New rail service ‘will have more staff, not less’
MORE rail staff will be employed on the new Wales and Borders franchise and there will be no move to scrap conductors, Carwyn Jones has announced.
The commitments form part of a deal negotiated with the rail unions, and brokered by the Wales TUC.
A statement issued by the Welsh Government said: “As a result of a significantly increased service pattern, in response to demand growth experienced in Wales, the expectation is there will be more staff, not less, employed on the franchise. There are rapid changes in railway technology which can improve service and efficiency, but the Welsh Government recognise that passengers value personal service and want this technology to complement staff and not replace them.
“The Welsh Government wishes to improve safety, security, service and also accessibility for passengers who require assistance. We therefore commit to keep a safety critical conductor (guard) on all of the Wales and Borders trains and services, including heavy rail and Metro services. This commitment builds on a clear public response in our consultations, where over 90% of respondents said that a second member of staff was either quite important or essential in the Wales and Borders region, something Age Cymru said was ‘essential.’ Disability Wales estimates that disabled people make up more than 20% of the population in Wales.
“Heavy rail infrastructure for the Wales and Borders franchise outside of core valleys will remain with Network Rail. The exception to this will be the core Valleys lines, where responsibility would transfer to the Welsh Government through Transport for Wales (TFW), subject to an agreed evaluation of the assets between Network Rail and the Welsh Government.
“Therefore the railway infrastructure will remain in public ownership and affected employees will also remain in the public sector with Network Rail or TFW. In the event of any transfer to TFW, pensions will be protected and there will be no changes to conditions without the agreement of the trade unions.
“Any new rolling stock will be maintained by skilled railway people with the maximum number of staff employed in Wales.
“The Welsh Government recognise the unions desire to maximise job security and conditions of employment of catering and cleaning staff and TFW will enter into constructive dialogue with the unions to explore how these can be met. The Welsh Government also commit to work constructively with the unions around their aspirations for ticket office and station staff.
“There will be a no compulsory redundancy guarantee throughout the franchise and in respect of direct subcontractors.”
There will be continued trade union recognition and union representation on the Transport for Wales board.
If future legislation allows, the Welsh Government’s preference is for the Wales and Borders services to be part of a UK national integrated railway under public ownership, with responsibility and powers for passenger services and infrastructure devolved to the Welsh Government.
Mr Jones said: “Our hardworking railway staff are a major asset in delivering a modern and safe railway and it is right that they are central to our ambitious plans for the new Wales and Borders Services and South Wales Metro. I am therefore delighted that we have been able to have such positive and constructive discussions with the railway trade unions... These are progressive commitments that will mean a better service for passengers and a better railway in Wales.”
Yesterday, Abellio Rail Cymru, Arriva Rail Wales, KeolisAmey and MTR Corporation (Cymru) Ltd were invited by the Welsh Government to submit final tenders for the next Wales and Borders franchise, which will come into force in October 2018.