‘Heroically ambitious’ priorities outlined for Wales and Borders franchise

The National Assembly for Wales Committee has today unveiled what the 10 priorities for the new Wales and Borders franchise should be for competing operators.

In a report drawn up by the Assembly, potential operators were told that delivering new trains, communicating better, making fares more affordable and pushing towards a greener railway were all essential to a successful franchise in the future.

Also on the list was the need for an integrated network, better monitoring of performance, the creation of adapted services, constructing more modern stations and reducing disruption for passengers.

The franchise is due to change hands in October 2018, and the Assembly will produce its final specification for the franchise in July.

“Awarding a rail franchise is not simple,” said Russel George, chair of the Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee. “So, for the Welsh government to be letting a franchise for the first time represents a big challenge.

“With no experience to fall back on it is doing everything from scratch. That alone, would be cause for pause.”

George added that other circumstances, including the delays over the devolution of powers to the Welsh government, uncertainty about funding, and the ageing trains that run in Wales – combine to make the Welsh government’s task “heroically ambitious”.

“This report examines the challenges facing the Welsh government and others as we approach a crucial point in the history of the railway network in Wales,” he added.

“It highlights our concerns in a number of areas, and sets out how the growing mass of organisations involved in running rail services in Wales and the Borders need to work together if the people of Wales are to receive the 21st Century rail services they demand.”

A report by the Welsh Affairs Committee at the start of the year also saw the franchise award as a chance for real transformational change in the region.

The shortlist for the competing bidders for the franchise was announced in October last year as: Abellio Rail Cymru, Arriva Rail Wales/Rheilffyrdd Arriva Cymru Limited, KeolisAmey and MTR Corporation (Cymru) Ltd.

Top Image: Mattbuck

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Seagulleo   30/06/2017 at 10:48

Misleading headline. It is the franchise specification task that is described as "heroically ambitious" not the priorities contained therein. Shoddy.

Peter Donnelly   30/06/2017 at 14:04

Russel George says that the Assembly is doing everything from scratch....reason for a pause for thought indeed. If they think of the Welsh Network - effectively three unconnected systems and how it can best the needs of Wales, pausing for thought about not just the next franchise, but what sort of railway(s) are needed may be a very good thing indeed.

Phil   30/06/2017 at 15:42

A great opportunity for the Welsh Assembly and Network Rail to work together to create a sustainable transport network. We all know there is overcrowding and infrequent services along many routes into the capital. The public are priority. Create a forum so the voices may be heard and only then will we feel there is a joint effort goin forward . Profit cannot be the driving force- improving Welsh transport for all is the key.

Nonsuchmike   01/07/2017 at 22:49

Not helped by the insulting trains of just two carriages; run trains more frequently, to more destinations with more carriages. Then you will see revenue/passenger numbers increase dramatically.

Jimbo   02/07/2017 at 10:23

So the Welsh Assembley want the best possible service, but will give it to the lowest bidder. Why does the public sector (and some of the commentators here) so misunderstand how companies operate? Any new TOC is in this to maximise their profits - they only care about improving the service if that brings them in more money, otherwise they will use their resources elsewhere to bring in more money elsewhere. If you want to provide the best service, you need the best people to run it. Unfortunately, profits in the rail industry are rubbish - maybe 1% return on investment if you are lucky. Profits need be 5% or more to atttract the best companies and people. As an operations company, given the choice of bidding to operate Dubai Airport (huge profits) or Welsh railways (tiny profits), which one are you going to go for? which one are you going to put your best people on? Large profits are an indication of a highly successful business. If the contracts are properly structured and the participants properly incentivised, large profits also mean that both sides win. Unfortunately for the railways, the contracts have often been poorly written and not properly incentivised - for example, it has often been the case that the operator makes a larger profit if they don't run a train, so the incentives are all wrong. The problem with the railway is not the profits companies make, but that the contracts are not incentivised properly for both sides to win. Get the contracts and incentives correct, and even when the profits go up, everyone wins.

J, Leicester   03/07/2017 at 09:00

The Welsh railway system, as Peter Donnelly alludes to, is woefully disjointed. The priority should be infrastructure, to build towards an interconnected system where you don't have to dive back into old Lloegr to get from North to South or vice-versa. It might boost investment in North Wales too to have more frequent, faster services to more destinations - places like Rhyl and Holyhead could most certainly use it. That the most direct route from North to South involves having to use the Ffestiniog Railway, to the point that it is included in rail rover tickets for that purpose, says it all really.

D Roberts   03/07/2017 at 10:23

Cheaper fares are a priority? Do these AMs not know that the passenger pays about one third of the actual cost of the journey in Wales and the rest is a subsidy from the Welsh Government? New trains? Where are the bidders supposed to get new trains from in the few months between the award of the contract and October 2018? The best we can hope for is cascaded old trains from the other locations in the UK. Probably more 14xs and 150s! Electrification? Dream on. Even if there is the money, it will take years.

Roger, Industry Insider   03/07/2017 at 11:06

No mention of Pacer replacement! The steel bodied 142s (ATW & Northern) are as rotten as pears & Angel Trains have said they're not spending a bean on them. Is the best that Welsh passengers can expect just more aluminium bodied 143s from Great Western or 144s from Northern? Clue - I was told ages ago that the leasing charges on a Pacer were 1/3 those for a 150---

Patrick Adams   03/07/2017 at 11:41

I live in mid Wales and we certainly dont need more trains to Cardiff or N Wales. It would be good if we could get to Bristol or Liverpool with just one change of trains though (without going via Wolverhampton). Wales is three distinct regions, with most long distance travel cross border, not north-south.

King's Lynn   03/07/2017 at 12:51

Of course, the solution is electrify the lines (and probably re-open one or two others - for example, the one which branches off to the right in the picture up there) and then use that massive surplus of rolling stock which is going to appear within the next few years. They would get patronised without a doubt but, like anything outside of London and Southern England, expect long amounts of wrangling and people sitting on their hands waiting for it to become Someone Else's Problem. As a small case in point, my local station (Gowerton) used to be a request stop until they decided it might be worth putting the second platform back and allowing trains to stop there properly. Usage went through the roof within a year and this in a suburb where an entire generation of people had gotten pretty used to not even realising there WAS a station there..

Rupert Le Bere   04/07/2017 at 11:46

Patrick Adams is spot on. Why is it necessary to 'join' the 3 disjointed systems. Has anyone evaluated the need for a north-central-south service? Other than a political ego-boost for the Welsh Assembly, most of the traffic in these areas is either commuter (in the south) or east-west. If there's going to be investment (???) in upgrading services, let it be where the market demands it, not where the politicians would like it to be.

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