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08.12.14

Welsh government has ‘serious reservations’ about Network Rail

The Welsh government has “serious reservations” about Network Rail and its ability to deliver projects and “might have to choose others to undertake some of the work for us”.

The revelation was made by Welsh transport minister Edwina Hart last week at a session of the Welsh Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee.

She said: “We have serious reservations about Network Rail and its ability to deliver, and the cost overruns that are going on elsewhere, within a Welsh context.”

She also said: “We are having discussions now about issues with Network Rail in north Wales in terms of improving the lines where we cannot get clarity, certainty or understanding of what is going on.”

Hart also said that due to the lack of confidence in Network Rail, the Welsh government may look at finding other companies to undertake the future works they want done on Welsh railways.

“We only have to look, as well, at Network Rail in terms of how tardy it has been in finishing certain projects,” she said. “Look at Cardiff and the signalling...We have to be quite clear that we have people there who can really take on what is going on there, put in challenge and, at the at the end of the day, perhaps be prepared to put in contestability and not use what is effectively a public company now – Network Rail. We might have to choose others to undertake some of the work for us.”

The Welsh transport secretary has also announced the creation of a new wholly-owned subsidiary company of the Welsh government, which will provide technical expertise on the Valleys Modernisation and Electrification Project and the Wales and Borders Franchise.

Hart also said that the new company could expand its remit and eventually take on the responsibility of running the Wales & Borders rail franchise.

However, in the committee session it was admitted that the Railways Act as it stands would not allow this and would require changes.

But Hart added that with the general election coming this may provide the opportunity to make the changes happen.

“We know what we have to do. We know that there will be a general election coming and I am fairly certain that we could lobby whoever is in power to make changes to the Railways Act,” she said.

Until this issue is resolved and the new company gets up and running, Hart said that the government will “probably look at an extension” of the current franchise with Arriva.

(Image: c. Jonathan Brady)

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Comments

Pedr   12/12/2014 at 14:48

Well said, Mrs Hart. The North Wales Main line used to be one of the fastest in the country, with reputed speeds of up to 110 in steam days and while pieces are still passed for 90mph, the service speeds are by English main line standards lackadaisical (mind you, it is better since the Voyagers came). The Conwy Valley Railway used to run at 70mph and now it ambles three times a day at 45; the Cambrian Coast line was closed for months because the timber Dwyryd viaduct fell to bits before the new bridge was ready. The re-opening of the line to Llangefni, the county town of Anglesey, has been sidelined and reopening the line to the other county town and World Heritage Site of Caernarfon is not even under consideration. Yet little local tourist railways ( I can think of a dozen in Wales!) expand and thrive....you would think there should be pickings for the main line.

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