Transport for Wales slammed over plans to replace scrapped train services with buses
Rail users have slammed Transport for Wales over plans to replace scrapped train services with buses.
A new timetable which comes into effect on December 15 sees the introduction of a new express service between Cardiff and Holyhead.
To achieve the journey in four-and-a-half hours, the train will only be stopping at key stations along the route. It will call at Hereford, Ludlow, Shrewsbury and Wrexham, but not the smaller stations in between.
A stopping train is being taken out of service to facilitate the express train; a move which has angered passengers travelling to and from the smaller stations affected, including Craven Arms, Church Stretton, Gobowen, Chirk and Ruabon.
- No reversing train changes for Shropshire
- Train firm defends decision for new express train not to stop at smaller stations
- Fears over train service cuts for Shropshire
To mitigate the impact on rural passengers, Transport for Wales (TfW) has announced it will put on a rail replacement bus to and from Shrewsbury.
A TfW spokesman said: “We made a commitment to introduce a new Cardiff – Holyhead service departing from Cardiff Central before 7.30am with a total journey time of under 4 hours 30 minutes.
“Unfortunately to achieve this we were not able to accommodate the stops between Shrewsbury and Chester due to the impact it will have on other existing services in the area at that time in the morning.
“We have made every effort to accommodate stops at these stations and the introduction of a replacement bus service to serve the affected stations is a workable and sensible solution to what was difficult issue to resolve.
“We will continue to do all we can to address this with a rail solution in the May 2020 timetable change.”
But passenger groups have expressed their anger at the plans, saying it discriminates against cyclists, wheelchair users and people with prams and pushchairs, who may not be able to use a bus as easily.
John Mattocks, chair of the Chester Shrewsbury Rail Partnership, said: "We are not at all pleased. We did everything we possibly could.
"We were not consulted at any time and it turns out they had been working on this for about a year. At what point it became apparent that they could only accommodate the express train by knocking off this other train, we don't know."
John Whitelegg, from the Marches Rail Users Association, which encompasses groups from Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Ludlow and Leominster, was equally frustrated.
He said the new timetable left a two-hour gap in the afternoon when there would be no services at all calling at south Shropshire's rural stations.
He added: "The rail users generally are quite angry about the fact that TfW is deleting services."
The southbound rail replacement bus will leave Shrewsbury at 3.30pm, replacing the 3.15pm train.
Mr Whitelegg said: "Buses are a rubbish alternatives to trains. People always turn up with bicycles, small children in prams, and if they turn up to get on this bus they could be turned away.
"Rail replacement buses are for emergencies, when there is flooding on the line or a tree on the track. This is the first time ever I have heard of a train company permanently cancelling a train and sticking a bus on instead.
"All TfW is concerned with is speeding up the journey time between Cardiff and Holyhead, they do not care about England."