More delays possible as Transport for Wales takes longer than expected to sort out fault that caused fires on trains
Transport for Wales rail services are still subject to potential disruption as it is taking longer than expected to remedy faults affecting its fleet of Class 175 trains that have been blamed for a number of on-board fires.
In early April TfW, which is owned by the Welsh Government, said it expected its 175 trains to be back in service within two weeks.
That, however, has proved over-optimistic,
Most of the fleet was taken out of service at the beginning of March after a series of underbody fires, one of which on a Holyhead to Cardiff service in February saw passengers evacuated and a road closed. There are 27 Class 175 trains in the Transport for Wales fleet.
Investigations confirmed the fires were the result of poor cleaning of the engine bay area which was leading to a build-up of fuel deposits in an area where very hot exhaust gases were present.
Testing across the fleet revealed a significant number of leaks coupled with pressure test failures in the trains’ air coolers, leading to an increased risk of what TfW described as “thermal events”.
The engine bays of all TfW’s Class 175s require a thorough cleaning before they can return to service and a shortage of air coolers has delayed the replacement of all of the failed units.
In March, the Office of Rail and Road issued an Improvement Notice to TfW which said: “Transport for Wales Ltd as the train operator have failed to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that passengers and employees are not exposed to the risk of harm. Three fires have occurred within a one month period between February and March 2023 onboard Class 175 trains whilst in passenger service.
“The operator has failed to implement effective arrangements for the organisation, control and monitoring for the maintenance of the Class 175 fleet needed to ensure the safe operation of the transport system.”
All work has to be undertaken by September 17 this year.
Jan Chaudhry-Van der Velde, chief operations officer at Transport for Wales, said: “We’d like to thank our customers for their continued patience as we continue to work to resolve the issues with our Class 175 trains.
“Our Class 175 trains have been receiving urgent safety checks and engine repairs, after a number of recent incidents. This has left us with a temporary shortage of rolling stock across the network and has meant we have had to redistribute rolling stock to affect the minimum number of passengers possible.
“As the rolling stock shortages have eased, we have been able to restore much of our timetabled service. However, some services are still being operated by different trains with less capacity than usual, so we’re continuing to work through the repair programme on the Class 175 trains. As soon as each train is repaired and passes the safety checks, it is brought back into passenger service.”
In April, speaking to Rail Business UK, Mr Chaudhry – Van der Velde said: “The fleet check led to a decision to stand the fleet down; subsequently we have said to passengers and colleagues that we won’t put a train out unless it’s had the engine clean.
“We have also provided [the maintenance company that services the fleet] with photographs of what a cleaned up engine should look like so the maintainers know what is expected. We are getting through the programme and every day and every week we’re getting more Class 175s back into service.
‘In the meantime, we’ve had to step down our timetable somewhat, it is painful for passengers at the moment; we are spreading the fleet a lot more thinly across the network.”
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