The first brand new trains for the much-anticipated South Wales Metro have just been delivered to Cardiff.
Two intercity and regional trains have just arrived from Switzerland to Transport for Wales' (TfW) depot in Canton and were unveiled on Thursday, December 2. They are are set to undergo extensive tests to ensure they are ready for the customers to use from next year.
The delivery of the trains is the latest step in the development of the South Wales Metro.
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The metro, which is set to be completed in 2023, will be an integrated public transport network – comprising heavy and light rail, trams and new buses, along with several new trains stations – designed to make it easier for people to travel, with more capacity and faster, more frequent and greener services.
TfW has invested £800m into the new trains, which will include improved features such as air conditioning and automated level-boarding.
The two trains, which made maiden voyages into the capital city a fortnight ago, are Class 231 Fast Light Intercity and Regional Trains (FLIRTs) built by Swiss railway manufacturer Stadler.
Canton depot will become home to the new trains, which will be tested on the Wales and Borders network in a process known as 'testing and commissioning' ahead of the first new units entering service for customers next year.
This stage will see the train tested under realistic driving conditions, on the tracks that they will operate on, to verify that they meet the relevant safety standards and regulations.
Every aspect of the trains, from their on-board features to energy consumption trials, noise levels and signalling, will be scrutinised rigorously.
The new trains are set to be longer and quieter than the current fleet, with noise and vibrations kept to a minimum.
New and improved features passengers can look forward to include ergonomically designed seating, air conditioning, power sockets, and wide passenger information screens with up-to-the-minute travel information.
The trains also have more space for bikes (up to six on each train) as well as people with limited mobility and pushchairs. There will also be automated level-boarding where the boarding step automatically adjusts to provide a seamless transition between the train and the platform.
FLIRTs will be a key part of the South Wales Metro and these are the first of 35 to be delivered over the next two years from Stadler.
Eleven of the total will be diesel-operated and the other 24 units will be tri-mode, capable of running on diesel, overhead electric wires, and battery power.
The Class 756 tri-mode FLIRTs will operate services on the Rhymney, Coryton and Vale of Glamorgan Lines, while the Class 231 diesel FLIRTs will operate services between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and Cheltenham.
The train manufacturer is making 71 trains for TfW in total. The other 36 are three-car trams which will operate from Cardiff to Treherbert, Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil – bringing street-running trains back to the capital for the first time in 70 years.
The South Wales Metro is due to be completed in 2023 but bosses admit the finishing date could be pushed back a few months because of supply chain issues and the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this year TfW chief executive James Price insisted any hold-up would only be "marginal".
As part of the Metro, in addition to the new trains and trams TfW is also:
TfW say the South Wales Metro will offer faster and more frequent services, with some Valley lines expected to see four services run per hour.
In September, the full-scale mock-ups of the trains and tram-trains were revealed for the first time.
James Price, Transport for Wales CEO said: “The arrival of these brand-new trains is another major milestone for TfW and signifies another step forward on our transformational programme to deliver a transport network that the people of Wales can be proud of."
Sandro Muster, project manager for Stadler, said: “Passengers will notice a massive difference in the ride quality, the comfort, and the attention to detail. We will now embark on an extensive programme of testing to ensure that they are ready for commercial service.”