Last week in Parliament, local MP, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP voiced his concerns on behalf of his constituents regarding delays of train networks across the country. The rail network has come under fire in recent months following a hike in prices and concerns raised about the performance of the network.

In January 2019, it was announced that, whilst in the cases of some annual season tickets, rail fares have risen roughly £100 a year in England and an estimate of 3.1% increase in Wales, whilst up to the middle of October 2018, the total delays across the rail network in Britain totalled a combined 283,904 hours. According to Network Rail, issues raised as causes for delay ranged from failure of or damage to tracks, to lack of staff.

During the debate, secured by Stephen Doughty MP, Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, highlighted the issues caused by the “deteriorating GWR service”.  Great Western Rail services are regularly used by Mr Thomas-Symonds’s Torfaen constituents.

Run by the First Group since 2012 under a direct award contract, the GWR route award contract could run until 2022-2023. Though, due to infrastructure problems, the Government cannot refranchise the route, and as such it is not clear when the GWR franchise, which services a number of local stations in South Wales, will end despite falling customer satisfaction levels. According to the autumn 2018 national rail passenger survey, passenger satisfaction was only 78%, that is a 6% decrease on the survey conducted three years ago.

During the debate, local MP, Nick Thomas-Symonds highlighted the impact that these network and franchise issues were having on the people of Torfaen who have been subject to fare price hikes and experienced delayed services.

Mr. Thomas-Symonds said:

“My constituents who have contacted me to say that they want to use the train service more often and not drive to work, but they cannot, due to the issues that my hon. Friend [the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth] identifies – particularly those relating to reliability. Does he agree that this is simply not acceptable anymore?”

Mr. Doughty responded:
“Absolutely. I concur with that point. It is a great tragedy that the service problems are turning many potential rail users on to the roads. We do not want that to happen, particularly in the south Wales corridor.”

When asked about the debate, Mr Thomas-Symonds stated:

“This is a very pressing issue that a number of my constituents have contacted me about. The impact that rising rail fares, coupled with the decline in quality of service is deeply troubling and I am pleased that the House has had the opportunity to raise the concerns of our constituents on this matter. The Government and network companies need to consider what has been said today and begin working together to resolve these issues urgently.”

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