Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Third Report



60. This Committee and its predecessor Committee have long argued for a single rail franchise to cover all of Wales. We therefore welcomed the Government's announcement in March 2000 of its proposal to create Wales and Borders rail franchise.[95] Progress since that announcement has been slow. The following are the key dates and milestones in that process:

8 March 2000 - study to examine the creation of a 'Wales and Border' franchise announced .

8 August 2000 - initial letting/replacement process began.

15 February 2001 - SRA announced short list of bidders.

14 October 2002 - migration of elements of Central Trains and Wales and West Franchises to Cardiff Railway Co to form the interim Wales and Borders franchise.

19 December 2001 - second replacement process began.

1 April 2003 - migration of First Great Western's South Wales stations to the Wales and Borders franchise.

24 April 2002 - core franchise proposition issued.

1 October 2002 - final short list of bidders announced by the SRA.

7 April 2003 - 'Best and Final Offers' submitted by bidders.

1 August 2003 - announcement that Arriva Trains had been selected as the preferred bidder for the Wales and Borders franchise.

28 September 2003 - migration of First North Western's North Wales Services into the Wales and Borders franchise.

20 October 2003 - Arriva Trains Ltd signs 15 year Wales and Borders franchise agreement with the SRA.

7 December 2003 - Arriva Trains Cymru-Wales take over rail operation of the Wales and Borders franchise.[96]

61. In our report on Transport in Wales we expressed our concern at the delay in awarding the new franchise. [97] This was also the view of the Rail Passengers Committee who felt that there had been a piecemeal approach to the process and that it had been convoluted.[98] The Department for Transport acknowledged the fact that there had been delays but was of the view that it was preferable to get it right rather than "get it quick". Furthermore there had been considerable discussion with the Welsh Assembly Government about its aspirations for an integrated rail service for Wales.[99]

The Franchise Process

62. The Department for Transport provides policy guidelines and direction to the SRA through its "Directions and Guidance to the Strategic Rail Authority".[100] These were set out in the Transport Act 2000.[101] The Act requires the SRA to allow those making proposals for new or replacement franchises to exercise their commercial initiative and judgement in doing so. Furthermore, the SRA should:

    "provide, at a reasonably early stage, clear information on the scope of the specification that will be acceptable. This scope will be determined primarily by the availability of funding, taking into account the Authority's overall priorities for its budget; and

    "Where a new or replacement franchise is likely to require improvements to the existing railway infrastructure, the Authority should specify how those improvements are to be reflected in the franchise proposals".[102]

63. The criteria for the award of rail franchises are set out as:

    affordability and value for money;

    the commitment of existing franchise operators to safety, performance, customer services, personal security, innovation, investment and efficiency;

    the extent to which investment can be obtained;

    the extent to which better performance can be secured;

    the wider social and economic benefits, including from road decongestion, and environmental impact of proposals;

    compatibility and consistency with local transport plans and regional transport strategies;

    the extent to which integrated transport measures both within the rail network and between rail and other transport modes can be achieved, including integrated public transport information systems; this should seek to include better and safer interchange at and access to stations by local public transport, by car, cycle and on foot and by passengers with disabilities;

    the extent to which proposals will seek to improve the complete door-to-door journey experience;

    the extent to which passengers will be given a greater voice in the level and standard of services;

    the extent to which station facilities such as signage, information, waiting rooms, ticket offices and secure parking can be improved, and accreditation obtained under the Secure Stations initiative;

    impact, if any, on existing or potential freight services".[103]

64. In addition to that criteria, the then Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR), now the Department for Transport, set out its policy on new franchises as:-

    "In all new franchises, the SRA will invite bids against a clear specification of core outputs. Our purpose is to ensure that in negotiations everyone can be clear what the Government is trying to achieve. The SRA, focussing on 10 Year Plan priorities within its overall strategy, will give details of the outcomes it wants. There will still be flexibility for bidders to put forward their own (additional) proposals. But the common core specification will ensure that the fundamentals of different bids are directly comparable".[104]

65. Mr Bowker told us that while a key aspect was the need to secure the best value bid, it was only part of a "complex mix of a whole series of factors to ensure the bid is deliverable, makes sense, is going to deliver the quality of service we want and is affordable".[105]

66. Arriva Trains explained that the SRA evaluated that complex mix, under the following headings:

    Rail Passenger Services - Outputs and Constraints;

    Deliverability and Mobilisation;

    Revenue and Costs;

    Finance and Funding;

    Legal; and


To assess the bids under those headings, a marking system was introduced whereby evaluators from the SRA reviewed the bids and awarded provisional marks.[107]

