TRANSPORT for Wales has bowed to pressure from Gwent sixth-formers who complained about the company's travel arrangements for students.

The firm will add an extra morning train to its Cardiff to Hereford route, following complaints from students who said they had been turned away from trains in Cwmbran and Abergavenny stations – despite owning season tickets – and asked to use chartered bus services instead.

Amid concerns raised in the Senedd, one student told the Argus the route was "a nightmare" and TfW staff had little regard for students' questions about social distancing on the buses.


Students are permitted to travel together in 'bubbles' for education reasons, but the sixth-former – who wished to remain anonymous – said "no effort has been made what so ever by station staff to ask what college we're from, so we can [be] put on buses with our class bubbles".

The student said attempts to explain this to staff had been in vain.

The Argus put these allegations to TfW. In response, a spokesman for the rail operator said: “Our teams have worked extremely hard to ensure that all young people can be transported to their educational establishments – we made a full commitment to ensure that no one was left behind and are following all government safety guidelines."

He said staff and customer safety "has been and will continue to be our top priority", adding: "Where we have tried to encourage students to travel on a particular service, this is in order to maintain bubbles for specific institutions wherever possible, in line with government requirements."

In the Senedd, Torfaen MS Lynne Neagle and Monmouth MS Nick Ramsay have shared with ministers the students' concerns.

Mr Ramsay last week told the Senedd the replacement buses were "totally inadequate, with no social distancing in operation whatsoever".

Ms Neagle, who raised the issue with the first minister earlier this week, told the Argus: "I have been very concerned by the numbers of families that have contacted me to say that students who travel from Torfaen to Hereford college for their post-16 education have been left stranded or arrived late at college, because other passengers had been prioritised over them.

"It is not acceptable for young people to be treated differently to other season ticket holders and made to travel on buses, without social distancing, while other passengers were prioritised for socially distanced train seats."

The Torfaen MS said she was "glad" TfW had announced the extra train service and would continue to monitor the situation.

From Monday, the new service will leave Cardiff at 6.55am, calling at Newport, Cwmbran, Pontypool, and New Inn, and will arrive in Hereford at 8.14am.

“We recognise these trains are key for students travelling from South Wales to colleges in Hereford, and are some of the busiest services on our network, so we are pleased that we have managed to find a solution to alleviate capacity," The TfW spokesman said. "It has been a particularly difficult challenge to work through as we are still very much operating a different train timetable throughout the pandemic, right across the network."

Student buses will continue to run on a standby basis along the route.