Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Third Report


CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

SOUTH WALES MAIN LINE

    1.  We welcome the assurance from First Great Western that there are no plans to reduce the frequency of their services between London and South Wales. (Paragraph 10)

    2.  We welcome the decision by First Great Western to negotiate with Network Rail for the reintroduction of a later evening service from London to Cardiff. We do not believe that the people of South Wales should have to wait until the award of the new Greater Western franchise in 2006. It is unacceptable that there is no late night service linking the capital cities of England and Wales and we recommend that the Strategic Rail Authority provide sufficient funds to introduce such a service in time for new timetable, due to come into force in December 2004. (Paragraph 15)

    3.  We welcome First Great Western's proposals for a high speed train link between the capitals of England and Wales. This is the sort of forward looking approach that is necessary to provide a positive future for rail services in South Wales. We are unimpressed with the reaction of the SRA to such proposals. Given the long lead time necessary to enact such a proposal, we recommend that the Strategic Rail Authority give urgent consideration to a new high speed link between England and South Wales as part of the long term strategy for a Greater Western service. (Paragraph 18)

    4.  We welcome the SRAs announcement of a forthcoming route strategy for the Great Western Main Line, and the potential improvements that a Greater Western Franchise may offer. We look to the SRA to reassure us that the needs of South Wales will not be secondary to those of Southern England when the route strategy is developed. (Paragraph 28)

    5.  We welcome the Government announcement of a review of the rail industry. We look forward to receiving further details on the Government's proposals for streamlining these organisations. We will judge these proposals on the extent to which they promote genuinely better services for rail users. (Paragraph 32)

    6.  We recommend that when the SRA develops its route strategy for the Great Western Main Line, it should give consideration to the cost and feasibility of a second rail crossing between Wales and England. (Paragraph 35)

NORTH WALES MAIN LINE

    7.  We welcome any increase in intercity services for North Wales. We are disappointed that the projected service level of seven trains a day will not be realised. While we appreciate that the reduction in the line speed has forced Virgin to reduce the numbers of trains per day, we conclude that Virgin Train's planning of the new service and consequent promises ought to have been more adequately thought through so that unrealistic aspirations could have been avoided. (Paragraph 39)

    8.  We find the delay by Network Rail in authorising the North Wales Main Line for use by Pendolino trains unacceptable. We recommend that Network Rail ensure early clearance for the use of Pendolino trains along the North Wales Main Line be given in time for the introduction of that service in December 2004. (Paragraph 41)

    9.  We welcome the SRAs commitment to a costing exercise for increasing the line speed on the North Wales Main Line. However, any costing exercise would be of limited use should funds not be available. We recommend that the SRA give a clear commitment to upgrading the North Wales Main Line should its costing exercise demonstrate value for money. Furthermore, we recommend that the SRA commit to running the exercise in conjunction with the National Assembly for Wales so that there is an adequate level of transparency in the process. (Paragraph 45)

    10.  We recommend that electrification of the line be included in the costing exercise for increase in the line speed of the North Wales Main Line. We further recommend, that should the costings not prove prohibitively expensive, the work be carried out as part of the rebuilding of the West Coast Main Line. (Paragraph 48)

    11.  We recommend that the Secretary of State for Wales consult with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure representations are made to the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament for funding for the upgrade of the North Wales Main Line as part of the Trans European Network initiative. (Paragraph 53)

VIRGIN CROSS COUNTRY SERVICES

    12.  While the changes to Virgin Cross country service may well have been necessary to provide a reliable cross country service, the manner in which decisions were made fell well short of what is required. Presenting the First Minister with what was effectively a fait accompli the night before changes to the service were made does not constitute consultation. We conclude that the Strategic Rail Authority failed in its statutory duty towards the National Assembly for Wales and did not honour its own undertaking to consult the Rail Passengers Committee. We recommend that the Strategic Rail Authority review its procedures to ensure that such events do not happen in the future. (Paragraph 59)

THE WALES AND BORDERS FRANCHISE

    13.  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. (Paragraph 70)

    14.  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. (Paragraph 71)

    15.  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. (Paragraph 75)

WALES AND BORDERS SERVICES

    16.  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. (Paragraph 80)

    17.  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. (Paragraph 84)

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

    19.  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. (Paragraph 90)

    20.  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. (Paragraph 93)

    21.  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. (Paragraph 95)

CARDIFF STATION

    22.  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. (Paragraph 98)

HOLYHEAD STATION

    23.  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. (Paragraph 101)

DISABLED ACCESS

    24.  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. (Paragraph 106)

INFORMATION

    25.  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. (Paragraph 108)

POWERS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

    26.  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. (Paragraph 119)

    27.  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. (Paragraph 121)

    28.  We recommend that the concept of statutory consortia /passenger transport boards should be examined by the Department for Transport alongside a public transport body covering the whole of Wales. Greater flexibility in the powers of the National Assembly can only serve to increase its potential to realise its aspirations for a fully integrated transport policy for Wales. (Paragraph 126)


 
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