Senedd Bites #29: Keolis wins

(Title Image: Keolis UK)

Keolis-Amey wins rail franchise

Franco-Spanish consortium Keolis-Amey has won a £5billion, 15-year contract to run rail services in Wales & the English borders as well as the South Wales Metro. They’re due to take over the franchise from Arriva Trains Wales in October 2018.

The details of the franchise contract are yet to be revealed, but Keolis is one of Europe’s leading tram experts, which strongly hints at a light rail conversion of some of the Valley lines as part of the Metro. They also run rail franchises in London and south-east England.

Vulnerable children fund axed

The Welsh Government has axed a dedicated £13million fund to support children from minorities to learn English. The funding will instead be folded into the general education budget, with £7.5million given to four councils with the highest proportion of children whose first language isn’t English – Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham.

The Chair of the Education & Young People Committee, Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen) sent a letter to the Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor) expressing disappointment at the decision.

New “social contract” for firms looking for Welsh Government funds

Companies will have to pass four key tests before receiving money from a £50million pot as part of a new Economic Action Plan introduced by Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South).

The tests include a commitment to becoming carbon-free, a potential for growth, promote health (including mental health) and skills development amongst the workforce and have fair work practices.

Somewhat bizarrely, the Economy Secretary is quoted as saying these were the sorts of policies ” an Aneurin Bevan or John F Kennedy of the 21st Century might embrace”. Businesses were said to embrace the proposals, but were concerned with the process of applying for funding could get longer.

Appeal for opposition parties to oust Labour

At the Welsh Conservative spring conference in Carmarthenshire on May 19th, the Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) appeal for opposition parties to work together in order to change the government in Wales. He said any plans to remove Labour from office would have to involve working with the Tories “to put the national interest first”.

The Prime Minister criticised the Welsh education system, calling for Labour to follow English education policies such as free schools and academies. Plans were also revealed for the party to hire full-time campaigners after two successive disappointing election results in Wales.

“UKIP should fold” – MEP

UKIP’s MEP for Wales (and former AM), Nathan Gill, suggested the party should voluntarily wind-up after Brexit “if it (Brexit) was done right”.

UKIP changed group leader in the Senedd last week and has been hit by internal rows, resignations and controversy since they won 7 seats at the 2016 Welsh General Election. He said, “I would very much prefer that we did what we said we were always going to do, get us a Brexit and then walk off stage. If we absolutely get the Brexit that we’ve always been promised and that we fought for, then I fail to see what we would exist for.”

UKIP, however, distanced themselves from the comments, saying that the UK needed a party to “offer genuine opposition to the political establishment and which represents the interests of ordinary patriotic British people”.

Ditched electrification cash “should come to Wales”

The UK Parliament’s Welsh Affairs Committee recommended that the estimated £430million saved as a result of the cancellation of rail electrification between Swansea and Cardiff should be re-invested in Welsh transport projects.

The Committee argued that Wales receives less than its proportional share of rail infrastructure spending (1.5% of the UK total) and called for the UK and Welsh government to identify projects that would benefit from the additional money.

Electric bus trial in Cardiff

Cardiff Council is holding an 8-week trial of an electric bus after a fast charging station was provided at Cathays Park. The bus will run along a route between the city centre and Cardiff Bay and is being used as a testbed for electric buses, with the potential for them being used in other cities and towns in the future, or even forming a 24-hour bus service.

The charger can charge a bus in 6 minutes or less.

Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn (Lab, Delyn) said, “Improving air quality is one of my top priorities. The new buses complement our recent consultation on clean air zones which will aim to tackle excess levels of roadside nitrogen dioxide.”