Wales politics

Transport for Wales: Fines to operator KeolisAmey reach £3.4m

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Media captionTrain travel: 'People are in the toilets for somewhere to stand'

The performance of Welsh trains is "not acceptable", the boss of Transport for Wales (TfW) has admitted.

James Price told a Senedd committee that fines for contractor KeolisAmey have risen to £3.4m.

Cynon Valley AM Vikki Howells said there had been "horrific" rush hour disruption on the Aberdare line in the last eight weeks.

Mr Price, TfW chief executive, said his aim was for the trains to become "boringly reliable".

Transport for Wales is the Welsh Government body that oversees rail services.

It contracted private company KeolisAmey to operate the Wales and Borders rail franchise in 2018, taking over from Arriva Trains Wales.

A recent survey found rail passengers' opinions of services run by Transport for Wales (TfW) have not improved under the new operator.

The vast majority of the penalty charges for KeolisAmey are for "passenger time lost". The cash is deducted from the subsidy the government gives it.

Mr Price told a session of the assembly's transport committee that he expected the fines to begin to reduce as performance "increases".

Image caption KeolisAmey has been running services since October 2018

The figure is up on what Economy and Transport minister Ken Skates told the committee earlier in January, when he said KeolisAmey had been fined £2.3m.

Labour AM Vikki Howells said performance between July and December 2019 had been worse than the previous year and asked when things would improve.

James Price said he personally felt performance was "not acceptable".

The senior civil servant told AMs: "This is not where we want to be at all and I'm also aware that I've come in front of the committee a couple of times hinting at or promising dawns which have either been false or not lasted long.

"So I'm going to be quite wary about doing that again."

But he said there are more rolling stock than the service needs "for the first time ever"

"There's a lot more drivers on the network than there were before, more guards on the network than there were before," he said.

Since the start of January performance "on all the metrics" - measures used to measure the service - had improved, Mr Price told AMs.

But he acknowledged that while "headline numbers look quite good", the "service experience doesn't "feel very good."

Image caption James Price said £1m per quarter is paid to passengers in compensation

Since the new franchise began around £1m per quarter has been paid out to passengers in compensation, as part of its "delay, repay" scheme, Mr Price said.

Asked if Network Rail pays compensation to TfW in instances where problems are Network Rail's fault, Mr Price said: "If we could move away from this compensation culture more money could be spent on the passenger.

"There's teams of people doing attribution about whose fault different things were, and then money moving around the system that would be much better for the administration of that money to go back into the passenger."

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