67. Mr Bowker told us that the scoring system centred on "the financial robustness of the bidder; how deliverable are their plans; how much reliance can we put on various aspects of their bid - their proposals in terms of service delivery, their proposals in terms of service quantum, safety issues, staff issues".[108] This was to ensure that the successful bidder was "a very well-rounded bidder and we have covered every possible aspect of them being a fit-for-purpose bidder and train operator".[109]

68. The scoring system to evaluate the bids was a separate part of the process to the criteria published by the SRA, and was not released to the companies bidding for the franchise.[110] When we questioned Arriva on this process Mr Cameron told us that Arriva found it "difficult to know how the criteria were then used by the SRA within their evaluation process", and that it was not aware of exactly how the SRA carried out its evaluation process.[111] Mr Bowker explained that SRA kept the scoring system from the bidders because "It was important that bidders do not gain the system, do not actually put in bids that are designed to win against a system, but actually put in bids to deliver a decent railway service".[112] Dr Kim Howells MP, Minister for Railways told us he had not been aware of the scoring system used to decide the successful franchise bidder.[113] He further argued that the scoring system was a matter for the SRA and therefore his Department neither agreed either the scoring methodology nor the score outcome with the SRA.[114]

69. This process appears to run contrary to the Department for Transport's Directions and Guidance that all bidders should be clear about the Government's objectives and that the assessment criteria must be clear to the bidders.[115]

70. We have no reason to challenge the decision of the SRA to award Arriva Trains the Wales and Borders Franchise, but we were concerned that the process, and the use of the scoring system, did not provide the greatest level of transparency. We conclude that the spirit of the Department's Direction and Guidance had not been followed as a result of the split by the SRA of the criteria and scoring and marking system. These should have been combined to enable bidders to understand the objectives set by the Department and what was required of a bidder for the franchise.

71. We recommend that the SRA publish a full summary of the negotiations surrounding the award of the Wales and Borders franchise including the level of services offered by Arriva at each stage. In this way taxpayers would be aware of the funding levels for the existing services and the cost of providing improvements.

The Financial Settlement for the Franchise

72. During the franchise process, there was speculation about the subsidy profile for the Wales and Borders franchise. SWWITCH, the South West Wales Integrated Transport Consortium, was just one organisation that aired its concern that franchise bidders were being asked to set out options corresponding to 10 and 20 per cent cuts in the costs of providing rail services for Wales.[116] Chamber Wales also highlighted this concern.[117] However, that speculation proved unfounded. The financial settlement of £120.7m in the first full year, 2004-05, would be sufficient to provide a smartened up railway but fell considerably below the estimated £300m per annum over ten years required to provide Wales with a thoroughly modern European railway.[118]

73. In our report on Transport in Wales we recommended that sufficient financial resources be available to meet the needs of Wales and an enhanced Wales and Borders franchise.[119] However, the subsidy levels provided by the SRA for the franchise would only go some way towards the Vision for Rail Services put forward by the Welsh Assembly Government in October 2000[120] and updated in March 2002,[121] and the aspirations of the Rail Passengers Committee.[122]

74. Furthermore, the level of funding for the franchise while adequate for the existing service, does not take account of the significant expansion of capacity on the Cardiff commuter services.[123] Overall, Chamber Wales believed that the SRA was providing "a lower spend in Wales than could be expected".[124]

75. We are pleased to see that SRA funding for the Wales and Borders franchise has not been reduced from the level of funding provided for existing rail services. However we conclude that merely maintaining existing funding levels does not provide Wales with its fair share of rail improvements. We recommend that the SRA should revisit its allocation of funding to the Wales and Borders franchise to allow Arriva Trains to provide an enhanced rail service for Wales.

Wales and Borders Services

76. In the previous section we set out the criteria used by the SRA for the award of the Wales and Borders franchise. While it is too early to assess the effectiveness of Arriva against these criteria, it is worth setting out some of Arriva's proposals for the provision of rail services in Wales.


77. A central part of Arriva's bid was to introduce a "clock face timetable" throughout Wales from December 2005.[125] Under this timetable, trains would depart at the same minute past each hour with consistent destinations and station stops en route.[126] Mr Cameron from Arriva trains argued that such a timetable would be easier for the customer to use, provide better connection opportunities, and also should help to improve punctuality.[127] He was of the opinion that it was "an important aspect in winning this particular bid" and that it could be introduced within the existing infrastructure. [128]

78. In South Wales, a clock face timetable would provide the following services:

    Two trains per hour from Cardiff to Swansea;

    One train per hour from Cardiff to Carmarthen;

    One train every two hours from Cardiff to Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock; and

    One train every two hours from Carmarthen to Milford Haven.

