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Consultation launched on devolved Wales and Border franchise

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation to inform the specification for the next Wales and Borders rail franchise, including metro rail services in the south east of the country.

The government expects that it will take over responsibility for awarding the franchise in early 2017, in time for the next franchise to start in 2018. This is the result of a deal struck between the government and Westminster to both electrify the railway lines in South Wales and devolving control over the Wales and Borders franchise by 2018.

At the time, the prime minister said this will see the holder of the franchise repay the capital costs of electrification of the Valley Lines through an agreed annual “access charge”.

The consultation, which runs until 18 March, seeks feedback on several priorities for rail improvements, including current services and capacity, performance, fares and ticketing and rolling stock.

It builds on previous findings from independent transport watchdog Transport Focus that showed Welsh residents largely considered the price of train tickets of utmost priority for improvement.

This was followed by bettering capacity, service frequency, consistent delay information and improved performance.

Transport minister Edwina Hart commented: “For the first time decisions about our railway services will be taken in Wales to ensure we have the high quality, effective, and affordable service we need. I am expecting real benefits to passengers, including faster journey times, higher quality services, improved reliability and less overcrowding.

“Today’s consultation is the first stage of public and industry engagement to help develop the draft specification for the award of the next franchise. I hope as many people as possible take the opportunity to have their say in shaping the rail services of the future.”

The Welsh Government is working with partners in North Wales to build the case for modernising the North Wales Coast Line. A devolved group of councils, the country’s government and businesses are also advocating for electrification along the line to the north by 2027 in order to reap the benefits of HS2 London links when the high-speed line reaches Crewe.

In the south, it looks forward to complete electrification works along the Great Western Main Line, as well as to deliver metro services in the south east within the context of the government’s project blueprint, launched on 30 November.

(Top image c. Matt Buck)


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