'Tired of the same problems': Trains for big events in Wales are 'simply inadequate'

A crowded train from Cardiff to Holyhead on Monday, October 16, 2023
Crowded train from Cardiff to Holyhead after Wales football match on Monday, October 16, 2023 -Credit:@penbonc

People attending major events in Wales are being let down by "simply inadequate" train services, according to a group of Senedd politicans who are "tired of the same problems occurring again and again". Transport for Wales (TfW) has been told to improve its planning for big concerts and sporting events in a report by the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee.

The cross-party group said there was a lack of trains leaving Cardiff after events. Its report gave the example of the last train leaving the Welsh capital just minutes after the final whistle of a recent Wales football match. TfW, which is owned by the Welsh Government, told the BBC it would "consider all recommendations and then officially respond in due course".

The report comes as many are frustrated by the lack of extra services, both train and bus, laid on for people trying to leave the Bruce Springsteen gig in Cardiff on Sunday, May 5.

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WalesOnline has recently reported on a series of controversies over poor rail services after international matches in Cardiff. Arfon Jones, former police and crime commissioner for north Wales, said it was a nightmare getting to — and returning from — Cardiff for the Wales football team's victory over Croatia last October. He felt the lack of trains and "hellish" overcrowding were an example of people from north Wales being treated as "second-class citizens in our own country when it comes to transportation".

And music venues in Swansea have described the “uphill struggle” they are faced with by easterly trains not running late enough at night, with customers having to head home before the main act even begins, and one band even having to cut their set short and “run out the door” themselves to make the last service.

The Swansea Music Venues Working Group has been assembled to campaign to preserve the city’s vibrant music scene and the group is now petitioning the Welsh Government to improve the late-night transport into and out of the city.

The Senedd group's report says: "TfW should be aware of major events around Wales sufficiently far in advance to plan accordingly and to provide a decent service for supporters." It criticises the operator's "high service cancellation rates and low passenger satisfaction scores", pointing out that between January and July last year train stations in Wales had the highest rate of cancelled services in Britain.

It also notes that TfW came bottom of a rail satisfaction survey by the Transport Focus independent watchdog. "Despite recent improvements in certain areas, we share the view of rail passenger groups that TfW’s performance is not good enough," the report says. "We expect to see significant improvements in TfW’s performance over the coming year, as more new rolling stock becomes available, and progress is made on the Core Valley Lines modernisation.

"As Senedd members, we have all heard reports of poor communication and inaccurate information around service disruptions, and of constituents being abandoned on an empty train platform, sometimes in the dead of night, and left to find their own way home. We believe TfW must put in place measures to ensure that no passengers are abandoned in this way without alternative transport provision. If TfW cannot provide an alternative mode of transport, such as a rail replacement, we believe TfW should aim to ensure that passengers are given the necessary funds to pay for an alternative."

The report suggests the operator's compensation scheme should be looked at. "We acknowledge that the Delay Repay scheme is intended to compensate passengers for poor performance by rail companies," it says. "We, of course, welcome this in principle. However, any such compensation regime must balance fairness with the realities of operating public transport. For that reason, we believe the compensation scheme should be kept under review to ensure the correct balance is being struck."

The Senedd group did welcome TfW's steps to arrange special late trains with extra carriages for the Wales football team's matches against Finland and Poland in March. "We were pleased to see that progress has been made and will be keen to see whether these steps are enough to address the long-running problems in this area," the report reads.

Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift are among the music artists set to play Cardiff's Principality Stadium in the coming weeks. TfW events planning manager Georgina Wills said the team had "worked tirelessly to" accommodate fans at recent sporting events, adding: "Building on this success, we’re now looking forward to a busy summer season with a number of major events scheduled starting with Bruce Springsteen concert [on Sunday]. TfW will be providing additional capacity where possible on routes in and out of Cardiff on Sunday, but there are a reduced number of services on a Sunday and trains are expected to be very busy, customers are advised to allow plenty of time for their journey."