    The services would be based around a hub at Carmarthen Station and would use almost new Class 175 trains on the Carmarthen/Manchester route from 2006.[129]

79. Arriva have also proposed a clock face timetable for services from North Wales to South Wales using Shrewsbury as a hub. Three main routes may be identified:

    1. Holyhead to Cardiff via Shrewsbury

    2. Aberystwyth to Birmingham via Shrewsbury

    3. Cardiff to Manchester via Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury station would be used as the hub for these services.[130] The pattern of services is set out overleaf:

and (direct)
and (1 change)
Frequency (every x hours)
Timetabled delay

80. The Committee welcomes the clock face timetable proposals from Arriva and believes that it has the potential to provide a significant improvement to existing rail services in Wales. The Committee further welcomes the initiatives by Arriva to achieve an integrated national train service that links North, Mid and South Wales.


81. The "clock face timetable" is reliant upon Arriva using Carmarthen and Shrewsbury Stations as hubs. While we welcome this approach, we questioned Mr Cameron on the feasibility of this proposal given the present state of track and signalling along the relevant lines. Mr Cameron declared that it was fully possible and that Network Rail saw it as a feasible proposal and did not see any major problems with it".[131] However, many of the factors that have the potential to undermine that efficiency lie outside of Arriva's control.

82. Earlier in this report we have highlighted the maintenance work that is being carried out on the South Wales Main Line, and this has the potential to impact upon the efficiency of Carmarthen as a hub.[132] The RPC also provided us with a lengthy list of further infrastructure issues that it believes could impact upon both Carmarthen and Shrewsbury stations as hubs.[133]

83. The Heart of Wales Line also represents an important part of the Wales and Borders Service. In evidence to us the Heart of Wales Line Forum welcomed the creation of the Wales and Borders Service, but was disappointed that there was to be no increase in the level of services along its line. The Forum suggested that in the medium term six trains in each direction per day would represent a suitable service.[134] However, under the current arrangements, any service on the Heart of Wales line is excluded from the hub arrangements for Shrewsbury.

84. We welcome the initiative by Arriva to use Carmarthen and Shrewsbury as hubs for its clock face timetables. However, we are concerned that this proposal could be undermined by the infrastructure quality both in and around Shrewsbury and along the South Wales Main Line. We recommend that Arriva and Network Rail establish a programme of investment to ensure that both stations will provide effective hubs for rail travel within and to and from Wales.

85. We further recommend that Arriva take steps to integrate the Heart of Wales Line in its plans for the hub at Shrewsbury.


86. The Wales and Borders franchise will also take over the management of the commuter services on the Cardiff Valley Lines. The new franchise reflects in general the current service frequency and the SWIFT (now SEWTA: South East Wales Transport Alliance) strategy for lines out of Cardiff is partly satisfied in terms of train frequencies. Mr Cameron from Arriva Trains believed that Arriva's proposals for a clock face timetable and greater flexibility in allocating trains would offer passengers on the line more services and reduce overcrowding.

87. Dr Howells argued that this represented a phenomenal improvement over the last ten years.[135] However, he was aware that despite improvements to signalling, the lines were already running at near to full capacity, and that getting further carriages on the lines would be a "tremendous boon".[136]

88. The funding for the franchise agreed by the SRA excluded new rolling stock for Wales, but did allow for changes in train types at the margin.[137] For example, Loco hauled stock has been authorised on the Rhymney line which are compatible with the track and station formations on Valley Lines. Within a new clock face timetable, those trains would "enable closer matching of capacity and demand".[138] However, any additional rolling stock could only be provided in partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government and other stake holders.

89. We understand that discussions have taken place with the SRA with ideas on capacity expansion put forward by Arriva, including additional rolling stock and platform lengthening to combat overcrowding.[139] For example, Class 150 trains would increase capacity on the Valley lines but would not deal with all overcrowding. They are expected to be delivered in March 2005 for refurbishment prior to a December 2005 start.[140] One option was for the SRA to fund four further units from December 2005. This would help alleviate current overcrowding in the short term, but would require finance for platform extensions at some locations.[141]

90. We welcome the increased popularity of the commuter lines in Cardiff and the year on year increases in passenger numbers that they have achieved. Unfortunately this increase has not been matched by SRA funding for the lines. We recommend that the SRA reconsider the funding levels for rolling stock provision to eliminate by December 2005 overcrowding on peak services. We further recommend that the Department for Transport examine the SRA's budget in respect of the Wales and Border's franchise with a view to increased expenditure on rolling stock provision to enable capacity to meet demand.


