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‘Stranded’: Passengers raise concerns about services on Heart of Wales Line

05 Apr 2023 5 minute read
Llandrindod Wells station

Siân Williams

Problems on the Heart of Wales railway line are leaving passengers stranded in rural areas with poor phone signal.

The Heart of Wales Line is a 120-mile rural railway line between Swansea and Shrewsbury and makes its way through some of the most unspoiled parts of Wales, providing a vital transport link for communities and towns.

Operated by Transport for Wales it links to major urban routes via Craven Arms, Llanelli, Swansea and Cardiff as well as elsewhere over the border in England.

The Heart of Wales route

Paul Lloyd is Vice President of the Heart of Wales Line Travellers Association. He told Nation.Cymru that trains are being cancelled, either at short notice or with no notice given at all.

He said: “It’s a rural line once you leave Llanelli and go northwards – there’s just a platform station with a bus shelter.

“Even when you get to Llandrindod Wells, which is one of the main stops, or Llandovery, there’s little information. You could be stuck there just waiting.”

Speaking from experience, Mr Lloyd said: “It happened to me – a Shrewsbury train coming up the line broke down before Llandrindod. I was stranded and we were just left there at 8 o’clock on a Saturday night, no more trains – goodbye.

“It was pouring down in February – it happened years ago now mind, but it’s still happening today. People are still getting stranded.”

Mr Lloyd said he was so “infuriated” with his experience that he took it upon himself to get involved with the traveller’s association to try and sort it out.

His latest meeting with Transport of Wales was over two weeks ago, he explained.

“To be fair to them they have an accumulation of issues to deal with. But they could be told by Welsh Government that they should prioritise certain lines – that needs doing.

“It’s not funny being stranded on a main line, but when you’re on a rural line like that can you imagine being left alone? There are massive issues like poor phone signal.”

The line is not being used to its best potential he added: “It could do so much for the economy and for people who commute to work, to go shopping or on holiday.”

The timetable

Mike Hedges MS for Swansea East said he would like Transport for Wales to treat the Heart of Wales Line, “with the level of importance” lines in urban areas are treated.

He is being told by his constituents that trains are regularly cancelled, and can also get overcrowded when there are only two carriages.

Mr Hedges said: “They’ve got a very good timetable, but for reasons that probably they would say are out of their control, they aren’t able to keep to it.

“If you go on the Heart of Wales Line it stops at lots of small places like Craven Arms and if you end up there and the train doesn’t come you appear to be stuck.”

During busy periods, like the summer holidays, Mr Hedges said more carriages are needed because the train is overcrowded.

“But more importantly is the need for a timetable they can deliver. It’s pointless having five or six trains a day when they can only deliver three. People will lose confidence in whether the train will turn up and they could be quite a distance from anywhere.”

His advice to Transport for Wales is this: “Don’t have a timetable that’s unachievable because it will only frustrate people.”

Cnwclas on the Heart of Wales line. Photo Sarah Morgan Jones

“Temporary setbacks”

 In a statement Jan Chaudhry-Van der Velde, Chief Operations Officer at Transport for Wales, blamed, “urgent safety checks and engine repairs” on the “temporary shortage of rolling stock across the network.”

He added that they’ve had to, “redistribute rolling stock to affect the minimum number of passengers possible, leading to replacement buses on some routes.”

Claiming that these are only “temporary setbacks”, Mr Chaudhry-Van der Velde said, as they were working through the repair programme over the next two weeks, “the rolling stock shortages should ease and the timetabled service can be restored.

“We understand the frustrations of passengers using the Heart of Wales Line and would like to apologise for the reduced service levels in recent weeks.”

Meeting

A Welsh Government spokesperson confirmed that the Deputy Minister for Climate Change recently met Transport for Wales, and the Heart of Wales Line Travellers Association, “to stress the importance of providing clear and timely information and a good service to passengers.

“We have invested in new trains and new services where infrastructure allows. In December 2022, Heart of Wales Line services increased to seven a day – five of which run the full length of the line – as part of our £800m investment in trains for Wales.

“We continue to call on the UK Government for more rail investment and for rail infrastructure spending to be devolved to us, with a fair funding settlement.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago

Stranded by Van Morrison, the perfect musical accompaniment for a risky journey through the heart of Cymru. Send your complaints direct to MD, a list of all that is wrong with this country it should be included…

Paul ap Ioan
Paul ap Ioan
10 months ago

The line is a joke. My wife and kids were left stranded in the rain in Llandrindod when the their train back was cancelled and I had to leave a funeral early in Llandovery to pick them up. You can’t rely on the Heart of Wales line at all. They’d be better putting steam trains on and making it a heritage line than the useless service they put in now.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul ap Ioan

That is just what I was thinking, leave it to the experts and the enthusiasts…make producing a business plan a competition between the likes of Corris, Rheidol, Llanfair and Talyllyn Railways or an amalgamation of the four in the spirit of David Davis of Talerddig fame…

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
10 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

A nice idea. But we do need to complain to TfW as well. They say that they have bought a lot of new trains. The trouble is that it looks as if the only place that will get to use them are folk in the Cardiff Bubble who have a good train service any way. New trains for the rest of Wales is what we need.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

New trains and a new fat controller…

Sikejsudjek
Sikejsudjek
10 months ago

With only one train per four hours a cancellation on this line is unacceptable without emergency phones and alternate transport being provided. I’d love to use this line but it’s far too unreliable a service. They really need a train once every two hours in the summer as the line would boost the local economy.

B.LEWIS
B.LEWIS
10 months ago

Would be extremely worried if I became stranded on this line.I live in Pembs and it would be a nightmare if a train was cancelled at short notice.This line was reliablewhen I used it many yers ago.Pretty worrying if you travel alone and have a health issue .

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
10 months ago

The rail network must be upgraded by electrification of the main lines.
There must also be a new main line from Cardiff through central Wales to Wrexham.
There must also be a direct rail between Carmarthen & Aberystwyth.

The funding must be made from our own tax instead of going to the UK treasury.

If you wait for the UK government you may wait for a very long time
The UK is useless for Wales – we must be free of them.

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