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‘Not correct’ to blame Arriva Trains Wales for Transport for Wales disruption

Tom Joyner
Image caption Tom Joyner said it was one of the smoothest franchise handovers he had ever seen

Arriva Trains Wales was not to blame for last year’s disruption on the rail network, its former managing director has said.

Officials and ministers had criticised the firm’s maintenance record after scores of trains were cancelled by new operator Transport for Wales.

Tom Joyner said the former franchise had put “huge” work into handing the trains over.

One AM said the criticism did not ring true after Mr Joyner’s comments.

Transport for Wales, which took over Arriva’s network last October, cancelled scores of services because repairs were needed on a quarter of the services’ trains.

Mr Joyner made the comments at a session of the assembly’s economy committee on Wednesday.

At the meeting Bill Kelly of Network Rail, which maintains much of the network’s infrastructure, apologised for “unacceptable performance”.

Transport for Wales (TfW) chief executive James Price said in November that “the fleet as a whole was not maintained quite as well as it could have been“.

Image caption Arriva took over the Wales and Borders franchise in 2003, and ran it until October last year

Ken Skates, transport minister, had told the same committee in 2018 that “the actual maintenance of the vehicles, it’s quite clear, was carried out to a very minimal standard, based on the contract”.

But Mr Joyner denied that maintenance was poor, telling AMs that “huge amounts of work were put in 2018 to handover in a good position”.

Mr Joyner said: “We were determined to hand the franchise over in a really professional way to Transport for Wales.”

“It’s absolutely not correct to suggest that the disruption later was down to the way the franchise was handed over.

“This was… one of the smoothest franchise handovers that I’ve seen.”

Last year Mr Price told AMs there had been an “initial kind of bust-up” over access to Arriva’s trains, before the handover in October.

But Mr Joyner said TfW had been invited weekly to Arriva’s Canton depot – and told AMs that such a disagreement had not been mentioned.

“Not once, ever, during the run-up to October 14 was anything mentioned of a bust-up”.

“I was surprised to hear that,” he added.

Image caption Network Rail’s Bill Kelly apologised to the public for the disruption

Bethan Sayed, a Plaid Cymru AM who attended the committee said: “What I’m failing to understand is who was to blame and who was going to take accountability for what happened.

“We heard from Arriva Trains Wales today that they felt they had done everything in their capacity to do as well as they could.

“Whereas we heard from the minister before the Christmas recess that actually Arriva did not perform as well as they would have liked.

“But that doesn’t seem to be ringing true from the evidence today.”

She said Mr Skates should be brought back to the committee “to ask him to clarify those views”.

During Wednesday’s session Mr Kelly apologised to the public “for what is clearly an unacceptable performance over the autumn period”.

“There were a number of issues that contributed to what was clearly that unacceptable performance,” he said.

“Passengers are not interested in excuses. They want action, they want to understand.”

He said “the future fitment of wheel slip protection” – similar to ABS brakes on cars and which helps improve the grip of a wheel to a train track – “will be a key factor in improving performance as we go forward”.

Mr Price, who reappeared at committee on Wednesday, said in future all trains will have wheel slip protection.

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