Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Third Report


Background to the Report

1. The Welsh Affairs Committee has had a long-standing interest in the provision of rail services in Wales. It has produced a number of reports on the subject including, Public Transport in Wales in 1985,[1] Rail Services in Wales in 1991,[2] and The Transport Bill and its impact on Wales in 2000.[3]

2. In 2002 we began a major inquiry into Transport in Wales, and published our Report in January 2003.[4] Rail services represented a significant section of that Report and covered rail transport, station facilities, the powers of the National Assembly, and the pending award of the Wales and Borders Franchise. Our inquiry and the Government's response[5] highlighted many areas that remained unresolved. Therefore, we decided that we would revisit rail services as a separate inquiry.

3. The Report is split into three sections. First, we consider rail links between London and Wales, in particular the Intercity links on the South Wales Main Line and the North Wales Main Line. We then consider the award of the Wales and Borders Franchise and the services to be provided under that franchise, In the final section we consider the division of powers between the National Assembly and Westminster.

4. During this inquiry we took evidence on five occasions between July and November 2003 from the Strategic Rail Authority, First Great Western, Virgin Trains, Arriva Cymru, Network Rail, Rail Passengers Committee Cymru and Dr Kim Howells MP, Minister for Transport. In addition to the oral evidence we received written evidence from a wide variety of interested parties. We thank all who contributed to the inquiry. We also thank Professor Stuart Cole of the Wales Transport Research Centre, University of Glamorgan, who gave us his expert help on this report and has now advised the Welsh Affairs Committee on transport matters for the past twenty years.

The current position with regard to railways

5. Since privatisation, responsibility for the railways has been divided up between a number of organisations, the Strategic Rail Authority, Network Rail, the Rail Regulator, and the train operating companies.

6. Network Rail is responsible for investment and renewals on the railways. It is funded through two sources of income: the income from track access agreements with the train operating and freight operating customers, and by grants from the SRA. However, enhancements to the infrastructure are funded directly by the SRA.[6] This funding arrangement is supported by the Office of the Rail Regulator.

7. The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) formally came into being on 1 February 2001, following the passage of the Transport Act 2000. Its responsibilities cover the three sectors of Passenger, Freight and Infrastructure, with the aim throughout being the creation of a `Bigger, Better, Safer' Railway.[7] A key role for the SRA is to promote and develop the rail network and encourage integration. As well as providing overall strategic direction for Britain's railways, the SRA has responsibility for consumer protection, administering freight grants and steering forward investment projects aimed at opening up bottlenecks and expanding network capacity. It is also responsible for letting and managing passenger rail franchises.

8. The three main train operating companies in Wales are First Great Western, who operate on the South Wales Main Line;[8] Virgin Trains, who operate on the North Wales Main Line;[9] and Arriva Trains Cymru,[10] who won the competition for the new Wales and Borders rail franchise.

1   First Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Public Transport in Wales, Session 1984-85, HC35. Back

2   Fourth Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Rail Services in Wales, Session 1990-01, HC262. Back

3   Second Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, The Transport Committee and its impact on Wales, Session 1999-2000, HC 287.  Back

4   Second Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Transport in Wales, Session 2002-03, HC205. Back

5   Second Special Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Transport in Wales: Response of the Government, Session 2002-03, HC580. Back

6   Q306 Back

7 Back

8   QQ96-146 Back

9   QQ147-240 Back

10   QQ241-304 Back

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