New trains for South Wales Metro

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

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Published: 21st November 2016

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


The need for new rolling stock on the upcoming South Wales Metro franchise has been written into the contract on which four remaining foreign bidders are competing, it has been revealed.

Welsh Government’s Infrastructure Secretary Ken Skates has added a requirement for rolling stock on the South Wales Metro and the new Wales and Borders franchise to be updated to better serve passengers of all kinds.

The move follows concerns that the existing rolling stock in the area – some of which is approaching four decades of service, and all of which is at least 20 years old – is not up to the task of servicing current demand.

As a consequence, the bidding rail operators now face a specific need to invest in new, high-quality rolling stock with ample luggage space and room for bicycles.

The franchise should be disability-friendly for a wide range of mobility problems, in accordance with the Persons with Reduced Mobility Technical Specification of Interoperability regulations, and provide hygienic low-emission toilet facilities.

Services must run with enough capacity to cope with peak demand, so that nobody is forced to wait for longer than 20 minutes at most on a station platform.

In terms of the South Wales Metro in particular, the rolling stock faces further specifications, to ensure rapid boarding and alighting at stops around the network.

The terms of the franchise now also call for environmental measures to be incorporated into the rolling stock, such as kinetic energy recovery systems on the brakes, water harvesting, and solar charging where appropriate.

“Improvement of the current fleet of rolling stock that is simply not up to the task of delivering a modern, efficient and clean rail network is a priority,” Mr Skates stressed in a written statement to the Welsh Government.

The new contract terms come just a month after the Welsh Government shortlisted four foreign operators as potential winners of the franchise.

Whichever wins the bidding process will take responsibility for Wales and the Borders from October 2018, and will be involved in the next stages of the South Wales Metro scheme too.

Together, these initiatives are part of a long-term ambition to transition to a non-profit model for rail services in the region, similar to the system already in place on services managed by Transport for London.

Work will be carried out jointly between the Welsh Government and the winning bidder, which will be named as the Operator and Development Partner, or ODP, for the rail franchise and South Wales Metro involvement.

At present the shortlist of four qualified bidders includes Abellio Rail Cymru, Arriva Rail Wales/Rheilffyrdd Arriva Cymru Limited, KeolisAmey and MTR Corporation (Cymru) Ltd.

Each of the bidders has already demonstrated an acceptable appetite to provide services of the desired quality, substantial financial standings to support their investment in the project, and the track record and expertise to achieve the necessary standards.

Commenting on the shortlist, Mr Skates said: “I am pleased with the way we are taking forward our ambitious plans to transform rail services in Wales.  The new Wales and Borders service from 2018 and the next phase of the Metro are part of an ambitious and creative not for profit model that we are building for Welsh rail.

“The rail network will be managed by Transport for Wales and I am pleased to be able to announce progress today on who will deliver some key services within that model.

“We now have four highly skilled, experienced companies entering the next competitive phase and I am keen to hear more from them about what they can offer Wales and how they can deliver on our plans for integrated public transport.”

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