Transport for Wales has recently upgrade its entire passenger fleet (TfW)

Wales faces radical rail review

Transport for Wales has recently upgrade its entire passenger fleet (TfW) Image from Transport fort Wales media

Rail services administered by Transport for Wales are simply unacceptable. That is the opinion of the nationalist leader in Wales, Mr Rhun ap Iorwerth. Speaking in the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff, he said there are serious issues with rail services run by Transport for Wales, the body appointed to administer transport operations by the devolved government. He claimed that damning figures revealed that four out of every ten trains in Wales is delayed, and the latest twelve months figures show a deteriorating picture.

The leader of the Welsh nationalist political party (Plaid Cymru) recently addressed the socialist First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, and asked when passenger in Wales can expect to see genuine and sustained improvements in the services run by the government’s agency. Drakeford, who represents the Labour Party in Wales, said that the challenges facing Transport for Wales mean that the service in some parts of Wales has not been of a standard that passengers are entitled to expect. Many Welsh people, regardless of their political persuasions, would say Mr Drakeford should actually have referred to “all parts” of Wales.

Unreliable passenger operations impact freight

Concerns are mounting over deteriorating rail travel standards and connectivity in Wales. Hopes of network expansion and regeneration are being thwarted by unreliability, changing work and life patterns, and all this amid an impending timetable review, which augers badly for hopes of overall service improvements. None of this is the sort of news Welsh industry nor the Welsh public have expected to hear from their recently nationalised rail service provider.

Freight train crosses a river bridge in Wales
Although Transport for Wales does not run freight services, any short comings in TfW operations can impact the sector. That’s a concern for operators who would like to expand into the territory. Network rail image.

Elected representatives and the public have expressed worries about unreliable services and lack of connections to the north of England, as Transport for Wales faces challenges in post-Covid travel patterns. Train travel in Wales has come under scrutiny as Transport for Wales (TfW) faces increasing concerns over the declining standard of domestic services and inadequate connections into other parts of the UK, particularly the north of England. Worries have also been voiced about the impact of unreliable passenger operations on freight services, especially in areas with constrained infrastructure.

Significant infrastructure investment required

Much of the recent development in Welsh rail freight traffic has come from the bulk flows in the north and mid-Wales regions. There are also hopes for expansion at the ferry port of Holyhead, and a reactivation of the moribund line to Amlwch, both served from the North Wales main line. Timber traffic from Aberystwyth has been a success story and could lead to more demand. However, the aftermath of Covid has caused “massive” changes to travel patterns, according to TfW, which has been forced to radically review its timetables. James Price, the Chief Executive of Transport for Wales, emphasised the need for a review, highlighting that the previous timetables, designed for a pre-Covid, world no longer align with the new normal of remote work and weekend leisure travel.

In a recent appearance in front of a panel of Members of the UK Parliament, Price assured MPs that this examination would not necessarily result in fewer services but rather aim to adapt to the evolving travel demands. It is however difficult to see how radical changes can be addressed without significant infrastructure investment throughout Wales, at the sort of level being afforded to the South Wales Metro project.

The Welsh nationalist political party, Plaid Cymru, leader Rhun ap Iorwerth in a pensive mood
The Welsh nationalist political party, Plaid Cymru, is concerned about shortcomings at Transport for Wales. Their leader Rhun ap Iorwerth has raised questions at Cardiff and London.

Concerns have been raised about the performance of services between north and south Wales, which have been labelled as “incredibly bad.” One exception is the Welsh Marches line, which connects Newport in South Wales and Shrewsbury, just over the English border in Shropshire. The authorities claim it is the only profitable service under the ownership of the Welsh government-operated TfW. This discrepancy underscores the urgency of finding sustainable solutions for the underperforming routes.

Rolling stock delays and TfW mistakes

During the sometimes heated hearing of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, MPs questioned Mr. Price about poor services and disruptions caused by the ongoing South Wales Metro project, which has faced increasing costs and delays. Originally funded at 738 million pounds (856 million euro), the Metro’s expenses have now exceeded one billion pounds (1.16 billion euro). Delays in obtaining new rolling stock have further complicated matters and negatively impacted service reliability. Addressing the challenges faced during line closures for Metro works, Price acknowledged that TfW made some mistakes, leading to underwhelming performance of replacement bus services. However, he assured the committee that TfW would be making necessary improvements to rectify these issues and enhance overall service quality.

