(Title Image: via Twitter)
As of this coming Sunday (14th October 2018), Arriva Trains Wales will be no more. Taking its place is the partnership between Transport for Wales and Keolis Amey.
I’ve got to say from the outset that Arriva – ultimately owned by the German Government since 2010 – are largely blameless for many of the problems that have befallen Welsh rail passengers since 2003.
Putting aside Arriva’s motivations for agreeing to the franchise’s “no growth” terms in the first place (*cough* guaranteed profits at the state’s expense *cough*) , they’ve performed near miracles to put out the service that they did. Their engineers deserve medals just for keeping the trains going (I’m not joking and I’m tempted to put in a tongue-in-cheek nomination for a St Davids Day award) and the frontline staff have undeservedly had to face the full force of public outrage whenever things are less than perfect….something that happens infequently, but when it does is usually really bad.
Nevertheless, I’m sure we’re all going to miss the clapped out Leyland buses on rails screeching around every-bloody-corner, the inability to properly predict engineering works during major events, the year-on-year price increases, the never-ending search for a parking space, not being able to find space for a bike, not being able to use through tickets with buses….
…except all of those things are still going to be with us for the foreseeable future.
It’s understandable that, as Wales has endured 15-years of tearing-our-hair-out frustration at an idiotic “no growth” franchise (thanks again, UK Government), we’re chomping at the bit for improvements from day one.
It’s not going to happen.
The much-loathed Pacers are still going to be with us for another 14-15 months at the very least and it’ll probably be 2022-2023 before any of us set foot on one of the brand new trains the franchise has ordered.
While the station improvement programme and schedule changes are ambitious and long overdue, some aspects of it will have to go through extensive planning processes before anything happens. It’s also unclear yet if there’s even enough trains to go around in order for service improvements (like extra Sunday trains) to start.
The South Wales Metro, at present, is nothing more than a re-branding exercise and it’ll still be a few years before the vision is fully realised. There’s also always the prospect of another UK Government brainfart from one of the least competent ministers in modern British political history – unmatchable “Reverse Midas” (everything he touches turns to shit), Chris Grayling.
The hard work starts this week, during a notoriously difficult time of year for the rail industry and with the Autumn Rugby Internationals just around the corner. For simple PR reasons it’ll have to go off without a hitch, but you can already predict what the headlines will be at the first sign of trouble.
Celebrate if you want, but while there may well be a glorious new dawn for rail transport in Wales at some point, the Sun’s only just coming up over the horizon.