Welsh Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence from the Welsh Government

Purpose of Paper

1. This paper sets out some general background to the working relationships that Welsh Government has with partners in both Wales and England in order to deliver strategic outcomes for Wales. It also provides some specific information on cross border routes and interventions.

Working Relationships

2. The Welsh Government works closely with partners across Wales to deliver appropriate transport links and connectivity for people travelling into and within Wales. In doing this the Welsh Government also works closely with partners in England to deliver shared objectives. These partners include the Department for Transport, the Wales Office, Network Rail, Local Authorities in England, as well as transport providers such as rail, bus and coach operating companies.

3. The Welsh Government set out its vision for the transport system in Wales in the Welsh Transport Strategy, published in May 2008. Subsequently the National Transport Plan set out our delivery plan up to 2015. In December 2011 Welsh Government prioritised the interventions in this Plan to bring forward investment that will make the transport system in Wales work better to help tackle poverty, increase well-being and assist economic growth.

4. Our focus is on improving mobility and connectivity so that people are able to access the things they need, such as jobs, health care, education, child care, friends and family. With regards to roads infrastructure, we are focusing on solutions that address the pinch-points on our rural and urban networks that hinder the efficient flow of people and goods, and where congestion makes the network inefficient. We will work with delivery partners in both England and Wales to make the road network more efficient, addressing the problems that people face every day.

5. The Welsh Government wants to see a modern and more effective rail system in Wales. Our vision is to make rail more accessible, so that more of our communities have the choice of accessing a high-quality yet affordable rail system. As part of this the Welsh Government have led on the development of the outline business case for the continuation of electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Swansea, as well as the outline business case for electrification of the whole of the Valley Lines network with Department for Transport officials. Such advancements in the rail network will require close working with delivery partners in Wales and England.

6. To improve access to employment and training opportunities and accessibility of services for many of our communities, Welsh Government are working closely with stakeholders in Wales and England to ensure the connectivity and coherence of our bus and coach system, including with other forms of transport. Bus services provide the first point of connectivity for many people and it is essential that we work with our partners in England as well as Wales to ensure that appropriate links are made.

7. The Welsh Government is closely engaged in negotiations with other UK Administrations, led by the Department for Transport, on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) framework. The TEN-T framework designates rail and road routes and ports and airports that are particularly important for international connectivity. This dialogue has been productive for all involved and resulted in positive change for Wales, such as Milford Haven being recognised as a core port.

Roads

8. The Prioritisation of the National Transport Plan is in line with the Welsh Government’s commitment to ensure existing transport funding is used effectively and the level of resources enhanced. Welsh Government recognises the importance to improve the capacity and reliability of the main east-west strategic Trans European road and rail corridors in Wales.

9. Welsh Government Officials maintain strong relations with the Department of Transport and Highways Agency and regularly discuss potential cross border issues. Local Authorities that have borders with England also maintain close working relationships with their counterparts in England to ensure issues are addressed as appropriate.

10. Relationships in the past have at times been challenging, especially where different stakeholders have competing or diverging priorities. Historically, the priorities and objectives for some routes considered of primary importance for Wales, were not shared by stakeholders in England, resulting in delays in taking forward interventions. Below are a number of route and project specific examples where Welsh Government is working with Partners in England.

11. A458 Wollaston to Buttington Cross—We are currently working in close cooperation with the Highways Agency and Department for Transport on this route which is the proposed improvement scheme to bypass a number of constraints on this section of the network, proposals are being led by the Welsh Government as the majority of the works are in Wales. Welsh Government have identified delivery for this scheme beyond 2015, however, it is not included in the Highways Agency’s Targeted Programme of Improvements—now known as the Major Projects Programme. We will continue to work with and discuss proposals with stakeholders in England, any successful resolution will require agreement from both sides of the border.

