Inquiry into the Priorities for the future of Welsh Rail Infrastructure
The Enterprise and Business Committee carried out an inquiry into whether Wales’ railway infrastructure meets the needs of passengers and businesses as demand increases.
In Wales, the number of passenger journeys has increased by about half from just under 20 million journeys in 2003-04 to about 30 million in 2014-15.
Network Rail thinks that passenger numbers in Wales will keep growing in future. For example, it thinks that the number of passengers commuting into Cardiff will grow by 144 per cent between 2013 and 2043. It also expects passenger numbers travelling between the north Wales coast and London to increase by 151 per cent, and between north and south Wales by 77 per cent, by 2043.
We know that rail infrastructure across Britain is under pressure as more and more people are using train services. The Committee asked for views on the following:
- If you think our Welsh rail infrastructure is coping with the number of people using trains now, whether it will be able to in the future, and how it needs to be improved?
- If Network Rail and the other people who plan how to operate, maintain and improve the rail infrastructure are properly considering the needs of Welsh users?
- If anything more should be done to make sure that decisions about the railways in England and Wales are joined up to give the best possible service in both countries. This is important because our railway lines don’t stop at borders.
When it comes to improvements to tracks, stations and other infrastructure, decisions about where to invest are made quite far in advance and delivered in five year plans. The next five year plan starts in 2019. The choices about how and where to invest in future are being looked at now and we want to influence these.
We know that Wales needs a modern, efficient railway to improve the economy, and also to help people travel for other reasons like leisure, visiting family or going to hospital. Better railways not only make life easier for passengers, but also make it easier for businesses to transport goods on freight trains.
The planning process begins with Network Rail which works with the rail industry and others to publish a report which suggests how the railway network can be improved. This is called the ‘Welsh Route Study’ and a final version will be published in early 2016.
Most decisions about the money spent on rail infrastructure in Wales are taken by the UK Government. The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick Mcloughlin MP, will say what he wants the railway to achieve, the big projects to be delivered, and how much money is available. These are set out in two reports called the ‘High Level Output Specification” or HLOS, and the “Statement of Funds Available” or SOFA. Network Rail will then look at how it will deliver this, and the Office of Rail and Road will make sure its plan is likely to be effective. We are doing this inquiry now so we can report while these decisions are being worked on.
The Welsh Government also invests money in the rail network so this inquiry covers the decisions by both the UK Government and the Welsh Government.
Evidence from the public
Between November 2015 and January 2016 the Committee held a public consultation to gather evidence.
Business type: Committee Inquiry
Reason considered: Senedd Business;
First published: 11/11/2015
- Report - Priorities for the future of Welsh Rail Infrastructure (PDF 898 KB)
- * Welsh Government Response - April 2016 (208KB)