91. A modest programme for station improvements was included in the award of the Franchise and would be financed through partnership funding. 15 stations would qualify for such improvements over the length of the franchise, which Arriva acknowledged amounted to roughly one per year.[142] Some Welsh Stations have been improved through the Rail Passengers Partnership (RPP) Fund in south and mid Wales. However, that funding was "temporarily suspended" by the SRA as a consequence of cuts in UK Government funding.[143] The Strategic Rail Authority has continued to fund those station improvements already under contract, for example stations at Llandaf and Trefforest, but it fell to the Welsh Assembly Government to allocate £2.5million to enable that work to continue.[144] Unless the RPP funding is restored, funding for any additional station improvements would fall on the Welsh Assembly Government

92. Mr Cameron told us that beyond its commitment to refurbish 15 stations during the lifetime of the franchise, Arriva had "no responsibility whatsoever to provide those basic facilities [at stations] over and above what exists at present and that is part of the contractual framework that the SRA set out in its objectives".[145] Nonetheless, he assured us that some improvement to the physical condition of stations - lighting, roofing, toilets, heating improvements could be made. These would be through a scheme called "Adopt a Station" where selected regular users report faults or repairs required. Those faults and repairs would then be targeted in the most cost effective manner.[146] Arriva has operated similar projects in the North of England for just over 12 months and Mr Cameron told us that they get"a very, very positive community involvement [that] allows us to spend the money much more wisely and better".[147]

93. We have a degree of sympathy for Arriva in its programme for station improvements. It has agreed a franchise contract with the SRA for a fixed annual payment that excluded both new stations or station improvements. We recommend that Arriva press ahead in the short term with the private/public partnership discussions with all interested parties to improve many more than 15 stations in Wales.

94. Safety at Stations was an issue that was raised by the Rail Passengers Committee. The RPC noted that it should not be assumed that safety concerns were limited to rail accidents: "to most passengers, safety means personal security—ladies alone at night, or people who are vulnerable".[148] In this context the RPC lamented the limited number of Transport Police available to the North Wales Main Line.[149]

95. We note that Arriva has a duty of care for the station fabric and that cleaning platforms, general repairs, removing graffiti and repainting are their responsibility. Poorly maintained stations do not promote a safe environment and therefore we expect a commitment from Arriva that those duties will not be ignored in the running of the franchise.

Cardiff Station

96. In our report on Transport in Wales we recommended that consideration be given to the complete redevelopment of Cardiff bus and rail stations - including improved access for taxis - to provide a high-quality public transport interchange which is suitable for a capital city and seat of government.[150]

97. In the intervening period no plans have been put forward to redevelop the bus station so that it becomes fully integrated with the railway station and that taxis are positioned and regulated so that customers may wait undercover. Arriva has set aside £400,000 for improvements to Cardiff, Chester, Hereford, Newport and Shrewsbury Stations. However, Mr Cameron acknowledged that significant improvements to Cardiff station were necessary.[151]

98. We welcome the acknowledgement that Cardiff Station is still in need of significant improvements. We recommend Arriva, First Great Western and other interested parties consider the establishment of a joint group to redevelop the station to provide a facility that reflects the status of Cardiff as the Capital of Wales.

Holyhead Station

99. In our Report on Transport in Wales we concluded that the Strategic Rail Authority, in partnership with the National Assembly for Wales and North Western Trains, take urgent steps to improve passenger rail facilities at Holyhead to at least a standard acceptable level, and preferably beyond.[152]

100. Little progress appears to have been made since that report although we understand that Stena Lines are prepared to enter into a funding arrangement with the Strategic Rail Authority, Network Rail and Arriva to refurbish Holyhead station to provide a Gateway Station to the United Kingdom.[153]

101. We welcome the involvement of Stena Lines in negotiations to refurbish Holyhead Station. Given the potential for local spend by high spending visitors on cruise-ships, we are confident that further discussion between port operators, ferry companies and the WDA on financing jetties and terminals would be worthwhile.


