On Sunday October 14 2018 the Marches Line through Herefordshire and Shropshire changed ownership. This important train service serves Herefordshire and Shropshire and is a key transport link for both these counties. From this date the train service became the responsibility of the Welsh Government administered through its agency, Transport for Wales Ltd. The new train operator and development partner (ODP) is a consortium of Keolis which is French railway owned and Amey plc, whose parent company is Spanish. The Marches Line, as our railway is known, looks set to take on a truly Welsh continental flavour with trains being branded Transport for Wales sporting a striking new livery.
The promises from Transport for Wales of major improvements, with a £5 billion investment looks impressive*. New trains, more services, station modernisation, better ticketing and a metro system for South East Wales are all part of the vision. How far the £5 billion will stretch to achieving all this remains to be seen whilst this side of the Border there is more than one sceptic wondering how much of this money will come to improve the English train services and stations that will be under Welsh control. As the sceptics point out…’the Welsh will control our railway but we have no representation and no say on what the Welsh Government does’.
Meanwhile the hand-over has taken place and with it comes an inauspicious start for on the first day of Welsh/French/Spanish operation, there were no trains between Newport and Shrewsbury (because of good old English Network Rail engineering works)! However we will be getting a new colour for the trains and they will be branded Transport for Wales.
* A full list of the improvements can be found on the Rail & Bus for Herefordshire website under the title The Welsh Government’s Brave New Railway www.rbfh.org.uk