West coast rail changes


Responding to the announcement that FirstGroup would be the new franchise holder for the West Coast Mainline, which includes many services to north Wales, Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon, Hywel Williams said:

“I welcome First Group’s statement that they are firmly committed to improving services to north Wales.

“Improvements should include more direct services to London and to Manchester Airport from Holyhead and Bangor. Longer trains to seat more people would also be a help.

“However, with fares rising and the very strong threat of cuts to services, we will be doing what we can to make sure that pledges are honoured.

“After all, when railway improvement announcements were made last month, north Wales was ignored – despite the north Wales line being a vital international route between the Republic of Ireland, London and the continent.

“Electrification of the north Wales line would cost as little as £300m, which is tiny in the context of billions of pounds of improvements in England announced by the Treasury.”

Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has demanded cast-iron guarantees that the Westminster government that staffing and less profitable lines will not be cut.

Llyr Gruffydd AM said:

“These proposals from FirstGroup to increase services and refurbish trains in north Wales are welcome, but it is clearly done against a backdrop of huge cuts and savings that could have a negative longer-term impact on services across the north.

“If previous experience is anything to go by we could see less profitable routes being cut with implications for passengers and the economy in north Wales and train unions are warning that station staff might be cut under the McNulty Report.

“To put passengers first, Plaid has called for the complete overhaul of rail franchise agreements and for the Wales rail franchise to go to a not for-distributable-profit company. This would ensure profits go back into improving services instead of into the pockets of wealthy shareholders.

“As the preferred bidder First Group will now enter more detailed negotiation with the UK Government and I urge the Rail Minister Theresa Villiers to ensure that passengers, staff and services in north Wales will not suffer as a result of the casino franchising of rail privatisation.”