To de­velop Wales’ rail net­work

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS -

and North Wales were linked to large fran­chises based in Birm­ing­ham and Manch­ester re­spec­tively. Three In­ter­City fran­chises also served Wales.

The Labour UK Govern­ment ac­cepted the Welsh Govern­ment should not have to deal with three non-In­ter­City fran­chises. It re­jected de­vo­lu­tion of fran­chis­ing pow­ers over the new Wales and Bor­ders fran­chise be­cause sev­eral English coun­ties de­pended on some the fran­chise’s ser­vices.

The fran­chise com­pe­ti­tion was man­aged by the UK Govern­ment and its Strate­gic Rail Au­thor­ity. The process be­gan with un­bri­dled en­thu­si­asm – one prospec­tive bid­der se­ri­ously con­tem­plated overnight sleeper trains be­tween North and South Wales – but the bid­ders’ ini­tial pro­pos­als were sober. Ar­guably the pro­pos­als were un­der­whelm­ing, con­sid­er­ing the 15-year fran­chise term – dou­ble the usual length – was sup­posed to in­cen­tivise the op­er­at­ing com­pany to in­no­vate, know­ing it would have time to ben­e­fit fi­nan­cially be­fore the fran­chise ended.

Fran­chise bid­ding doc­u­ments, ob­tained un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, re­veal Ar­riva’s ini­tial pro­pos­als in­cluded im­prove­ments which were de­liv­ered through a new timetable in 2005. Ar­riva also pro­posed ac­qui­si­tion of new Class 170 Tur­bostar trains, as used by Cross­Coun­try be­tween Cardiff and Birm­ing­ham and Lon­don Mid­land be­tween Shrews­bury and Birm­ing­ham.

“We are propos­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of 22 Class 170 units... and var­i­ous num­bers of units to pro­vide re­sources for those en­hance­ment op­tions re­lated to the Val­ley Lines,” said Ar­riva in its ini­tial pro­posal. “Al­though we recog­nise that the Pacer units will op­er­ate sat­is­fac­to­rily un­til the end of the fran­chise, we recog­nise that the au­thor­ity may wish to con­sider ad­di­tional Class 170 units to pro­vide fur­ther in­creases in ca­pac­ity or to raise the qual­ity and im­age of the Val­ley Lines ser­vices.

“The ini­tial build [of new trains] would be de­liv­ered for ser­vice from the sum­mer 2004 timetable.”

Fur­ther trains could fol­low in win­ter 2004 and sum­mer 2005.

Ar­riva ac­knowl­edged the Welsh Govern­ment and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties had many plans to im­prove rail­ways in south-east Wales, in­clud­ing adapt­ing sta­tions and tracks for longer and more fre­quent trains and in­tro­duc­ing new ser­vices.

Ar­riva es­ti­mated its pro­pos­als would pro­vide “31% more seat­ing ca­pac­ity on the Val­ley Lines than now... which should pro­vide for be­tween five and 10 years of growth in pa­tron­age”.

The ad­di­tional sub­sidy which Ar­riva would have needed is redacted. Con­se­quently, we don’t know how much fund­ing the UK Govern­ment de­cided was not jus­ti­fied by the fu­ture needs of the Welsh pop­u­la­tion and econ­omy, and we can’t com­pare that fund­ing with the amount the pub­lic purse has pro­vided through ad hoc agree­ments with ATW for ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity.

Ar­riva pre­dicted: “Non­mon­e­tised ben­e­fits will arise from im­proved jour­ney am­bi­ence and from in­creased lev­els of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and the as­so­ci­ated job cre­ation.”

“The root of many of to­day’s prob­lems is a de­ci­sion by Labour, un­der Tony Blair, not to in­crease the fran­chise’s sub­sidy...”

in­tro­duce at least 22 Tur­bostar trains, like the Lon­don Mid­land one pic­tured here, to Wales in 2004 and 2005

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