The new look trains in the colours that will be seen in Neston. (Picture by: Phil Lloyd)
Having held the franchise for rail travel in Wales and the Welsh Borders since 2003, Arriva Trains Wales will be handing over control on 14th October 2018 to French-Spanish firm KeolisAmey, which will trade under the banner of Transport for Wales Rail Services (TfW). While changes will not be immediate, passengers will see the red and white colours of the new company and can look forward to some welcome changes in the next few years according to the Chair of the Town’s Transport Working Group Dr Phil Lloyd, who attended a transport briefing in Llandudno on 9 October.
The main improvement is delivering the North East Wales Metro by increasing frequency on the Wrexham-Bidston line to two trains per hour from December 2021, with fully refurbished metro trains.
Dr Lloyd highlighted in a briefing note to Neston Town’s councillors that other improvements will eventually include:
- Free end-to-end internet access available on 85% of journeys by 2024.
- Free travel for under 5s extended to under 11s. Half-price fares extended to 16 – 18 year-olds. Under 16s go free off peak.
- Seven new Community Rail Partnerships, and more than £1.25m per year invested in community activity. Disused station spaces will be transformed to meet local needs.
- Smart ticketing rolled out across Wales and the Borders so that customers will be able to use mobile tickets to ensure they always pay the lowest fare.
- More than 700 new customer information screens installed across the network and in other locations including colleges, hospitals and workplaces.
These changes, when implemented, will go some way towards attaining the objectives of Neston’s Transport and Traffic Charter that was unanimously agreed at the Town Council meeting on 9 October – with the addition of an item that relates to improved cycling facilities. Other key elements of the charter, that describes the long term objectives for transport in the town, include improvements to the A540, direct rail access to Liverpool, a bus service to Chester 7 days a week, affordable fares for young people and a review of traffic flows and safety in the town centre. The Charter also argues for a full review of all traffic and transport issues in Neston, the importance of which was underlined by the recent sudden loss of the 22 service on 5 October.
The Town Council would like to acknowledge the actions of Cheshire West and Chester Council in identifying an alternative provider (Stagecoach) for the 22 service from Monday 8th October.
Councillor Dominic Roberts, Chair of the Neston Town Council Places committee, said:
“The proposed improvements to the rail services in the town are most welcome – and a just reward for the campaign instigated by the Town Council in September 2014, and for those who supported it, for a half-hourly rail service. It shows the value of being determined and ambitious in our aspirations. We look forward to working closely with TfW on its comprehensive plans for improved rail services in our town.”