Their introduction will allow for improvements to be made to some of our existing trains to make them more accessible.
You can read the full details of the announcement by Welsh Government by going here.
Porterbrook, our rolling stock partners for the additional trains have produced a video with details of how the '319 Flex' trains work which you can view below.
What does this mean for our customers? We’ve answered some potential questions our customers might have below
How many trains have you ordered and will this help me get a seat?
We have ordered 5 trains with 4 carriages each - 20 carriages with a total of 1,500 extra seats. This year we were able to double the capacity on some of our busiest trains into Cardiff giving us 600 extra seats per day, which had greatly increased capacity. So another 1,500 will make an even more significant impact on helping customers get a seat for their journey.
Why is it that we are getting the trains in mid-2018?
It has been well documented how limited the availability of diesel rolling stock is in the UK. The majority of trains which are compatible with ATW’s network are already committed to other train operators who face similar challenges around capacity. The 319 ‘Flex’ solution represents an innovative way to make use of electric trains on non-electrified lines. There remains a significant lack of compatible diesel rolling stock, but this will be a huge help.
How will you decide where the trains will operate?
We will be committing these trains to where they can have the greatest impact, which is likely to be commuter services into Cardiff where most of our capacity issues exist. However, we are confident that their introduction will free up a number of other units to provided increased capacity elsewhere on our network. We will work with the Welsh Government to identify where this additional capacity will be targeted across Wales and the borders and with our partners in Network Rail to start producing the timetable whilst the trains are being converted.
Will all areas of the ATW network benefit from these additional trains?
We carry out detailed studies on our busiest trains on a regular basis to ensure we allocate rolling stock to the right places. Even if the new trains are only deployed in one area of our network, this will give us an opportunity to free up trains currently operating in those areas and therefore cascade rolling stock to other parts of our network.
Will these be replacing some of the older trains, such as the pacers?
The pacers will run alongside these additional trains to the end of this franchise and decisions on their future will be decided by the Welsh Government and the successful bidder for the next Wales and Borders franchise. Additional rolling stock such as the 319s will give us more flexibility to decide what to do with the remaining rolling stock.
Why have you only been able to do this now as the franchise comes to an end?
Having identified the need for additional diesel compatible rolling stock, our partners in the rolling stock leasing company, Porterbrook, have been working carefully to develop this brand-new solution, which represents an innovative approach to making more trains available to operators, and it is only now that they have become available to us.
How long do you expect these trains to be in operation?
The 319s were originally built in the 1980s and are still excellent trains which meet safety and accessibility requirements. Most of our current rolling stock is from this period, but despite that we have been the best train operator in the UK for right time performance on several occasions this year and our engineers do a fantastic job of keeping our fleet one of the most reliable in the UK.
How reliable do you expect them to be?
All our trains are given thorough examinations and services on a regular basis to keep them running safely and we are confident that our engineers can quickly rectify any faults that do arise. We are already working hard on ensuring that the new trains will have everything they need to be cared for to the same standards as our current fleet of trains.
Why are you converting electric trains to diesel?
Our customers need solutions which are fast and effective in order to help deal with our current capacity limitations which we have today. This is a good interim solution which will improve their experience in a much shorter period of time than the planned electrification and new rolling stock which is expected to be delivered under the new franchise. The future developments remain an essential part of the development of the transport network within Wales and we look forward to playing out part in helping deliver these.
Will trains be any longer now?
All these trains are a maximum of four cars long and are expected to run as four carriage formations. Following previous Welsh Government investment, a number of the platforms along the valleys network are long enough for up to six carriage trains with others long enough for four carriages. We will work with the Welsh Government to identify where the additional capacity generated from the introduction of these extra trains will be targeted and continue to work without partners in Network Rail to look at building the case for infrastructure enhancements which may result in even longer trains in the future.
Do these units need to go back to electric if/when lines are electrified?
These trains are able to run under diesel or electric power, on electrified and non-electrified lines, and as such are ready operate wherever they are needed.
Will they be painted in Arriva colours or will that not be done until the franchise is announced?
Our absolute priority is getting these trains into service as quickly as possible. Painting is something which could potentially slow down the process of getting them into service, so they will likely remain in their current colours. It may be that they are repainted as a part of the future franchise.
Will they have first class facilities on board?
The likelihood is that the types of services they will operate will be short distance commuter or inter-urban services, and therefore, in order to get them on to our network as fast as possible for our customers, we haven’t prioritized the installation of first class.
Will they have power sockets on board?
Yes, these trains will be fitted with USB sockets for passengers to power or charge their devices. As a part of the PRM modification to the 150 fleet (which predominantly operate on the Valleys network), they will also be having power sockets fitted.
How is this being funded?
ATW are funding the trains in partnership with the Welsh Government for the remainder of the current franchise, with ATW investing over £1m and WG investing £1.9m. However, the trains are likely to remain with the future franchise for a number of years, and therefore, the majority of the lease costs are likely to be funded as a part of the future franchise arrangements. It therefore would not have been appropriate for ATW to fund the full costs.
Is this funding a part of the £2.8m Arriva are investing this year?
No. The £1m investment from ATW in the new rolling stock is over and above our current 2017 investment plan, through which we are improving the experience for our customers and investing in existing rolling stock.
Will this mean any new jobs?
We expect there to be some additional recruitment however we are unable to say at this stage exactly how many additional members of staff will be required. We are currently developing the plans around how we are making best use of these trains and how we will be incorporating them into our engineering processes.
Will this mean that I will always now get a seat?
We cannot guarantee passengers will always be able to get a seat, especially at peak times and on event days round the network where demand is exceptionally busy. However, these trains will be a major step in the right direction and will improve the customer experience for a large number of people. We will continue to work with our partners in Welsh Government and Network Rail to improve the experience for our customers.
What does PRM stand for?
Persons of Reduced Mobility.
How does this affect rail operators?
Government has set legislation that trains should be fully PRM compliant by January 1st 2020. While the latest fleets of trains are fully compliant with accessibility requirements, some older trains do not meet all these conditions, so work is ongoing across the UK to get such trains up to that standard.
What does that mean for customers?
Essentially it means that people with reduced mobility can use the train in the same way as people with full mobility, ensuring there are no barriers to them accessing public transport. This includes full wheelchair access and an accessible toilet where there are toilet facilities already available. By being PRM compliant it ensures that we can offer the best possible service to all our customers and break down any barriers preventing those with mobility issues from seeing the railway as a viable means of transport. In the Wales and Borders Franchise we want everyone to have the confidence that they can use our trains in comfort and that they will live up to these high standards.
And what does it include on the train?
The key elements include an accessible toilet, wheelchair storage space, grab handles, clear colour coordination within the carriage for those with visual impairments. As a part of this work, we will also take the opportunity to install power sockets on the 150 fleet of trains.