Ogmore Assembly Member Huw Irranca-Davies has hailed an exciting transformative new Wales and Borders rail service that will put passenger interests right at the heart of the operation.
KeolisAmey are the new providers and will take over the operation of the service from Arriva in October of this year, underpinning a transport revolution in Wales that will see £5 billion investment to transform rail services across Wales.
Highlights of the deal include: more frequent trains; reduced journey times; more flexible fares; and a £1.9 billion investment into improving passengers’ travel experience, including an £800 million investment in trains, boosting overall service capacity by 65 per cent and much, much more.
Speaking after the announcement the Assembly Member stated:
“I have no doubt people right across the length and breadth of Wales will be welcoming the details of this new franchise. Here in Ogmore alone we have campaigned for over a decade to see rail service improvements on the Maesteg line, particularly a Sunday service and increased frequency of trains.
The recent Welsh Government statement now makes clear that the Maesteg Sunday service will begin early in the new operator contract, in December 2019. Our campaigning and lobbying has indeed paid off. This is to be welcomed, and this early start has been a key part of my discussions with Welsh Government in the 2 years since I have been the Assembly Member for Ogmore.
The ongoing work on increased frequency along the Maesteg line (and beyond) has been the subject of intense engagement between Welsh Government, Network Rail, Transport for Wales and the current operator Arriva. This again has been a direct result of our campaigning, and by our regularly pressing Ministers to bring forward improvements. It was never anticipated that this could be delivered on the same timescale, as the increased frequency service is more reliant on Network Rail than any new operator. Work to bring forward options on the most cost-effective option (some of the more costly options require significant investment in engineering/infrastructure) continue at pace, and as such I am encouraged by the continuing commitment to bring forward the right option for increasing the frequency on this line as outlined in the Welsh Government statement.
On some of the wider issues: the incorporation of Bridgend into the wider South Wales Metro, including the enhancements and increased frequency on the Vale lines are of direct benefit to the Bridgend area. Likewise, the station upgrades and improved rolling stock across the network are of huge benefit, along with other system-wide improvements.
Discussions on the proposal for a “Bridgend Hub” will continue, as I believe – as does Bridgend County Borough Council – that this offers real potential for an integrated system of public transport linking our valleys into the wider network. However, Bridgend is recognised in the new contract as a key station and we look forward to detailed announcements on the upgrading work which will follow.
Council Leader Huw David and I already have meetings arranged with the new operator and Transport for Wales to take forward the main improvements (the Sunday service and increased frequency) but also to discuss other proposals such as the Bridgend Hub and development of Bridgend station. We are also meeting within the next few weeks with the Cabinet Secretary.
It is important to realise – as the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy has made clear – is that this contract is far different from the previous franchise arrangements, in that there is scope in this new contract to build upon the initial announcements. Rather than being locked into a rigid agreement for the years ahead, we have scope to develop these proposals to make a genuinely integrated transport network which works for all parts of Wales.
I and others will continue to work for constant improvements to our transport network. I hope these successful outcomes demonstrate that. When others were saying there was no hope, in Ogmore we didn’t give up!”