In a significant setback for connectivity, TfW has dropped its plans to expand train services between North Wales and the North West of England. The operator had previously announced intentions to extend the Liverpool to Chester service to Llandudno, with an hourly train service. Additionally, plans were in place for one train per hour between Bangor and Manchester Airport, which would have positively impacted Llandudno, a popular resort on the north Wales coast. However, due to a shortage of new trains, these changes will not be implemented this December, disappointing commuters and businesses relying on improved connectivity.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for and

10 comments op “Wales faces radical rail review”

Joseph Bee|11.08.23|17:05

As usual all priority goes to South Wales.I used to work for network rail and have a privilege pass to travel on trains, but I will not travel between Bangor & Chester because of the over crowding on a two carriage train even in peak holiday season.
The North Wales coast will never get the funding when under Shrewsbury.

Peter Lewis|12.08.23|08:58

Twenty five years of Wales running our own affairs, In Health, Transport, Education, Police/Crime, Roads/ Highways, and Wales comes a very poor second when compared to the other nations in the UK. But there is one thing that we do excel at, and that is receiving Benefits with over 60% of our households receiving money from central government to feed our families,
The biggest complaint we hear regularly is “Wales compared to England is poor”, and with Labour in charge we will soon be poorer.

Allan Cureton|12.08.23|10:38

So nationalised railways,health services,buses,water, education is the answer to make things better according to labour supporters is it.Well after 23 years of labour government in Wales has proved yet again it does not work.Despite these massive labour failings the people of Wales keeps voting labour.Now Wales is faced with another 900 million pounds more of cuts.When will they ever learn.

Mike Mountjoy|12.08.23|12:29

I have just travelled back from Manchester on tfw train and found it massively overcrowded to the extent that at pontypool no passengers were picked up and left waiting for next train two carriages on this run on a weekend is not enough

Chris Campbell|12.08.23|14:44

Bring back British Rail. All is forgiven. TFW is a joke & the contract for all wales train travel should of been given to the Japanese company who bid for it. The Japanese have great pride & service on their trainlines. They would never have run the welsh train travel into the ground like it has. It would of brought great shame to their families & country if they did. I avoid taking the train since TFW took over. I thought Arriva was bad but TFW is much worse. I’m ashamed when tourists use it.

Mark Holland|12.08.23|15:11

Totally unacceptable.
The Service needs to be looked at from top down.Ministers have no idea how bad the service is, as they are not users.
Two carriages are totally inadequate, there should be a minimum of four
Ive used the Manchester piccadilli train from Cwmbran having to stand until Leominster.The 6 nations valleys train services are terrible, Rugby fans piling into two carriages with Saturday shopers.The term sardines in a can come to mind and surely a breach of health & safety.

Luke Davies|13.08.23|01:29

An appalling service which has failed miserably.The train costs are excessive and fail to bring people into the City centre. The usual lack of understanding and accountability by Mark Drakeford who wants us all riding bikes and driving at 20mph, yet public transport is inadequate.Breaches in Health and Safety and Equalty.I would say delays are closer to 90%.All these ticket barriers and in-person checkers cost us expensive tickets but no improvement to service.

Gerald Holley|13.08.23|08:12

Devolved Government has suffered because Wales is treated like a third world country by Westminster. The Tories know if we had the same settlement under the Barnet formula as Scotland, we would be hugely better off but Wales is very deliberately kept poor by the Tories to feed their propoganda and as a way of deflecting from their own failings across the UK.Investment takes longer because resource sharing us grossly unfair. Just look at how Wales is robbed to fund 100billion HS2 & Cross rail!

T. Rhydgaled W.|17.08.23|09:09

@Chris Campbell

I don’t think any Japanese company bid for the TfW franchise contract. If I recall correctly the Germans (Arriva) and Dutch (Abeilo) pulled out leaving the French (Keolis) (who won it) and MTR of Hong Kong.

As for the Japanese not ruining Welsh travel; they (Hitachi) happily built the shameful 5-car class 800s/802s with cheap-&-nasty-looking pocket doors and awful rock-hard seats that GWR now employ between S.Wales and London. Should have had plug doors and all been 9-cars

M T|05.09.23|18:03

As of 5 Sept 2023 TFW are using 1980 Class 150 units on Main Line services between West/South Wales to Manchester Piccadilly
Services , this has now being going on for almost 4 Years of the company running the Rail Service from Arriva Trains Wales and this service has still not improved, Infact it’s just got worst. All of TFW Newer Class 197 units are used on North Wales service but sadly the South Wales service is suffering in which I’m sure is TFW biggest Revenue earner keeps being neglected.

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