Rail firm under fire over Welsh language equality
THE company running Wales’ new rail franchise is operating in breach of its legal obligation to provide Welsh language services, according to campaigners.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith, the Welsh Language Society, has complained to Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws, who is considering whether to launch a formal investigation.
Today members of the society will stage a protest outside the offices of Transport for Wales in the centre of Cardiff.
The complaints include the fact that the company has an English-only ticket website, English-only announcements on the trains, a new ticket app in English only and self-service machines that don’t function properly in Welsh.
According to the Welsh Language Commissioner, Keolis Amey, the consortium that runs Transport for Wales, should have been complying with legal Welsh Language Standards from the day they took over the service last month.
Speaking ahead of the protest David Williams, from Cymdeithas yr Iaith, said: “The failings of the new train company are so bad in respect of Welsh language provision that it is almost unprecedented for a public service.
“We’re aware of a large number of wide-ranging complaints about services that are not available in Welsh or that treat the Welsh language less favourably than English.
“Due to the seriousness of the situation, we have asked the Welsh Language Commissioner to use her extensive powers to undertake a general investigation.
“It is a great disappointment that the Welsh Government, Transport for Wales and the company that is under contract to them have failed to ensure that these services are in place, despite having sufficient time to do so before the new contract started.
“They should have made plans to ensure these services were provided properly.”
Transport for Wales tried to get the activists to call off today’s protest and hold a meeting, but Cymdeithas yr Iaith said: “Although we would be pleased if you could arrange a meeting with the senior officers of the company with us, it’s difficult to see a purpose for such a meeting given that the company is not compliant with a set of legal regulations at the moment.”
Colin Lea, Commercial and Customer Experience Director, said: “We have exciting plans at Transport for Wales to transform transport for coming generations, and this includes an ambitious plan to improve bilingual services for our customers.
“We want to create an open dialogue with all of our customers and stakeholders.
“Having been made aware of a planned activity by Cymdeithas yr Iaith, we invited them to meet with us to discuss their concerns in person in advance of any action.
“We remain ready and open to enter into a constructive dialogue with them when they are ready to do so, and by no means seek to deny anyone their democratic right to protest.”
A spokeswoman for the Welsh Language Commissioner said: “Transport for Wales was established to undertake activities on behalf of Welsh Ministers and by doing so, they are subject to the Government’s Welsh Language Standards.
“We can confirm that we have received complaints about Transport for Wales’ Welsh service.
“We are in the process of assessing the facts, before we decide whether to investigate.”
Members of Welsh language society Cymdeithas yr Iaith are protesting in the capital today over Keolis Amey’s Welsh language provisions