12. Wrexham, Chester and Deeside Triangle—The Welsh Government has carried out two WelTAG transport studies in parallel—North East Wales Area Based Transport Study (NEWABTS) and A55/A494 WelTAG Planning and Stage 1 Study. There are parts of the road network in England that impact on transport connections in North Wales so liaison has taken place with partner authorities in England to discuss these issues. Formal consultation is currently scheduled for 2012–13.

13. M4 Strategic Corridor—The M4 corridor is a Trans-European Network and therefore of strategic importance to Wales and England. We engage in regular discussions with the Department for Transport and Highways Agency on routine issues, such as maintenance and improvements, as well as more strategic issues such as the future of the Severn Crossings. Following the Chancellors Autumn statement referring to improvements to the M4 in South Wales, Welsh Government officials have met with their UK Government counterparts on a number of occasions to discuss options for financing major strategic enhancements to the M4. It is too soon to say what the outcome of the discussion will be.

14. EasyWay—The Welsh Government is an active participant in the “EasyWay” Euro-Regional project. The UK and Republic of Ireland are represented by the “Streetwise” group. Some of the project’s aims are to facilitate and increase coordination of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). This requires Welsh Government to work closely alongside the Highways Agency and Department for Transport, both in deployment of ITS but also in information sharing, shared studies and reviewing benefits of certain network management regimes,

15. Network Policy—The Welsh Government also sit on the “5 Nations” group which includes the Highways Agency, Transport Scotland, Roads Services of Northern Ireland (NRA). This (and a number of sub-groups eg Road Lighting) are examples of close partnering with other nations, especially the Highways Agency. In practical terms, the Welsh Government’s Traffic Management Centres have extremely good working relationships with the neighbouring Highways Agency regions, this is an ongoing and fruitful relationship. The relationship includes everything from visits, sharing of information/best practice—through to managing incidents that impact on different areas as they happen.

16. Network Operations—The Welsh Government is a participant and contributor to cross border information exchange (known as DATEX-2)—this is where information on network conditions and incidents are shared across borders in an automated, uniform way. This improves network management and the ability of road operators to disseminate timely and accurate information.

Bus and Coach Services

17. Welsh Government is committed to improving local and long distance bus/coach services within Wales. The prioritisation of the National Transport Plan has meant that we are focusing on improving the support we offer to bus service operators so that our public transport system better meets the needs of users and future users. This means working with local authorities, community transport and the bus industry partners in Wales and England.

18. Bus operators provide the vast majority of bus services commercially with local authorities subsidising socially necessary bus services. Local authorities along the Welsh border have reciprocal arrangements with their English counterparts for the funding of local cross-border services. Below are a number of examples where Welsh Government is working with partners in England.

19. Traffic Commissioner—Responsibility for the Traffic Commissioners is a matter for the UK Government and is not devolved to the Welsh Government. However, working with the UK Government, Welsh Government has agreed to put in place an office for the Traffic Commissioner in Cardiff. This new office is expected to be open for business early in the 2012–13 financial year. These arrangements will allow the Traffic Commissioner to improve partnerships with the industry and other stakeholders and will help our plans for improved bus compliance and taking forward Statutory Bus Quality Partnerships and Quality Contract schemes in Wales.

20. Coach Services—The Welsh Government still funds concessionary travel on coach services within Wales and so passengers can enjoy discounts on the Greyhound Service between Cardiff and Swansea as well as Arriva’s coach services in North Wales. There is no similar arrangement in England, however commercial cross border services do operate. In November 2011, National Express introduced a new concessionary travel scheme for elderly and disabled people that provides a 33% discount on the price of the full adult fare for most journeys across the UK. Eligible people need to purchase a £10 National Express Coach Card to qualify for the discount. This is a commercial product without any UK or Welsh Government subsidy.

