RAIL users on Severnside were hit hard by disruption when the main train operator for the area changed – with one commuter service being cancelled on 17 days out of 25, it has been claimed.

Monmouthshire Council will write to the Welsh Government – which owns the new operator, Transport for Wales (TfW) – asking why standards of service dropped so significantly and what has been done to solve the issues

Gloucestershire County Council has already written to the Welsh Government making a similar point.

The debate at the full meeting of Monmouthshire Council came as the latest figures for the number of passengers at several local stations has again increased.

Cllr Jo Watkins (Lib Dem, Caldicot Castle) said a survey had shown that one of the main commuter trains, leaving Lydney at 8.17am, Chepstow at 8.25am and Caldicot at 8.35am, had been cancelled on 17 days out of 25 in October and November.

She said: “Transport for Wales say that they try not to affect the same group of customers disproportionately but these figures show we are losing more services than the rest of the Cheltenham to Maesteg line.

“TfW seem to prioritise trains that go to Valleys that have three or four trains an hour.”

Another Caldicot councillor, Tony Easson, (Lab, Dewstow) said that, in a response to his letter, the Welsh Government said the problems were a combination of “issues relating to autumn” and damage to trains caused by Storm Callum.

The council’s Cabinet member for resources, Cllr Bryan Jones (Con, Usk) said he would give TfW “a right ear-bashing” at their next meeting.

He said: “The service has been absolutely atrocious, I will send a letter complaining further.

“I understand they took over some almost clapped-out rolling stock.”

In a statement, Colin Lea, customer experience director for Transport for Wales Rail Services, apologised to those affected.

He said: “We recognise how challenging this autumn was for our customers with a number of services cut across our network.

“This was due to unprecedented damage to our trains resulting in a quarter of our fleet being out of action.

“Every effort was made to restore trains to service with our engineers carrying out more than 1,000 hours of overtime.

“We had to make a number of difficult decisions on which services we would be able to run which led to some cancellations on all parts of our network.”

Latest figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) showed that nearly 20,000 more people used the stations at Lydney, Chepstow, Caldicot and Severn Tunnel Junction in 2017-18 compared with he previous 12 months.

At Lydney there were just short of 7,000 more passengers making the overall total for 2017-18 195,532 – up from 188,840 – an increase of 3.4 per cent.

The figure of 253,466 at Chepstow was up by 1,642 from 251,824, an increase of 0.6 per cent.

The largest increase was at Severn Tunnel Junction with almost 13,000 more passengers, an increase of 4.9 per cent, from 253, 918 in 2016/17 to 266,916 last year.

Caldicot saw a drop in numbers from 89,990 to 88,299.