102. Mr Chris Austin from the Strategic Rail Authority told us that the SRA had produced a code of practice and that train operators had to provide a Disabled Persons' Protection Policy (DPPP). In drawing up that policy and code of practice the train operators would consult disabled groups within their areas about specific access issues which they can reflect in their DPPP. There are also two legislative requirements. The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations require all new rolling stock to have to comply with quite prescriptive specifications on matters such as the design of handrails and the design and colour co-ordination of doors, the lettering on train information systems and the pressure required for door-open buttons. Mr Austin also explained that legislation in respect of the Access to Stations would come into force in 2004.[154]

103. Mr Cameron acknowledged that Arriva held the responsibility for disabled access to its stations and trains, and was working with the SRA and other franchisees for further improvements to access.[155] He further argued that Arriva would be introducing dedicated telephone helplines for travellers but conceded that with a "Victorian network" it was not possible to make the network fully accessible to disabled people.[156]

104. Where possible, Arriva hoped to ensure that train connections at its stations would have appropriate facilities for disabled travellers, for example lifts and bridges between platforms. However he argued that "where there is no lift facility provided, we feel is that it is better to get connectivity even in those circumstances than no connectivity at all".[157]

105. Our inquiry touched lightly on disabled access to rail services. However, this issue is also being considered by the House of Commons Transport Committee,[158] and the Joint Committee on the Draft Disability Discrimination Bill.[159]

106. We welcome the commitment to improving disabled access to stations and the legislation that underwrites that commitment. However, we are concerned that funding constraints may not deliver the necessary improvements in good time. We recommend that the SRA, in conjunction with Network Rail and the Train Operators undertake an audit of all stations in Wales, including lift access for disabled passengers, to assess what work is necessary for stations to comply with the legislation covering disabled access.


107. Mr Cameron told us that the provision of information at stations was an important aspect of Arriva's policy for rail services. He explained that in its other franchises, Arriva had introduced maps at stations that showed local facilities, the location of bus stations and provided numbers for taxi companies. [160] Similar information was planned for the Wales and Borders franchise. Mr Cameron acknowledged that "If you cannot get the basic information, then you cannot expect people to travel".[161] It was Arriva's intention to provide such information though Project Inform, a scheme run by the existing train operating companies in Wales. That scheme would ensure that, when customers arrived at stations, then they would also receive information about the train they wished to take, how that train was operating and destination and stops along that line.[162]

108. We welcome Arriva's acknowledgement of the importance of clear signage and information for passengers. We will monitor closely Arriva's proposals to improve information for passengers at Stations within the Wales and Borders franchise.

95   Second Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Transport in Wales, Session 2002-03, HC205 para 40. Back

96   Ev 37 Back

97   Second Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Transport in Wales, Session 2002-03, HC205 para 42. Back

98   Q475 Back

99   Q393 Back

100 Back

101   S206(3) and 207(5) Back

102 Back

103 Back

104 Back

105   Q78 Back

106   Ev 37 Back

107   Ev 38 Back

108   Q82 Back

109   Q82 Back

110   Q87 Back

111   Q243 Back

112   Q87 Back

113   Q 381, 382 Back

114   Q382 Back

115   see para 65. Back

116   Ev 124 Back

117   Ev 130 Back

118   Transporting Visions in Agenda, Summer 2002, Institute of Welsh Affairs, Cardiff Back

119   Second Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Transport in Wales, Session 2002-03, HC205 para 45 Back

120 Back

121 Back

122   Rail Passengers Committee Cymru Wales - Service Aspirations for the Wales and Borders franchise 2001  Back

123   We consider the expansion of the Cardiff Commuter lines at paras 86 to 90. Back

124   Ev 130 Back

125   Ev 35, Q250 Back

126   Q250 Back

127   Q250 Back

128   Q250 Back

129   Q264  Back

130   Q293 Back

131   Q293 Back

132   See paragraphs 19 to 35. Back

133   Ev90 and Q466 Back

134   Ev 119 Back

135   Q449  Back

136   Q449 Back

137   Q253, Q263  Back

138   Ev 37 Back

139   Q280 Back

140   Evidence to the Economic Development and Transport Committee, National Assembly for Wales, 19 November 2003, Back

141 Back

142   Q267 Back

143   Q60 Back

144   QQ61-2 Back

145   Q271 Back

146   Q270 Back

147   Q270 Back

148   Q469 Back

149   Q469 Back

150   Second Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Transport in Wales, Session 2002-03, HC 205, para 14. Back

151   Q273 Back

152   Second Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Transport in Wales, Session 2002-03, HC 205, paras 70-73. Back

153   Ev 53 Back

154   The Disability and Discrimination Act 1995, Q86 Back

155   Q261 Back

156   Q289 Back

157   Q289 Back

158 Back

159 Back

160   Q292 Back

161   Q273 Back

162   Q270 Back

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