There are ten priorities which should shape Wales’s new rail franchise according to a National Assembly for Wales Committee.
The list of priorities – which includes: new trains, better communication, affordable fares and a greener railway - is part of a detailed report looking at the ambitious and innovative process to award a new contract to run Wales’ railways.
Russell George, chair of the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, said: “Awarding a rail franchise is not simple. So for the Welsh Government to be letting a franchise for the first time represents a big challenge. With no experience to fall back on it is doing everything from scratch. That alone, would be cause for pause.
“But other circumstances – including the delays over the devolution of powers to the Welsh Government, uncertainty about funding, and the aging trains that run in Wales - combine to make the Welsh Government’s task heroically ambitious.
“This report examines the challenges facing the Welsh Government and others as we approach a crucial point in the history of the railway network in Wales. It highlights our concerns in a number of areas, and sets out how the growing mass of organisations involved in running rail services in Wales and the Borders need to work together if the people of Wales are to receive the 21st Century rail services they demand.
“We have also pulled together ten key priorities that we think should be part of the final specification for those hoping to run our railways in the future.”
The Committee’s work included a survey of almost 3000 rail users in the Wales and Borders area, which showed that passengers put the highest priority on punctual and reliable services, and having enough seats for everyone travelling.
The Committee also held a stakeholder meeting in Shrewsbury to hear directly from passengers on the English border who were concerned that their voice would be marginalised under the new regime, and the Committee recommends that “robust passenger and stakeholder engagement structures” should be put in place to ensure the views of all users are at the heart of the franchise – including those in England. The Committee also received evidence from a wide range of experts, rail organisations, and members of the public.
The full report makes 19 recommendations including calls for greater openness in the process, an end to delays in transferring powers from Westminster, and clearer lines of accountability at Transport for Wales – the new body overseeing the rail franchise.
The Welsh Government expects to produce its final specification for the Rail Franchise in July.
The Committee’s ten priorities for the new Wales & Borders Franchise
Performance measures should include:
- passenger satisfaction (as measured by the National Rail Passenger Survey),
- passenger growth,
- and the condition and maintenance of rolling stock.
The franchise needs to take full notice of Welsh Government’s environmental commitments – reducing CO2 emissions and providing a greener, cleaner service over the course of the franchise;
Clock-face timetabling where possible in a franchise which prioritises integration, including smart ticketing and effective connections with the bus network and other train services;
A willingness to explore new routes and services and service frequencies which meet passenger needs;
Affordable fares with clear, simple ticketing options;
Sufficient, high quality rolling stock which meets demand now and in the future, which is accessible and with adequate space for wheelchair users and service dogs, space for luggage, cycle storage and prams. It should also have Wi-Fi connectivity, USB / plug sockets, air conditioning / functioning heating, improved cleanliness and adequate toilet facilities including baby changing facilities; catering and refreshments services that are appropriate for long journeys; and a contactable member of staff on board;
Improved on-board information and communication on connections and delays;
Stations that meet or exceed the minimum expectations of passengers, a commitment to and funding for community rail projects;
Effective revenue protection systems to ensure all passengers can and do pay a fair fare;
Improved management of delays and disruption.