“Focus remains” on bringing troubled Class 230 trains into service as manufacturer heads into administration
Transport for Wales (TfW) has said its “focus remains” on bringing their troubled Class 230 trains into service on the Wrexham to Bidston line despite the manufacturer signalling an intention to appoint administrators.
It is understood that Vivarail, the Warwickshire-based company behind the Class 230 train made the decision to file a Notice of Intention to appoint administrators on 23rd November.
TfW owns the units outright and it’s not known at this stage what impact, if any, the move by Vivarail will have on the introduction of the trains locally.
Class 230 units are a fleet of five hybrid diesel/battery trains which use the bogies and aluminium bodyshells of withdrawn London Underground trains.
TfW purchased them for the Wrexham to Bidston line to fulfil a short-term commitment of increasing the number of services on the line.
The trains were intended to come into service in 2019 but TfW only took delivery of units from Vivarail in July 2020.
Staff training requirements were hampered by the Pandemic leading to further delays.
Other delays have been caused by what TfW called “technical issues” in July last year.
A programme of Entry Into Service testing for the 230s on Wrexham-Bidston line is well underway after being suspended following the latest ‘thermal incident’ in April.
In August TfW had said it was still aiming to bring the 230s into passenger service “by the end of the year.”
Steve McBride, managing director of Vivarail, has said: “The Board and I have worked incredibly hard to secure new investment in recent months, and although we have been encouraged by the level of interest, time is now against us to allow potential investors to step in.”
“Combined with slow market conditions and delays in reaching certain key commercial arrangements we have had no choice but to file a Notice of Intention to appoint Administrators with the Courts.”
“The next few weeks undoubtedly represent a degree of uncertainty for everyone connected to Vivarail, including our 70 employees who have shown incredible commitment and dedication to decarbonising our railway.”
“During this time Management, the Board or Directors and our advisors will leave no stone unturned in finding a solution.”
“We will now be consulting with our customers and other stakeholders to try and drive the business forwards, but we must be realistic in that if we are unable to deliver a rescue package Administration will, unfortunately, be inevitable.”
Following Vivarial’s announcement, Alexia Course, TfW Chief Commercial Officer told Deeside.com:
“We are awaiting official confirmation and information regarding the recent announcement from Vivarail.
“We will be in a position to provide an updated statement in the coming days, but our focus remains to bring our Class 230 units into service on our network.”
As part of the £50m North Wales Metro programme to “transform rail, bus and active travel services” across the region, the Welsh Government had committed to increasing the number of trains on the Borderlands Line to two per hour from May 2022.
However the introduction of a two-train-per-hour service – which would require all five of the new Class 230 trains to operate – has also been hindered by objections from a freight operator.
GB Railfreight (GBRf), which operates freight trains into Hanson Cement near Penyffordd, formally objected to the additional passenger trains as they would conflict with new daytime freight traffic to and from Padeswood.
The Office of Rail & Road (ORR) is mulling over two applications for use of capacity on the Borderlands Line, from TfW and GBRf, an announcement is expected this week.
TfW said in July it plans to introduce its brand new Class 197 “made in Wales” diesel trains on the Borderlands Line “by the end of this calendar year.”
There is speculation these units could enter service on the line at the next timetable change on December 11.
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