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First Minister blames Network Rail for half of Transport for Wales’ 1 million minutes of delays

13 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Image: TfW

Emily Price

The First Minister has blamed Network Rail for half of the one million minutes worth of delays racked up by Transport for Wales (TfW) last year.

These delays were revealed as part of an investigation by the S4C current affairs programme, Y Byd ar Bedwar into the public transport provider.

The investigation found that TfW recorded more than a million minutes worth of delays in 2023 – making it the worst year on record since the rail provider took over the Wales and Borders network in 2018.

During First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday (March 12), Mark Drakeford defended TfW saying the actions of non-devolved Network Rail were at fault for almost half of minutes that were racked up.

We contacted Network Rail and found that the rail provider was responsible for 433,903 of TfW’s delay minutes.

Formal complaints

Mr Drakeford’s comments came following a question from Welsh Conservative MS, Sam Rowlands who asked whether the First Minister was “comfortable” with the findings of the investigation by S4C.

Shadow minister for transport, Natasha Asghar also pressed the First Minister on the figures.

The First Minister said that half of the recorded delays were caused by Network Rail “cancelling services and carrying out work at the last minute”.

He said: “Yesterday, Network Rail announced that it will close the line between Shrewsbury and Birmingham, and that it will stay closed until 25 March.

“That will affect Sam Rowlands’s constituents, because trains to Aberystwyth, to Pwllheli, to Holyhead will all be affected.

“And no doubt, some journalist somewhere will add up the minutes, and say, ‘Isn’t that dreadful?’, as though that was Transport for Wales’s responsibility.

“But not a single one of those minutes will be – it will be the actions of the non-devolved Network Rail.

“It is why the Office of Rail and Road are investigating poor Network Rail performance here in Wales.

“So, when you when you get under the bonnet of those figures, far from as the Member was attempting to say that this is all some failure of the transport service here in Wales, it turns out that half of it – and that’s a minimum, I would say – half of it is the effect of decisions made by the non-devolved Network Rail service.”

Network Rail owns and manages most of the rail infrastructure across the UK but TfW operates its trains on the line.

Network Rail say delay minutes are often racked up due to circumstances outside the rail provider’s control such as landslides and people trespassing on tracks.

‘Bigger story’

Nick Millington, Network Rail Wales and Borders route director, said: “Train delays can be caused by a number of factors that are often outside of our control and it remains a fact that the biggest causes of delays are people trespassing onto our tracks and extreme weather.

“But there is a much bigger story to tell as things are improving and we are working hard, together with our partners at Transport for Wales, to deliver a more resilient and reliable railway.

“Our ‘On Time to 3’ initiative aims for 84% of trains to arrive within 3 minutes of their scheduled time at every station stop. We’ve increasingly seen this achieved period-on-period, showing improved performance across the Wales and Borders route and we plan to set ourselves even further challenging targets.

“As the greenest form of travel, we want the railway to be the first choice of travel for the people of Wales. We are proud to have delivered the £70 million upgrade of the Ebbw Vale line, which has helped support communities across South Wales, bringing low-carbon transport to these communities. We have also worked with TfW and Amey Infrastructure to help transform the Core Valley Lines.

“We recognise that 433,903 delay minutes isn’t good enough and we still have further to go as an industry to deliver the service our passengers deserve.

“However, much is being done to improve things, including undergoing a recruitment drive for signallers, creating more Welsh jobs and reducing last-minute cancellations.

“We are also investing in locations across our route to protect our infrastructure from extreme weather and trespassers which remain our biggest challenges in reducing delays, as well as implementing a new proactive approach to managing vegetation along the railway and investing in sites where we have repeated flooding.”


Natasha Asghar MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, said:“The departing First Minister can try to dress this up to paint Transport for Wales in a better light, but the sad reality is our public transport network has been crumbling under his government’s watch.

“Eye-watering amounts of taxpayer cash has been pumped into Transport for Wales over the years, yet residents across Wales are still waiting to see a return on their investment.

“It is about time Labour ministers start taking some responsibility and get to grips with ensuring Wales has a reliable and effective public transport network.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
28 days ago

Just imagine if we had been independent for the last 25 years, who would Welsh Labour be blaming…

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
28 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion


28 days ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

Correct, it is down to Westminster, the refusal to invest in railways here by the UK Gov, eg no HS2 money, the upgrades being done as part of the Metro system, funded partly by the EU, to Victorian era track and signaling in Rhondda, shows no investment for the last hundred years has been made by Westminster, who control Network Rail, who are responsible for track and signal maintenance and upgrading.

Why vote
Why vote
28 days ago

Rail delays, that’s why roads were invented.

28 days ago

Never the incompetent Welsh governments fault. Regarding the Shrewsbury Birmingham closure – the railway embankment has collapsed due to the extremely wet weather we have had this winter; you really can’t plan for that

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
28 days ago
Reply to  PeterC

Well well. So the Tory opposition transport spokesperson somehow forgot to mention the HS2 money that the Tory Government has witheld from Cymru. With that a great deal of the work needed to make lines in Cymru resilient could have been done not to mention filling in the missing North-South links broken by the Tories in the 1960s.

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