Birthday Presents

Transport for Wales branded cupcake
Birthday cake: tasty treat at Machynlleth station handed out on the first day of the new rail franchise.
A year ago today, I was heading out of Wales for a holiday in Scotland. The day before, Saturday, I had marked the end of Arriva Trains Wales with a short ride from Fishguard & Goodwick to Fishguard Harbour. The day’s stormy weather meant that I gave up on the idea of heading to Carmarthen.

Lloyds Coaches double-decker bus on rail-replacement duty for Transport for Wales Rail Services
Lloyds Coaches double-decker LC62WYN at Shrewsbury replacing trains from Machynlleth on the first day of TfW’s franchise.
Sunday’s journey to Scotland would therefore be my first journey on KeolisAmey’s new ‘Transport for Wales Rail Services’ franchise. Unfortunately the weather had resulted in a line closure between Machynlleth and Shrewsbury, meaning my experience of the operator’s first day was a lengthy rail replacement bus ride. My train onwards from Shrewsbury was a Virgin Trains Super Voyager to Euston, where I joined the Caledonian sleeper to the highlands.

The new operator found themselves in a crisis after Arriva Trains Wales’ stormy last day was followed by a spate of wheel flats. Fast forward a year, and Transport for Wales Rail Services appears to have largely recovered from that. However, a large part of their fleet is still not compliant with the regulations concerning accessibility for Persons of Reduced Mobility (PRM). The deadline for PRM compliance, at the end of December, is now looming large.

175107 (reduced to 2 coaches) in TfW livery at Chester
Another shortage: 175107 was wrapped in vinyl livery to launch the new franchise. It is supposed to be a 3-car unit, unfortunately the centre coach caught fire in February forcing TfW to temporarily reduce the set to 2 coaches, as seen here.
At any one time a number of units, at least one each from classes 150, 153 and 158, have therefore been away being modified for PRM compliance. This has been the case for much of the year and is leaving the Wales & Borders network short of trains. Recently the class 175 units have also been visiting the works, one at a time, for a repaint and interior refresh. The class 769 units intended to help replace the class 142 and class 143 Pacer trains have largely failed to materialise; two have been stuck in Cardiff Canton depot for some time unable to leave it.

Class 37 at Barrow In Furness station
Mulling It Over: returning from Scotland last year, I detoured via Barrow-In-Furness where I captured this photo of 37403 ‘Isle Of Mull’. Similar traction is now in use for Rhymney commuters.
Partial relief is however coming on-stream. Two sets of mark 2 carriages have been leased to provide extra capacity on peak time Rhymney services and five class 153s have arrived from Great Western Railway. One of these was almost immediately sent away to become the first ever PRM-compliant class 153. It has recently returned ready to enter service in and around Wales, an early birthday present for Transport for Wales Rail Services.

Class 170 DMU number 170272 at Ely station
Birthday Present: this is 170272 at Ely in April 2017. This unit is now reported to be in Wales.
The other ‘presents’ being received are class 170 units from Greater Anglia, several of these have already arrived in Cardiff and may well have headed out on staff training duties by the time you read this. Also likely to join from Greater Anglia are a number of class 153s, which the leasing company are reported to have offered as compensation for the delayed class 769s. Finally, delivery of at least one rake of mark 4 coaches cascaded from LNER is hoped to occur by the end of the year.

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