Rail franchises operators & contracts

01.03.18

UK Government takes major step towards Welsh rail devolution

The Welsh Government has taken a huge step towards devolved control over the railways after a new bill was put in front of Whitehall ministers this week.

The process would see the National Assembly given new powers to oversee the Wales and Borders franchise.

These plans also include provisions for the £125m Valley Lines upgrade, part of the South Wales Metro programme which is closely linked to the new franchise.

While discussions are at an early stage, the bill represents the beginning of a devolution plan which has been years in the making.

“This is a positive and significant step in the franchise devolution process and is an example of the effective cooperation between the UK and Welsh Governments,” commented rail minister Jo Johnson.

“The devolution of these powers delivers on recommendations made by the commission on devolution in Wales and demonstrates the commitment we made as a government in the 2015 St David’s Day Agreement.”

The agreement also takes into account the issues of cross border working for any operating company, with ministers trying to smooth the transition between areas that would be under British control and those under Welsh control.

Welsh Government cabinet secretary for economy and transport Ken Skates said the National Assembly was behind the move but asked questions about the future funding of Network Rail.

“I welcome this recognition of the extensive nature of the cross-border services - and services wholly within England - provided by the Wales and Borders franchise and the need for appropriate accountability for rail operations on each side of the border,” he said.

“It will be important for devolution of funding for Network Rail to be delivered in the future and I will continue dialogue with the Department for Transport to that end.”

Earlier this week, Abellio announced that it would be pulling out of its bid for the Wales and Borders franchise, citing the collapse of its construction partner Carillion.

The move leaves just two groups left in the running for the franchise after current operator Arriva Trains Wales also pulled out in October last year.

Top image: Mattbuck

Comments

Jimbo   01/03/2018 at 22:29

Just to be clear, this new bill only transfers the responsibility of choosing and managing the Wales & Border TOC from the DfT to the Welsh government. It has nothing to do with the funding of Network Rail in Wales, so by raising this, the Welsh Government are obviously signalling their next target. You can understand why they would want this - they cannot make improvements to the services without improvements to the infrastructure - but typical of politicians to be starting the next battle even before the first one is done.

Lutz   02/03/2018 at 11:15

IIRC the Welsh Assembly proposals for the funding of rail services in Wales was a non-flyer. Some realistic proposals will have to be presented for transfer of control of funding to be considered. South Wales has already received significant infrastructure investment - not all of which has been fully put to use yet. There are also projects in the pipeline for services beyond Swansea. Besides that; there are always plenty of aspects within the operators and regulatory authority to improve service without recall for infrastructure investment.

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