “Trains carrying dangerous goods play an important role in the UK economy, but the risks which their operation presents must be adequately controlled. The consequences when things go wrong can be disastrous, as we saw at Llangennech in August 2020. Thankfully no one was hurt, but people were evacuated from their homes and the damage, both to the environment and to people’s livelihoods, will take years to put right. The accident also closed the railway line for more than six months whilst the railway was being rebuilt and engineers worked to minimise the damage to the local environment.

“The rail industry’s approach to the safe maintenance of freight wagons needs to improve. In this investigation we found that there were inadequate maintenance practices, and a failure to appreciate the importance of the correct fastening of the various components of the tanks wagons’ braking system. This is not the first time that we have investigated an accident where RAIB has identified serious issues with the maintenance of a freight train. Over the last decade we have identified deficient wagon maintenance as a factor in more than ten investigations, including maladjusted suspension, undetected frame twist and worn bogie pivot liners.

“In our report we have recommended a review of the technology and systems currently being used in the UK and other European countries to identify how improvements can be made to the railway’s ability to detect a wagon defect that may lead to a derailment, such as dragging brakes. The smarter use of track side technology to warn the railway that a train is endangering its infrastructure is a familiar RAIB theme; some of our previous investigations have urged the greater use of wheel impact load detection data to identify uneven wheel loads. RAIB would like to see more work in this area focused on how track side systems could be used to reliably detect dragging brakes, but also, how such data can be used in an intelligent way to benefit both real-time operations and fleet maintenance management.

“The majority of our recommendations following our extensive investigation of the derailment at Llangennech relate to improved maintenance processes for freight wagons. The widest ranging of these urges the freight sector, in conjunction with Network Rail, to develop a comprehensive programme of measures designed to promote the improvement of freight wagon maintenance in the UK. This is intended to be a collaborative effort, which is appropriate given the potential benefits of better information sharing across the sector.

“I would like to stress the importance of getting this right. It’s time that freight wagon maintenance practices were subject to careful examination and for the industry to think through the way that it can best deliver on its legal and moral obligation to present wagons that are fit to operate through the nation’s towns and cities. The prize for getting this right is improved safety, better reliability and compliance with the freight sector’s legal obligations – and all at a reasonable cost.

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“Since RAIB has been concerned about the quality of freight wagon maintenance for many years, I welcome the actions that ORR has taken to reinforce its supervision of entities in charge of maintenance. This will provide improved visibility of maintainers’ important work and verify the extent to which the important role of ECMs is properly understood and applied across the UK freight sector, and the adequacy of surveillance undertaken by certification bodies (whether based in the UK or in the EU).

“I have been struck by the extent to which the safe condition of freight wagons is critically dependent on people being given the tools and training they need to do a difficult job, very often in dark, wet and cold working conditions. So, I urge freight operators and maintainers to think carefully about the people who do the hands-on work, and the things that could be done to develop the capability of the work force.”

A year on from the derailment, agencies who worked on the extensive recovery action, came together to unveil a plaque to thank the local community.

(Lead image: RAIB)

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