WEEKS of disruption on trains in Gwent and throughout south Wales at the end of last year was not connected to the handover of control over the service, the previous franchise holder has said.

In October Arriva Trains Wales, which had run the Wales and Borders franchise since 2003, handed over control of the services to Transport for Wales and new operator KeolisAmey.

But almost immediately travellers faced weeks of cancellations, delays and other disruption, with almost one third of trains out of service.

At the time Transport for Wales blamed Storm Callum and the age of the trains handed over from Arriva.

But, speaking before the Welsh Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee on Wednesday, the company’s former managing director Tom Joyner called the transfer “one of the smoothest franchise handovers I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s absolutely not correct to say the disruption late in the year was anything to do with how the franchise was handed over,” he said.

Responding to claims trains handed to Transport for Wales had not been well maintained, Mr Joyner added: “A huge amount of work was put in in 2018 to hand over in a good position.”

But he wouldn’t be drawn on where blame lay for the disruption, saying: “We’re here to solve problems and not attribute blame. My perspective and my goals were to try and put the best service out for our customers.”

Mr Joyner also said the company “look(s) back with pride on our time in Wales”, pointing out it had invested more than £30 million in the service over the 15-year period, when it was only required to put in less than £500,000.

Transport for Wales chief executive James Price also appeared before the committee, and conceded performance had been “nowhere near good enough.”

“Certainly for a period of two or three weeks things were not good,” he said.

He said a report into what caused the disruption was still in progress, but hoped it would be published in the coming months, saying: “We need to have clear answers by the end of the spring season to be able to prepare for the autumn.”

It is believed one of the reasons for last year’s disruption was the number of leaves on rail lines.

And Mr Price told the committee it was hoped new wheel sleep protection being put on all trains would avoid a repeat of the problem.

Network Rail route managing director Bill Kelly also appeared before the committee, and said he recognised the disruption was “unacceptable”. When the disruption was ongoing, Transport for Wales and Network Rail issued a public apology for the issues.

It said: “We’re sorry that over recent weeks too many trains have been cancelled, delayed, or arrived with fewer carriages than normal.

"We know that overcrowding and uncertainty are big challenges for people, and we want to apologise that you haven’t received the service that you deserve and expect.”