Wales 'forced to go private' on rail franchise by Westminster


The Welsh Government has claimed Westminster is forcing it to award the next Wales and Borders franchise to a private operator, and vowed that the contract will include the very minimum required by law to meet the UK Government's demands.

Welsh infrastructure secretary Ken Skates said Wales had lobbied the UK Government for a change to legislation to allow public sector bodies – such as the Welsh Government’s Transport for Wales company – to act as franchisees; placing Wales on a similar footing to Scotland.

Mr Skates said: 'The UK Government have continued to oppose this and, in addition to this, other legal restrictions mean we cannot bar for-profit operators coming forward to run some elements. 

'Our plan is that Transport for Wales will only let those contracts that it has to, on a commercial basis. The profits from those services will be at a capped margin, with excess profits reinvested back into the wider transport system.'

Taxation, but no public transport representation?

The Welsh Government’s chosen Operator and Development Partner (ODP) will run the trains but Transport Network understands that activities such as station management, ticketing, marketing, customer information and car parks may be excluded from the contract and delivered by Transport for Wales. This could create opportunities for local suppliers or community groups.

The news follows a row between Wales and the Department for Transport after the Welsh Assembly accused the DfT of causing a delay to the public inquiry on the proposed M4 Corridor around Newport Project.

The devolved nation said officials at the Department for Transport, had introduced revised methodology to their new forecasting for growth, without letting the Welsh Assembly know in advance, which ‘necessitated a delay to the inquiry start date’.

The delay would not affect the due completion date of the project in 2021, Mr Skates said.

‘The public inquiry was due to commence on 1st November, but will now start by 31 March 2017 and is expected to last around five months. It will examine all aspects of the M4 Corridor around Newport Project and take into consideration the most up-to-date and accurate information, as well as all suggested alternatives,’ the Welsh Assembly said.

A DfT spokesperson said: 'We are committed to working closely with the Welsh government and encourage them to deliver this project which will improve journeys for drivers. We keep our traffic forecasts under review and made clear to Welsh officials at the start of this year we were going to update our projections.'

Abellio, Arriva, MTR Corporation and Keolis with Amey are preferred bidders for the Wales and Borders ODP. They will now develop their ideas for train operation and enhancement of local lines around Cardiff, in dialogue with the Government.

Bidders will propose the technology, potentially including conversion of some lines to light rail, to meet the Government’s high level requirements, rather than the government specifying the technology.

Final tenders will be invited in July 2017 and the contract awarded early next year.

Road Expo is one of Scotland’s largest transport and road conference and exhibitions and takes place on the 2-3 November in Edinburgh this year. The event will feature more than 100 exhibitors and two CPD certified seminar theatres, curated by Transport Scotland and SCOTS. To book your free place register here.

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