Brand new trains that aim to transform services across Wales and the English borders have been on show today at Chester railway station.
Assembled by CAF at their factory in Newport, the first Class 197 train with its ‘Made in Wales’ tag was revealed to the public today (Friday 1 July), offering a taste of what’s to come for customers in the next few months.
TfW are spending £800 million on new trains throughout their network and the Class 197 will be the first of the brand-new stock to enter service in North Wales before the end of this year.
Providing an increase in capacity, reduced emissions and enhanced comfort onboard, these trains will allow TfW to run faster and more frequent services to key routes including services in South West Wales – Manchester to Milford Haven, Cardiff to Fishguard and Swansea to Pembroke Dock.
Offering leather seats, modern air conditioning systems, wider doors and customer information screens, the new trains will transform the customer experience. They’ve also been fitted with electronic charging points and disability features for those with limited mobility.
The Deputy Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “I am pleased to welcome the new Class 197 trains to the rail network. These new vehicles represent a real transformational improvement on the trains that they will be replacing, providing comfortable and frequent services, encouraging people to leave their cars behind and move onto a more sustainable form of transport.”
Alexia Course, TfW’s Director of Transport Operations, said: “At Transport for Wales we’re continually moving forward with our transformational plans to improve public transport for the people of Wales and the borders.
“The Class 197s on show at Chester railway station today will be an important part of the transformation of the Wales and Borders network, and when they enter service, they will enable us to run more services and carry more customers in comfort.
“The construction of our new trains has been four years in the making, and customers and colleagues are incredibly excited to welcome passengers onto them from later this year.
“It’s also important to recognise that these trains have been made in Wales at the CAF factory in Newport and the building of them has provided jobs and supported the local economy”.
Richard Garner, UK Director CAF said: “CAF is thrilled that the first of our Class 197 trains for the Wales and Borders network has been officially launched.
“We are immensely proud of our key role in delivering Transport for Wales’ vision to transform rail travel for passengers.
“The manufacture of our trains is taking place at our state-of-the-art facility in Newport, South Wales. We see ourselves as a local manufacturer, supporting highly skilled jobs and bringing employment opportunities to the local area whilst focusing on sustainability issues and addressing the needs of the Welsh economy.
Our trains are being built in Wales to serve the Welsh communities”
(Lead image: Transport for Wales)
Rail services to be severely affected this week as strike action looms
The National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) has announced strike action will take place on Wednesday 27 July, and train drivers’ union, ASLEF, has announced its members will strike on Saturday 30 July.
Great Western Railway (GWR) have said that none of its rail services will operate on the South Wales main line between Carmarthen, Swansea and Cardiff Central.
Transport for Wales (TfW) say they are not involved in either dispute but its services will be affected, particularly on the 27 July, when the majority of services on the Wales and Borders network will be suspended.
Apart from core valley lines services, the only TfW services operating will be a Cardiff to Newport shuttle, with one train operating hourly in each direction, between 07:30 and 18:30 hours.
Due to the shift patterns of Network Rail’s signallers and the significant challenges moving trains and crew to operate between strike days there is likely to be disruption on Thursday 28 July as well.
On Saturday 30 July, TfW will be running a full timetable but say services are likely be impacted by strike action at other train operating companies. This could result in short-notice cancellations and changes.
Services from Swansea to Newport are expected to be very busy due to the reduced Great Western Railways timetable.
Passengers are advised not to travel unless necessary.
Rail passengers in Wales warned to only travel if necessary ahead of soaring temperatures
People planning on travelling by train on Monday and Tuesday this week are being told to only travel if necessary due to record breaking temperatures.
The warning from Network Rail and Transport for Wales (TfW) comes as the Met Office issued a rare amber warning for extreme heat with temperatures expected to reach the high thirties in some parts of Wales on Monday and Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a red warning – meaning a risk to life – is in place for large parts of England, including the West Midlands and North West England.
The currently forecasted temperatures will see the introduction of speed restrictions on railway lines across the country to ensure the safe running of trains, which means journeys will take longer.
