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Plaid renews call for 'not for profit' train services

18/02/2022

Plaid Cymru has renewed its calls for the management of Welsh railways to be put in the hands of a 'not for distributable profit' company when the current franchise contract with Arriva Trains Wales ends in 2018. The party’s transport spokesperson, Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM said that continued hikes in fares mean that more and more people are finding rail travel unaffordable. He argued that this highlights the need for government action to change the franchise.

The proposal to put Welsh railways into the hands of a ‘not for profit’ company was originally announced by Plaid Cymru in November 2010 ahead of the 2011 Welsh General Election campaign. Rhodri Glyn Thomas, who is the Plaid AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, explained that most of the preparation work for the refranchising would need to be undertaken during the current Assembly term, in order to provide sufficient planning time to develop a delivery model that is better suited to the needs of the people in Wales. In light of this he called for the Labour government in Wales to take action to move the Plaid Cymru proposals forwards.

Mr Thomas went onto explain that the Plaid Cymru plans would also mean that, in creating a not-for-distributable-profit organisation to run Welsh railways, significantly more money could be made available to invest in services. He said that this money could be invested directly to create more frequent services in the South Wales valleys, more frequent journeys to West Wales and on the Cambrian line, as well as additional services between the north and south of Wales. It would also enable investment in new rolling stock to help keep pace with growing demand.

Plaid Cymru’s transport spokesperson, Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, said:

“During these difficult economic times, the Welsh government needs to take radical and innovative action in order to get the best deal for the people of Wales. It cannot be acceptable that rail fares in Wales continue to rise by as much as 11% while so many people are struggling to cope financially. Sitting back and doing nothing is not an option.

“At a time of shrinking budgets it is also important that the government is focused on getting the best possible value for money out of every penny of public funds. That is why Plaid Cymru is calling on the Welsh government to step up to the mark and take our proposal on board.

“In Wales we have an excellent example of how a ‘not-for-profit’ company can operate in Glas Cymru. This model could have great potential for the delivery of rail services.

“Welsh train services could be run by a company with a similar not-for profit model and its board could include representation from the Welsh government as well as expertise from the fields of integrated transport, customer service, accessibility, rail projects and finance."

Rhodri Glyn Thomas went on to explain that the benefits of Plaid Cymru’s proposal would have long term benefits for the economy of Wales and in tackling climate change:

"Improving infrastructure, including rail, is crucial to the development of the Welsh economy - to create the successful, prosperous and green nation that we know Wales can be.

“This proposal could be a further step toward creating a national transport system for Wales. It could integrate all modes of public transport under one brand and one ticketing scheme similar to the transport for London model, where you can use a single card to access rail, bus and underground services.

"In the challenging times ahead, ambitious solutions are needed to create the successful nation that we know Wales can be."

 

This proposal was originally launched by Plaid Cymru in November 2010

- In 2003 a 15 year franchise for running railway services in Wales was awarded to Arriva Trains Wales. Welsh Ministers and the UK Department for Transport are co-signatories on the franchise which is worth around £165 million a year to Arriva Trains Wales.

Arriva Trains Wales is currently making a healthy profit from this agreement. Despite this, most demand for additional rail services are met directly by Welsh Government funds and are not funded by Arriva Trains Wales whose priority is to service its shareholders.

The Plaid Cymru proposals would mean the transfer of control over the franchise to Welsh Ministers in order to put the franchise in the hands of a ‘not-for-profit’ company. This would allow the new company to reinvest its profits in developing better and more train services for people, instead of the current model where the majority of profits are returned to Arriva Trains Wales' shareholders. This could release extra money to invest in an improved All-Wales Rail Service which could amount to between £100m - £120m over a decade. Arriva Trains Wales' staff would be transferred to work for the new company under normal TUPE arrangements.

Plaid Cymru believes that such a plan would bring about numerous benefits:

  •  Significant savings – releasing a fund for possible reinvestment projects such as re-opening lines across Wales, improving journey times or purchasing additional rolling stock.

  • The development of an All-Wales transport network – integrating ticketing and timetables across public transport in Wales.