Passengers experienced chaos last week after "unscheduled repairs" meant insufficient trains were available to run the Transport for Wales (TfW) service from Birmingham to Aberystwyth.

Travellers had standing room only for the hour-long journey from Shrewsbury to Machynlleth and were then moved onto bus replacement services to reach their destinations.

This is despite TfW recently receiving 40 brand-new trains as part of their £800 million spend on improving the service.

The new trains however won't be in operation until 2025, when the public can expect 145 new trains with more bicycle storage, easier access to the train, and improved air conditioning.

This news was no good however for the many passengers who were delayed in their journeys on 8 and 9 January. An anonymous passenger wrote into the Cambrian: "Happy New Year- but not for TfW passengers!

"No surprise there - I’m on 14:08 Birmingham to Aberystwyth where at Shrewsbury we were given a train with only two carriages.

"It was packed with standing room only- needless to say, there was no [refreshments] trolley. Not enough trains available! Too many need repairs.

"Appalling in the week many of Aberystwyth’s 10,000 students are returning with lots of luggage. Yesterday was a bus service from Newtown to Aberystwyth. The next train today from Birmingham was canceled entirely🙄."

People were left with standing room only on trains from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth last week due to "unscheduled repairs"
People were left with standing room only on trains from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth last week due to "unscheduled repairs" (User submission)

This comes months after the Ceredigion MP Ben Lake dubbed the train service from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth "no better than a cattle truck" as he grilled the head of Transport for Wales on the lack of movement to improve the service.

In 2018 high capacity trains and a new hourly service were promised to be introduced by 2023.

However the hourly service is now "in review" post-pandemic with TfW stating "there will be an update on [new timetabling] in the near future."

Mr Price, head of TfW said the service would "improve quite quickly" with capacity expanding by the end of 2023.

However in a new statement from Mr Lake he said the service has in fact "worsened" whilst the Cambrian Line seems to "suffer most from unscheduled repair works and reductions to services".

In the meantime, some in Mid Wales have given up using the service deemed "impossible to rely on" whilst one passenger bought a vehicle to put an end to his frustrations.

Lois, 29, from Forge near Machynlleth is an avid mountain biker but found it impossible to use the rail with her bicycle during the summer of 2023.

She said: "Over the summer it was a nightmare.

"Around Machynlleth it gets really busy during tourist season. Machynlleth is becoming more of a place for mountain biking, general riding, and gravel riding, with a new bike packing route published that starts from the town.

"Lots of people come to the area for this but it makes getting to work with your bike on the train impossible. It's frustrating in the wake of climate change and the government encouraging people to be healthier.

"This area is a really outdoorsy place but you can rarely get around by train to do these activities - it just seems very outdated."

The current trains have two bike storage slots per train which were taken over the summer, causing Lois to miss trains and connections and sometimes leaving her to wait two hours for the next service, with no guarantee that she and her bike will fit on that one either.

Lois on her bike
Lois after she cycled to the Fire in the Mountain festival in June 2023, having caught the train from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth (Lois)

Ewan from Machynlleth is another avid cyclist. He said: "This area has the best mountain biking in the country but I haven't been able to take my bike on the train because it's full or overbooked.

"It became so much of an issue I ended up buying a van because trains were so unreliable to use with a bike.

"That's not the direction I, a climate-conscious person, want to take. Rail across the UK has been destroyed by privatisation so it's no longer sensible to rely on it."

Ben Lake MP said: "Transport for Wales services along the Cambrian Line continue to be wholly unsatisfactory and a source of regular complaint and disruption to many constituents.

"It is disappointing that far from improving, the situation seems to have worsened.

"We have been promised an improved hourly service and new rolling stock and I will continue to press Transport for Wales for answers on these well overdue changes.

"It's also unacceptable that the Cambrian Line always appears to be the part of the network that suffers most from unscheduled repair works and reductions to services.

"I strongly believe that Transport for Wales should reprioritise their network improvements to give this vital transport link for Mid Wales the attention it so desperately requires."

In response, TfW wrote: The 145 brand new Class 197 trains (made in Newport) will be used on the Cambrian Line from 2025.

"In response to customer feedback about our current fleet, we’ve ensured the Class 197 units feature a state-of-the-art air conditioning system.

"With regards to the current trains, we have a number of trains out of service for unscheduled maintenance.

"Due to planned engineering work by Network Rail between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth and more trains needing repairs than usual, there has been some disruption to services on the Cambrian Line [last] week.

“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.

"Passengers whose train is delayed more than 15 minutes may be entitled to compensation and should visit the Delay Repay section of the Transport for Wales website for more information."