National Assembly for Wales

Enterprise and Business Committee


Inquiry into the future of the Wales and Borders Rail

Evidence from TraCC  - WBF 67

TraCC Initial Response to the National Assembly for Wales Inquiry into the future of the Wales and Borders Rail Franchise.



The Enterprise and Business Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the future of the Wales and Borders Rail Franchise.  TraCC welcomes the opportunity to comment at this stage.  TraCC understands that the terms of reference for the inquiry are:


·         What lessons can be learnt from the current franchise?


·         What priorities can be identified to ensure that rail passenger services in Wales and the borders provide the best possible service for passengers from 2018?


·         How can service delivery after 2018 deliver connectivity and value for money for passengers while reducing the burden on the tax payer?



TraCC understands that the Committee is considering a number of key issues as part of the inquiry (see Appendix A).


The Committee will consider responses to the inquiry received by the 13th September 2013 deadline and hold oral evidence sessions during the autumn term.


Trafnidiaeth Canolbarth Cymru (TraCC) is the local authority Regional Transport Consortium in Mid Wales.  It is a partnership between the three Mid Wales local authorities – Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Powys.  Gwynedd is also a partner in Taith, the North Wales Regional Transport Consortium.



Since its inception (2003) TraCC has become increasingly involved in rail planning and delivery.  A regional strategic rail partnership was established in 2008 to bring key partners together to promote and coordinate the development of rail infrastructure and service improvements.  A number of rail schemes have been identified as regional transport priority schemes (such as the hourly passenger service on the Cambrian Main Line between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury). TraCC is a co-funder (along with the DfT) of the Machynlleth Railway Station Access for All Mid Tier scheme and has funded the local authority element of the Aberystwyth Passenger Transport ‘gateway’ scheme.  Further rail projects that have been supported or promoted by TraCC are listed below.


TraCC Supported Rail Schemes


·         Pont Briwet road/ rail bridge replacement;

·         Machynlleth Railway Station Access for All Mid Tier;

·         Dyfi Junction Railway Station Access;

·         Aberystwyth Railway Station NSIP+;

·         Knucklas Station Pedestrian Access; and

·         Bow Street and Carno Railway Station Opening Proposal WelTAG Study.



TraCC/ its local authorities are also partners in and provide support to the two local Community Rail partnerships – Cambrian Railways Partnership and Heart of Wales Line Forum.  TraCC has provided administrative support to the Cambrian Railways Partnership and funded promotional/ marketing materials for both partnerships.


TraCC also provides regular reports to the Heart of Wales Line Forum, Cambrian Coast Liaison Committee and Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury Rail Committee.  TraCC is also working in support of the Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury Rail Committee and Heart of Wales Line Forum in preparing an evidence base to meet the Minister’s recent request for this information to inform her decisions on rail service enhancements serving Mid Wales.


Following publication of the detailed Rail Utilisation Study in 2010, TraCC is currently seeking the views of its constituent local authorities on its first Rail Strategy (currently in draft form) and more effective rail partnership arrangements in Mid Wales.


All of the current TrawsCymru (formerly TrawsCambria) services provide key regional North-South and some East-West passenger transport links to key destinations outside of the region for accessing employment opportunities and to access health facilities.  Like rail, TrawsCymru also provides a more seasonal passenger transport opportunity for accessing the Region for tourism and leisure purposes.  This is reflected in the current consultation draft Bus and Community Transport Network Strategy.


TraCC Response

The following response is based on the key issues identified by the Committee and included at Appendix A.  Further additional comments or observations are also presented.  TraCC is willing to provide further comment or evidence to the Committee.


Current Franchise and Passenger Needs and Involvement

The current franchise, which was specified by the UK Department for Transport, was predicated on ‘no growth’ in passenger demand. However, as the Network Rail Route Utilisation Strategy of November 2008 comments ‘There has been continued strong growth in passenger demand, particularly around the Cardiff region, and since publication of the Wales RUS Draft for Consultation the growth limits have been slightly lifted, to reflect both the expected trends for the all-day and commuting segments of the market (Wales RUS, p4). Whilst we acknowledge that Arriva Trains Wales has provided investment over and above its franchise obligations (often with Welsh Government support) we feel that the current franchise is inflexible to changes both in passenger demand within the railway industry, and in the Welsh economy in general. Consequently we believe that the new franchise, whether it is ‘not for dividend’ or commercial, should incorporate sufficient flexibility to react to changes in passenger demand and the need to use rail transport as a tool for economic development;


We believe that Passenger Focus is the most appropriate organisation to undertake this role as it has a relevant knowledge base, and the expertise and capacity, to undertake the necessary exercises in passenger involvement in franchise development and delivery. No doubt Passenger Focus could be aided in the consultation process by the local authorities, the Regional Transport Consortia and the various community rail partnerships. We believe that information is gathered not only from regular/ current users of rail services but also with those that do so occasionally or not at all. Importantly, there is a need to engage with the business community to better understand and cater for its needs. 


Role of regional transport consortia/ local government and community involvement

Until quite recently, the role of the regional transport consortia with respect to rail matters has been unclear, certainly form TraCC’s perspective.  Traditionally the local authority role/ regional consortia role has been to respond to local community and action groups,  develop and promote rail schemes through discussions with Government and the Rail Industry.  In some cases, it has been to allocate funding towards individual schemes (such as level crossing eliminations) and to support rail studies.  This role remains but has shifted in terms of the allocation of larger sums of grant funding provided by the Welsh Government to Regional Transport Consortia being invested in rail infrastructure schemes  - often to renew or provide new rail industry assets.


There is a valuable role undertaken by Community Rail Partnerships and rail user groups in communication issues to local and national government and to the rail industry.  This mechanism needs to be retained and strengthened.  Resource and capacity issues are however challenges to be overcome at a local/ regional level given increased expectations and work programmes associated with rail projects.


Management Model

A ‘not for dividend’ model would be interesting and TraCC would like to understand more about such an arrangement.  Presumably there are examples elsewhere in Europe?


In general, therefore, TraCC would support investigation of the benefits of the ‘not for dividend’ model, possibly leading to a more customer-focused approach to service planning and funding y Government and service provision by the train operating company with less of a focus on  the need to maximise shareholder dividends. There would however be a need to ensure that there are sufficient sources of funding to invest in improving services and infrastructure. This in turn implies the need to retain income form services and re-invest it in the railway.


We are aware that there are at least two models of ‘localised’ provision of rail services on the National Rail Network in Britain, namely:


a)    The ‘concession model’ used by Transport for London for procuring the management and operation of its London Overground network; and

b)    The ‘locally specified franchise’ model used by Merseytravel Passenger Transport Executive for procuring the management and operation of its Merseyrail network.


Of these two we believe that the former would work best in a tightly specified ‘not for dividend’ environment. However, we would caution that the ‘concession model’ would transfer revenue risk from the train operating company to the Welsh Government and would  require the Welsh Government to take a more pro-active role in the management and control of the Franchise.


Franchise Specification

TraCC believes that the new franchise, irrespective of its type, should not be a ‘no growth’ franchise and should be tightly specified in terms of:


a)    Service frequency;

b)    Seating capacity of service;

c)    Comfort, facilities and quality of rolling stock;

d)    Connectivity between rail services to access the UK-wide rail network;

e)    Connections and better integration between rail and bus services;