TfW has announced that services on routes within the areas covered by the red weather warning will be cancelled. These include travel between Shrewsbury and Birmingham, Chester and Liverpool, Chester and Manchester, Chester and Crewe, Crewe and Manchester and on the Conwy Valley Line.
Network Rail say their extreme weather action teams will be using track-side probes and mini weather stations installed around the network to monitor conditions and working closely with weather specialists to adapt plans.
Steel rails absorb heat easily and tend to be around 20 degrees above the surrounding air temperature. When steel becomes very hot it expands and rails can bend, flex and, in serious cases, buckle.
The overhead electric lines which power trains in some parts of the country are also susceptible to faults in extreme temperatures when the steel wires overheat, which can cause them to hang too low and increase the risk of getting caught on passing trains and knocking out the electricity supply.
TfW say they’re working to provide additional capacity on key services to avoid overcrowding, but services are expected to be very busy – particularly to coastal destinations such as the North Wales coast resorts, West Wales and Barry Island, along the Heart of Wales Line due to the Royal Welsh Show, and in South Wales due to university graduations in Cardiff and Swansea – and conditions onboard are likely to be very uncomfortable in the extreme weather.
They are also advising passengers to check before travelling in case of further changes to the timetable or on-the-day disruption. Passengers should not travel if they feel unwell, and should stay hydrated by taking a bottle of water while travelling. Free water refill points are available at Llandudno, Machynlleth and Cardiff Central stations
Nick Millington, acting route director at Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “Rail passengers in Wales should only travel if necessary on Monday and Tuesday as there may be delays and cancellations to train services due to the extreme heat we’re expecting.
“The wellbeing of our passengers is our first priority so we’re asking everyone who decides to travel to take time to prepare before leaving the house. Remember to bring a water bottle with you, along with whatever else you need to keep yourself well in the heat.
“Journeys will take significantly longer and delays are likely as speed restrictions are introduced to keep passengers and railway staff safe, so make sure to allow considerably more time to complete your journey and be prepared for very hot conditions.
“We’re working closely with MetDesk to monitor forecasts and adapt our plans, and with our train operator colleagues to make sure we can get passengers who need to travel to their destinations safely.”
Colin Lea, TfW’s Planning and Performance Director, said: “The extreme weather that we are set to see on 18 and 19 July is likely to pose a risk of serious illness or danger to life, particularly in the West Midlands and North West England where temperatures will be at their highest.
“We strongly advise customers to carefully consider whether their journey is necessary, check before travelling in case of changes to services, and allow more time for any journeys they need to make.”
(Lead image: Network Rail)
Transport for Wales completes refurbishment of ‘Class 153’ trains at Landore depot
Transport for Wales (TfW) has completed work to refurbish its fleet of Class 153 railcars.
The last two units rolled out of Chrysalis Rail’s Landore works in June with a fully refurbished interior, including accessible toilet facilities, recovered seats and renewed fittings, as well as being rebranded into TfW’s grey and red livery.
TfW’s Class 153 fleet has grown from eight units in 2018 to 26 units today, as it has sought to acquire additional rolling stock to increase capacity across the network for its customers.
TfW have now refurbished a total of 26 units, which currently operate on the Heart of Wales Line, routes in North and West Wales, and the Core Valley Lines to Rhymney, Coryton, the City Line and Cardiff Bay. A further four units have been purchased outright by TfW and are awaiting work to reconfigure them to provide enhanced cycle storage on the Heart of Wales Line.
Kieran Hickman, TfW’s Engineering Projects and Interface Manager, said: “It’s been a pleasure for us to manage this project despite the challenges we have faced over the last year.
“We’re delighted with the work that has been completed – it’s great to see the units gleaming in the summer sunshine! A big thank you to our colleagues at Chrysalis Rail for their hard work on this programme.”
Jerry Howells, TfW’s Head of Asset Management, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to deliver these improvements for customers, which they rightly expect to see on a modern railway network.
“The work on the Class 153 fleet has been an important part of our £40 million refurbishment programme, which has also included a refresh of the Class 175, 150 and 158 trains. We’re 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 this year.”
(Lead image: Transport for Wales)
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