Powers of Direction and Guidance
over the Strategic Rail Authority
113. This was
not the view of the National Assembly, which welcomed devolving
further powers to the National Assembly, in particular powers
of direction over the SRA, and the power to appoint a member to
the SRA. Sue Essex, Minister for Transport, Planning & Environment
said that "Whilst I understand the Government's arguments
about the nature of the network in Wales, I do not think that
these concerns are insurmountable [
] The rail network in
Wales is a key element underpinning the Welsh Assembly Government's
vision for a coherent transport network. Powers of direction over
the SRA are therefore essential so that the delivery of train
services in Wales supports our integrated transport policy. We
would work very closely with the English border authorities to
ensure their needs and aspirations are also fully integrated into
114. The Rail Passengers Committee also welcomed
the proposals to transfer to the National Assembly direction and
guidance over the SRA
believing it would achieve decision-making "closer to the
Furthermore the RPC argued that powers of direction and guidance
over the SRA conferred on the Scottish Parliament gave it the
ability to pursue an integrated transport policy as a means of
attracting people off the motorways..
While Network Rail had no view on devolved powers it acknowledged
that this division of powers worked well in Scotland.
115. Arriva trains provided an insight into joint
responsibility to the SRA and another body - in this case Merseyside
PTE where Arriva have until recently been the train operating
company. Mr Cameron told us that the PTE "specify the level
of service, the quality of service and they pay for additional
services over and above those specified by the SRA".
Arriva expected that if similar powers were conferred on the Welsh
Assembly Government, it could be "much more vocal [than the
SRA] in looking after local needs, to be very focused and very
determined, making sure the border counties were not to lose out
and that the Assembly Government would be an active partner in
116. The Government position has softened since our
last Report. In written evidence the Department for Transport
told us that its officials have had "initial discussions
with National Assembly officials about the National Assembly's
desire for a [Transport (Wales)]Bill and we are currently considering
more detailed proposals as to whether or to what extent Westminster
Government would be prepared to support a Bill that contained
some or all of the proposals".
117. When we took evidence from the Minster for Transport
he confirmed that his Department and the Welsh Assembly Government
were in discussions about a draft Transport (Wales) Bill and that
those discussions included these issues. While he noted the complexities
of conferring powers on the National Assembly over a rail service
that meanders in and out of Wales he argued that: "It is
not rocket science, we ought to be able to get somewhere on that".
118. The financial powers sought by the National
Assembly would involve complex arrangements with the SRA. Powers
of direction and guidance similar to Scotland's would have to
take into account differences between the Welsh and Scottish rail
networks. However, Dr Howells was of the opinion that the resolution
of financial arrangements were not insuperable problems.
119. We welcome the progress that has been made
in discussions on the strategic direction of the rail network
between the UK Government and Welsh Assembly Government. We reiterate
our recommendation that powers of guidance and direction over
the Strategic Rail Authority in respect of the Wales and Borders
franchise and other rail services within Wales be conferred on
the National Assembly for Wales.
Appointment of SRA Members by
the National Assembly
120. It its response to our report on Transport in
Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government also stated that it wished
to see a clause providing for the appointment of at least one
member of the SRA in any Transport (Wales) Bill.
This would provide a clearer link between the National Assembly
and the Strategic Rail Authority. The Government's response was
less than enthusiastic about this proposal.
However, the Minister of State for Transport believed that this
was open to discussion and stated that Richard Bowker, the Chairman
of the SRA was also keen to discuss that with the National Assembly.
However, although he understood the rationale behind that aspiration
he believed that difficulties would have to be overcome to achieve
121. We support the aspiration of the National
Assembly to be given the power to appoint one or more members
of the SRA and recommend that clauses to that effect be included
in any draft Transport (Wales) Bill.
Regional Transport Boards based
on the Existing Consortia
122. The Committee also recommended that the Government
should introduce legislation to enable the National Assembly to
establish by secondary legislation one or more Passenger Transport
Authorities or Passenger Transport Executives covering all or
part of Wales. Whether to establish one or more PTAs or PTEs would
then remain a decision for the National Assembly.
123. The present consortia were set up by agreement
between groups of county councils. They are TAITH, SWWITCH, TraCC
and SEWTA, the last of which was created out of the merger of
SWIFT and TIGER.