21. Concessionary Fares—The concessionary fares scheme in Wales enjoys more generous entitlements than elsewhere in the UK as it allows those holding a card to benefit from free travel for people over the age of 60 and disabled people to travel for free at all times. Under our free concessionary bus travel scheme, local authorities have discretion to put in place reciprocal arrangements with other local authorities in England to allow access to essential services such as health care. For example, such arrangements exist between Wrexham and Chester as well as between Monmouth and Gloucestershire.

22. The British and Irish Council, as well as other cross government discussions, have focused on concessionary fares and proposals for a single reciprocal system. Whilst all would aspire to a single system, there are issues in terms of consistency of offer and payment arrangements. These have yet to be resolved and it is unlikely that such an agreement will be reached. However an ongoing dialogue with the Department for Transport and other devolved administrations continues.

Rail

23. As a Government we are increasingly influencing the future of rail in Wales, and we are working to secure more direct involvement in the planning and delivery of a modern rail network. We will use all levers at our disposal to increase our influence over the rail network and services in Wales.

24. Cross Border rail Franchises—The current cross border priorities for the Welsh Government are the forthcoming refranchising of west Coast Mainline and Great Western services by the UK Government. The Welsh Government has submitted formal consultation responses to the Department for Transport with our aspirations for service improvements.

25. High Speed 2—The new high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands will be delivered by 2026. There are currently no plan for high speed rail in Wales. In 2010 Welsh Government commissioned a report, prior to the HS2 announcement, this report stated that Wales would be economically disadvantaged if HS2 excluded Wales. A more recent report, “Regional and Local Economic Impacts of rail Investments” endorsed this view. Connections to the High Speed Rail network will be crucial. We will continue to discuss this further with the UK Government.

26. Electrification—The electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Swansea, alongside the electrification of the Valley Lines networks are the two key Welsh Government priorities for the forthcoming railway Control Period 5. Welsh Government has led on the development of these business cases with the support of the Department for Transport, and the results are very positive. The business case for the electrification of the Great Western Main Line between Swansea and Cardiff is also strong when considered in parallel with the case for the Valley Lines network. We have submitted these business cases to the Department for Transport for inclusion in the decision making process for the HLOS, and discussions with the UK Government are ongoing. There is strong cross party support in the Senedd for these projects.

27. Cross-Border Rail—The Welsh Government jointly convenes the Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) Cross-Border forum with the Department for Transport. The forum meets twice each year. It has representatives from each of the Welsh and English local authorities that are served by ATW, as well as passenger focus.

28. In addition, the Welsh Government works closely with the six Community Rail Partnerships that operate in Wales, four of which are cross-border—Borderlands, Cambrian, heart of Wales Line and Chester-Shrewsbury.

29. Merseytravel and the TAITH transport consortium have led on the study for the electrification of the Borderlands line and a current study looking at potential improvements under diesel operations. The Welsh Government has contributed to both studies. The Welsh Government has engaged with Merseytravel and TAITH to consider progress and potential linkage with our National Transport Plan commitments to address transport issues in the Wrexham, Chester, Deeside triangle. These discussions are ongoing and a further meeting will be held in the near future.

30. Capacity Issues and Pinch Points—Welsh Government’s key priorities are the redoubling of the single line section between Wrexham and Saltney Junction, to improve capacity and journey times, and a commitment to introduce additional daytime services on the Cambrian Mainline between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury.

31. Welsh Government has made a contribution to improve the infrastructure on the Cambrian Mainline between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury to improve performance and capacity; and the extension of ATW services to Manchester Airport and Birmingham International. In addition, the Welsh Government made a contribution to a Network Rail feasibility study into doubling the line between Swindon and Kemble, a now committed scheme funded by the UK Government.

32. Welsh Government also provide funding for improved cross border rail services, for example, carriages for Cambrian Mainline services from Aberystwyth to Birmingham and on the Borderlands services between Wrexham and Bidston.

33. We continue to work closely with all our delivery partners in England and Wales to ensure that cross-border services and issues and appropriately raised and are addressed in a collaborative way.

2 April 2012

Prepared 5th March 2013