Recent data for the 2023 easter and summer months shows that train users in stations along the Heart of Wales railway line between Swansea and Shrewsbury endured some of the worst rail performances in the entire UK.
The analysis of National Rail data, collated by On Time Trains, shows that across all 2,633 railway stations in the UK over the past 6 months, Carmarthenshire railway stations along the Heart of Wales line were named in the bottom 100 for performance.
Stations in Llandeilo and Ammanford were ranked 2,597 and 2,594 respectively, meanwhile Llandovery, which hosted the 2023 National Urdd Eisteddfod, came 2,603 out of a total 2,633 stations. Over the past 6 months at Llandovery station a fifth of services were cancelled, with a further fifth running late by 10 minutes or more.
The situation was marginally better across the border in Powys, with Llanwrtyd Wells railway station ranked 2,541 out of 2,633, whilst Builth Road station – a popular stop for commuters during the Royal Welsh Show week – clocked in at 2,367 in the table.
The service has had a growing reputation over recent years as an popular tourist attraction - in particular, with many hikers taking advantage of the route’s proximity to the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, Llwybr Glyndŵr, Offa’s Dyke Path and the newly-opened Heart of Wales Line long-distance trail – which weaves between stations along the line.
The latest performance figures have however been slammed by local Plaid Cymru politicians, who have accused Transport for Wales and the Welsh Government of neglecting the valued railway line and undermining residents and the local tourism industry.
The Royal Welsh Show week in July this year saw multiple cancellations along the line, leaving many commuting show-goers stranded on platforms.
Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales said:
“Over recent months I have been inundated with correspondence from constituents and tourists expressing their frustrations regarding the Heart of Wales Line service.
Many have been left stranded on rural platforms either facing significant delays or awaiting non-existent replacement buses. Others have had work commutes or holidays ruined by the recurring cancellations which have blighted the service over recent months.
I have no doubt the service is the jewel in the crown of Wales’s railway network; however, the continued disruption is not sustainable, and I have written to the Welsh Government urging their urgent attention to this unacceptable situation.”
Adam Price, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr added:
“The Heart of Wales Line is a vital transport artery, connecting rural Carmarthenshire with mid Wales and beyond. Its spectacular views and landscapes together with its many stops in pleasant market towns and villages make it a cherished facility for both residents and visitors alike.
However, there is no denying that the service has had a turbulent time over recent weeks and months – causing all kinds of disruption to users, as well as detriment to its own reputation, and local tourism. It is about time Welsh Government and Transport for Wales work with urgency to review these recent failings and work to deliver a reliable, efficient service along this route.”
Cllr Handel Davies, Plaid Cymru County Councillor for Llandovery ward concluded:
“It is extremely disappointing to learn that Llandovery’s deteriorating train service is amidst the worst in the whole UK but sadly it will come as little surprise to the local population. Time after time, the service has faced disruption over many months, from delays and cancellations to non-existent replacement buses. Inevitably, such failings are a cause of growing frustration for all users who are told the delays are due to “challenges with rolling stock alongside infrastructure failures ” and does nothing to encourage greater use of trains at a time when this should be promoted.”
In a recent response to a written question tabled by Cefin Campbell, Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS noted:
“I am aware of cancellations and delays on the Heart of Wales over the summer period. Transport for Wales are aware that the service passengers have received has not been as good as it should be recently, largely due to challenges with rolling stock alongside some infrastructure failures which are the responsibility of Network Rail. Transport for Wales are committed to delivering improved performance which will be achieved with the increasing roll out of brand new trains across the network.”