“Hands off” approach needed on Welsh Rail: Plaid challenges Welsh Secretary


Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Transport Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas has called for the UK Government to take a “hands off” approach to the renewal of the Wales and Border rail franchise, by allowing the decision to be made primarily in Wales. Mr. Thomas has further indicated that he expects the Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones, to stand up for Welsh interests in the Cabinet.

Plaid Cymru has been participating in discussions around creating an arms-length company to run Welsh rail services on a not-for-dividend basis. A number of options exist, including co-operative or mutual models, a ‘Glas Cymru’ style company, or even public ownership if its legality can be established. A Welsh Government statement on rail is expected during 2013. Franchise renewal, a joint responsibility between the Welsh and UK Governments, is formally expected in 2018, with the decision being made several years in advance. The debate is taking place against a backdrop of crisis in the UK rail franchising system.

The Party of Wales Transport spokesperson Rhodri Glyn Thomas commented:

“A positive cross-party debate has been taking place in Wales about the renewal of the rail franchise here. Different politicians, trade unions and rail organisations have been mapping out new and innovative options that would mitigate the chaos of privatisation on our rails and restore a sense of public ownership. We have a majority in the National Assembly in favour of taking this path and resisting the fragmentation of our rails that has led to huge costs and money being diverted from devolved Welsh budgets to pay for new services.

“At the moment the decision on renewal will be a joint deal between the Welsh Government and the UK ‘s Department for Transport. Plaid Cymru believes that the Welsh Transport Minister needs to be in the driving seat, with the DfT of course being fully consulted, along with our neighbours in the border local authorities in England who also benefit from the Welsh franchise.

“Ahead of the Welsh Government setting out how the renewal process will work, the Welsh Secretary David Jones needs to indicate whether he supports a ‘made-in-Wales’ decision and whether he will lobby his colleagues in the Conservative Government to take a hands-off approach. Any perceived London interference, especially if seen as supporting privatisation, could politically backfire for the UK Government.”

Plaid Cymru has further revealed that it will continue to press the government for the devolution of powers over rail in.

Mr. Thomas added:

“Rail is fundamentally important to economic development and transport. We can’t really accept that economic development and transport are devolved unless we also have rail powers to go along with them. A Plaid Cymru government would deliver a socially owned railway company with lower fares. We would establish Welsh control over Network Rail to fund Welsh rail infrastructure over-and-above UK expenditure levels. This would lead to the creation of more engineering and construction jobs and better passenger benefits.”