The boom in rail travel in Wales has seen passenger numbers swell from 18 million per year in 2003 to more than 30 million this year.
And communities and local businesses are reaping the rewards of the growth with the increase being spread across all 247 of Arriva's stations in Wales and England.
With an average of 916 services running every day across the Welsh network during this July and August, the number of Arriva Trains Wales services has grown a massive 25 per cent compared to its first summer in 2004.
The rise is thanks to the combination of Welsh Government investment, vital infrastructure improvements by Network Rail and the efforts of staff across Arriva Trains Wales to connect people and communities to what matters to them.
Lynne Milligan, Customer Services Director for Arriva Train Wales, said: "This was the most services we've ever delivered during a summer period and shows a growing demand for rail travel in Wales, really supporting tourism across the country.
"We know that better, more reliable public transport is key for economic growth, making areas which might have lost their key industries over the years, more viable as commuter towns.
"Ultimately we can only achieve this level of service by working together with our partners in Network Rail, and with the Welsh and UK Governments to get the right investment in the right place.
"And of course more services has meant we have needed to recruit more colleagues with around 500 more people employed across Wales and into England than there was in 2003."
- During July and August 2004 there were 6,244 services on the Valleys, but over this year's July and August there were 14,237
- In north Wales the number has risen from 3,774 to 3,967
- Services between Cardiff, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire rose from 753 to 1,697
- On the Cambrian line, the figure rose from 1,777 to 2,116
- And on the Marches line it went from 1,183 to 1,899
Prior to ATW taking on the franchise, the average daily services for July and August along the Wales and Borders network rarely passed the 500 mark because the infrastructure at the time could not support more than this.
But since 2003, Wales has seen the reopening of the Ebbw Vale line, the return of passenger services on the Vale of Glamorgan line, hourly trains on the Cambrian line, Sunday services on the Valley networks, standardised timetables and most recently Network Rail's CASR project, a multi-million pound investment in signalling which allows more trains than ever before to move through Cardiff Central. There have also been significant track improvements in the last 15 years including the doubling of the track in many locations, allowing more services to call, more regularly.
(The Ebbw Vale line)
Railfuture Wales chair Peter Kingsbury welcomed news of the record number of passengers carried and services being operated by Arriva Trains Wales this Summer. He stated that the increase showed the potential for rail to play an ever more significant role in moving people around Wales in an environmental friendly way. "Greater rail use helps deliver the Welsh Government’s sustainability objectives and enhances the quality of life of Welsh residents and visitors," he said. "With suitable levels of public investment and a positive approach from the future Wales and Borders franchise holder, the recent increase in rail usage should continue in years to come."
At Gowerton on the west of Swansea, passenger journeys have increased by 78,000 in the past five years alone, from Caerphilly, journey numbers are up by 61,000 while at Pyle near Bridgend, passenger numbers are up by more than 12,000, owing to the increase in services to those stations.
Ian Price, Director of CBI Wales, who represent businesses of all sizes across the nation, said: "Having more frequent and reliable trains is vital to the success of businesses in Wales. Better rail services can give companies more confidence to base themselves in an area, so this growth in Arriva’s services can only be a good thing for the economy. It allows people to travel further for employment, gives people more options when travelling into Wales for business and tourism and allows smaller towns to grow as commuter bases for larger urban areas. We’d like to see investment in the railway continue to grow over the coming years.”
And Andy Thomas, route managing director for Network Rail Wales, said: “Our railway is vital to economic prosperity, linking people businesses and communities.
“We are working with our partners Arriva Trains Wales to improve the passenger experience. This will help us deliver a safe, reliable, affordable and growing railway for the people of Wales and the borders as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.”
The daily number of services can fluctuate because of a host of different factors, including operational issues or pre planned engineering projects such as those between Newport and Cardiff which will ultimately lead to better and more reliable services.
Since taking over the Wales and Borders franchise in late 2003, Arriva Trains Wales has not been able to substantially increase the size of its fleet owing to the terms of the franchise not allowing for growth.
"This shows we really are making the most of every resource available to us," added Ms Milligan.
The Beeching axe was the term used to describe Dr Richard Beeching's plan to reshape the face of British Railways in the 1960s by closing large numbers of stations and routes in an attempt to stem huge losses being made at the time. The cuts fell across Wales, massively reducing the number of locations served by rail.