Rail services in Wales are now under public ownership after the Welsh Government has taken control of the Wales and Borders rail franchise, operating services under a subsidiary, ‘Transport for Wales Rail Ltd’.
Transport for Wales said the move is to protect services, safeguard jobs and deliver infrastructure improvements in light of the ongoing challenges of coronavirus.
First announced in October 2020, the move comes in the face of a significant reduction in passenger numbers and is intended to provide for the longer-term financial stability necessary to secure plans for infrastructure improvements and deliver future improvements for passengers.
Announcing the change, Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, said: “Our rail service is a critical asset and one we must protect.
“Since the pandemic began we’ve provided significant financial support to keep trains running. The need for greater public control is a reflection of the ongoing pressures of coronavirus and the challenges being faced across the rail industry as passenger demand remains low.
“We remain determined to deliver key commitments made at the start of the journey with Transport for Wales, including the creation of Metro systems and the delivery of brand-new rolling stock.
“Bringing the rail franchise into public control will help secure this better future for passengers. It is a public transport asset, in public ownership, for the public good.”
Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, added: “The railway is an integral part of Wales’ transport network and we want it to be of even more importance in the future.
“Tackling the climate emergency means we need to make it easier for people to step out of their cars and walk, cycle and use public transport instead. Transport for Wales will be working across all of these areas as part of our efforts to create an integrated, more convenient transport system.
“The action we have taken to bring the franchise into public ownership will help make this ambition a reality for passengers.”
James Price, Chief Executive of Transport for Wales, commented: “COVID-19 has presented many challenges for us at TfW, and these will continue as we evolve as an organisation. However, we’ve been able to remain resilient and our main priority during these testing times has been to keep our customers and colleagues safe.
“This next step on our journey will ensure that we continue to provide passenger rail services across our network, protect jobs and deliver our ambitious plans to improve the transport network.
“At the start of January, we successfully completed a three-week blockade on the railway lines north of Radyr, allowing us to move forward with the next phase of works for the South Wales Metro.”
“We’re continuing to deliver our transformational plans and this new model will allow us to achieve our vision and improve the lives of people across Wales and the Borders.”
Under the terms of the new arrangement, the partnership between Transport for Wales, Keolis and Amey will now be made up of three key components:
- Delivery of day-to-day rail services is now the responsibility of the new operating company Transport for Wales Rail Ltd. This is intended to provide Welsh rail with a stronger footing that will sustain services over the next few years as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. It will allow government, through TfW, to ensure that the delivery of rail services in Wales and the Borders can continue to reflect both the needs of passengers and wider policy aspirations, such as those around decarbonisation and wellbeing.
- Infrastructure management and transformation of the Welsh Government-owned Core Valley Lines will continue to be delivered under the current contract with Amey Keolis Infrastructure Ltd. This will provide stability to ensure effective delivery of the South Wales Metro transformation work, which is already underway.
- A new partnership with Keolis and Amey, led by Transport for Wales, will help drive improvements for passengers. Known as ‘Transport for Wales Innovation Services’, this will progress delivery of important commitments such as integrated ticketing, on demand transport systems, design and delivery including different modes of transport, and the ongoing integration of light and heavy rail.