New trains being introduced to Wales in 2017 could actually deliver slower travel times for passengers, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have has said.
New hybrid trains which are able to run using both electric and diesel power are arriving in the UK from Japan for testing and are due to enter service from 2017 at a rate of one a fortnight. These brand new trains will enter service on the Great Western Mainline connecting Cardiff and Swansea with London. The long serving InterCity 125s will be transferred to Scotland in a deal already struck between the Department for Transport and ScotRail.
However the new hybrid trains, whilst capable of running on diesel,are according to insider sources not capable of matching the InterCity Trains speed and performance under diesel over long distances meaning the two hours five minutes it currently takes to get from Cardiff to London is likely to be longer should these trains be introduced before electrification is completed.
Eluned Parrott AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Transport said:
“We could find ourselves in a ridiculous situation where passengers in South Wales get brand new trains which take longer to get to London that the forty year old trains that are currently being used. It is vital that we get clarification on what is happening.
“The timetable for trains will be thrown into chaos and journey times will increase. There is also a serious chance that this will cost both the taxpayer and passengers huge amounts extra because these new trains are not designed for long diesel runs at speed and the trains maintenance costs as well as projected fuel costs will be higher than previously budgeted. The Tory Government are leaving South Wales in chaos as it's electrification programme falls apart.
“The electrification of the rail network in South Wales is much needed and long overdue but if these new trains are put into service before electrification is finished passengers will have their journey times extended before they get reduced, complicating timetables and pushing passengers away from rail travel.
“Since the Liberal Democrats have left office, this whole project has turned into a farce. People have a right to know what is happening. I have written to the Department for Transport asking for urgent clarification of this issue.”