Home Franchise News New operator and development partner for Wales and Borders

New operator and development partner for Wales and Borders

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On 23 May it was announced that KeolisAmey had won the £5 billion contract to run the Wales and Borders rail franchise over the next 15 years as the Operator and Development Partner (ODP) – a new kind of combined operator and infrastructure manager.

At the start of the bidding process, which started two years ago, there were four contenders. Arriva Trains Wales – the incumbent operator, MTR working with BAM Nuttall, Abellio working with Carillion and KeolisAmey – a joint venture between Spanish-owned Amey and French operator Keolis.

In October last year, Arriva withdrew, while the Abellio bid ended with the demise of Carillion.

No further details were announced in May as the process required a ten-day ‘cooling off’ period to allow the remaining contender the opportunity to challenge the decision. A challenge has not been forthcoming and so the Welsh Government’s arm’s length transport company, Transport for Wales, was able to exchange contracts. The current contract operated by German-owned Arriva Trains Wales, will end on 14 October this year.

The KeolisAmey partnership already holds rail contracts for London’s Docklands Light Railway and Manchester’s Metrolink tram network.

Moves and jobs

Following award of the contract, Keolis UK has announced it will move its headquarters from London to a new office in Wales by 2019, and will relocate its global rail division from Paris to Wales by 2020.

Meanwhile, Amey will open a new design hub in Wales where it will offer consultancy services and further jobs will be created when the companies open a shared services and customer contact centre providing services to the KeolisAmey businesses.

These jobs are in addition to 600 jobs and 30 apprenticeships a year announced earlier this week.

Major benefits of the new Wales and Borders rail contract include:

  • £1.9 billion will be invested in improving passengers’ travel experience, including an £800 million investment in trains, boosting overall service capacity by 65 per cent;
  • All trains will be replaced by 2023 when 95 per cent of journeys will be on brand new trains, half of which will be assembled in Wales;
  • £194 million will be invested to modernise all 247 stations and build four new stations: Gabalfa, Crwys Road, Loudoun Square and the Flourish;
  • Stations will be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy, at least 50 per cent of which will be sourced in Wales.
  • Investment in active travel initiatives will include the installation of new cycle lockers and a target to achieve Secure Station accreditation for all stations.

Passengers will start to see improvements in service levels from December 2018, with increased capacity on the valleys lines and new services between Chester and Liverpool.

By the end of 2023, passengers will be able to take advantage of an additional 285 services each weekday across Wales (a 29 per cent increase). This will include improvements to the Ebbw Vale and Wrexham-Bidston lines as well as the Cambrian and Heart of Wales lines.

Sunday services will be boosted by 61 per cent with an additional 294 services across Wales, creating a true seven-days-a-week service.

Smart ticketing will ensure that fares are more flexible and cheaper off-peak fares will be introduced including fare reductions in North Wales and at approximately 50 per cent of stations in the valleys.

Greater capacity and improved services will also help to maximise the economic development opportunities provided by the new service, enabling people to take advantage of more and better employment opportunities.

New trains to come

77 new diesel multiple units will be built by Spanish firm CAF at the Celtic Business Park in Newport. Configured as 44 two-car units and 33 three-car units, they will be in traffic by 2022 and will be based on CAF’s Civity platform. They will release the current fleet of Class 175 DMUs which operate the longer-haul services – many of which serve English stations.

Stadler are also to supply seven three-car and 17 four-car tri-mode units on the Valley lines from Cardiff. These will be able to operate on diesel, overhead electrification and battery power.

In addition, Vivarail has been chosen to supply five three-car Class 230 D-Trains. These battery/diesel hybrids will be the first new trains to come into service as part of the new franchise when they are introduced in summer 2019. They will include universal access toilets, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, USB ports and plug sockets as well as bike and luggage space.

Vivarail was formed by Adrian Shooter in 2013 to buy and upcycle London Underground D-stock into Class 230s for use as local commuter-type trains. It has already secured a deal with West Midlands Trains to supply three new D-Trains for use on the Marston Vale line between Bedford and Bletchley.

Welsh transport secretary Ken Skates has announced that nearly £100 million will be invested in a new Transport for Wales (TfW) train depot for the South Wales Metro.

This depot will be used to house and service 36 new metro vehicles operating on the Taff Vale lines.

Around 400 train crew, 35 metro vehicle maintenance staff and a South Wales Metro integrated control centre employing 52 staff will be based at the depot.

Clearance and construction work for the new depot is expected to start in 2019 and be completed by the middle of 2022.

An existing South Wales depot at Canton will also benefit from a £5 million investment to modernise maintenance facilities so it can support new tri-mode rolling stock being introduced as part of the new service.

There will also be investment in enhanced stabling facilities in Treherbert and Rhymney, and an upgrade of the station at Rhymney to accommodate more and longer tri-mode rolling stock.

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