Rolling stock indications

We are working to better understand the plans from Transport for Wales for the new or upgraded rolling stock on our lines. We already know that the class 175 trains used on the Cardiff Manchester routes are to be refurbished and branded, and will continue for some years until the delivery of new stock.The uncertainty remains about what will happen to the class 150 and 153 trains that are used on the Heart of Wales line, and are integrated with our daily shuttle Shrewsbury to Crewe services. When will these be replaced and with what? We are aware that 12 class 170s trains are in the process of being transferred from Greater Anglia. Will some of these come to the HOWL? We have some general and wide ranging comments and these are reproduced here below. We will continue to press TfW for further details.

As you know we are rapidly approaching the end of our first year as Transport for Wales, operating passenger services around the Wales and Borders network. Facing what was in no doubt an incredibly challenging autumn last year we are pleased to say that things have improved considerably since then with performance figures bearing that out with us regularly amongst the best in Britain for PPM and right time punctuality.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that we continue to operate one of the oldest fleets of trains in the country. This is due largely to the terms of the previous Wales and Borders contract which predicted zero growth in passenger numbers over a 15-year period, meaning there was no allowance made to introduce additional, newer trains. The Welsh Government have made it a key priority to address the in our franchise with orders placed for a significant number of new trains. By 2023 we expect 95 ser cent of all journeys to be on a brand-new train, with overall capacity greatly increased.

In the interim this year represents one of significant change for us. The requirement for all trains to meet PRIM TSi by the end of the year has affected us more than most train operators due to the age of our feet. These accessibility modifications are something we are fully committed to and we are passionate about building a railway that is accessible to everyone regardless of any disability or mobility limitations they may experience.

Significant investment is being made to ensure our 150, 158 and 153 fleets all comply. Our 175s already meet the requirements. However our Pacer fleet of Class 142 and 143 units which predominantly serve the Core Valley Lines around south east Wales and our Mk 3 coaches, known as the Gerald service, will not be upgraded and are due to be replaced.

We have placed a number of orders to replace these units, of which I will summarise below:

Class 170s – an excellent mid to long distance train used by many operators around the UK including Cross Country and West Midlands Trains (through Shrewsbury). We have ordered 12 of these who are shortly to arrive to serve on the Maesteg to Cheltenham and Ebbw Vale routes These are progressing well and will allow us to cascade a number of units onto other routes. We expect the majority of these to be in service by the end of the year. We understand that the first has been delivered and staff training has started.

Class 769s – A modified train built from a Class 319 unit previously used by Thameslink. An initial order for five was placed during the latter part of the previous franchise and we have taken up the option for a further four units from a rolling stock provider. These are all four carriage trains, which would give us 36 additional carriages in total. Disappointingly, the project has seen a number of delays in delivery, however we are working closely with the supplier to bring them into service as soon as possible. These would initially serve the Rhymney line, again allowing other trains to cascade around the network.

MK 4 coaches – An order for 12 coaches has been placed to replace and extend the Mk 3 Gerald service between north and south Wales. These are due to be received later this year.

Class 230s – A project run by Viva Rail fully refurbishing ex London underground stock. As a brand-new project this is something very exciting for the rail industry. Currently a small number of the units are in service on the Bedford to Bletchley routes in England with another train operator, but we are still awaiting delivery of our first unit of five on order. These are planned to serve the Wrexham to Bidston, Conwy Valley and Crewe to Chester routes. We are confident of receiving some of these before the end of the year.

Class 153s – A unit we already operate around our network, we have, to date, taken delivery of five of these from GWR. Incredibly versatile, they can run as single carriage units on quieter routes, or coupled together with other 153s, 150s, 158s and even Pacers. We are currently identifying additional units of this class in the event of delays in any of the above projects.

The introduction of any new class of train to a network is a great undertaking and requires close working with suppliers, Network Rail, and our trade union partners to ensure they are safe, compliant and fit for purpose. In addition, their introduction would be coupled with significant train crew, fleet maintenance, operational control and train planning training to ensure we get the best out of the new units and keep them as reliable as possible for our customers.

Given the significant number of new trains set to join our network, there is a lot of work that needs to take place to ensure their long-term success. Recently the Department for Transport has acknowledged that a small number of trains in Britain will continue into next year without being fully compliant with the PRM conditions. While this is not something we would wish to see, we have to acknowledge the need for a contingency plan should any of the above projects experience delays. As such we are working closely with the Department for Transport and other industry partners to ensure a smooth transition which has as little impact on customers as possible.


As mentioned earlier, we experienced an incredibly challenging autumn period last year with a number of our trains suffering damage whilst in service, reducing our capacity greatly. Since then a joint taskforce has been established with Network Rail to identify key areas for improvement to prevent a similar situation this year. All of our Class 150 fleet are currently being fitted with Wheel Slip Protection, a form of ABS for trains, which we expect to greatly reduce the impact of wheel flats when there is low adhesion on the rails. We are also developing an auto sanding process so the trains can spread sand on the track to improve traction when conditions are icy. These measures coupled with significant vegetation management by our partners in Network Rail, should go a long way in improving conditions this year.

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