Economy Secretary expects rail services to return to normal “within a few weeks”

(Title Image: ITV Wales)

Here’s a quick round-up of this afternoon’s economy questions dominated, in the main, by questions on rail services in light of current disruption.

An Apology & Expectations

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) started with the obvious – the recent problems with Transport for Wales rail services.

He asked whether the Economy Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), would apologise – and he (technically) did, praising the work behind the scenes and telling AMs that the number of trains in service would reach normal levels “within a few weeks”.

He revealed that none of the trains TFW inherited has wheel-slip protection for use in the autumn and likened it to buying a second-hand car:

“….in particular in the period leading up to the transfer of the franchise, there was no commercial incentive for Arriva Trains Wales to invest in maintenance over and above what was essential through law. If I can put it this way, it’s a bit like when you buy a used car. You buy a used car knowing that the previous owner may not have maintained it as well as you would have liked them to. And so, what you do is inspect it, and you will factor into it the possibility of having to get new brakes or new tyres, but you inspect it.”
– Economy Secretary, Ken Skates

There was then an exchange on whether the Welsh Government took its eye off the ball and whether they might consider pursuing Arriva for leaving the trains in such a state?

Sport for All

David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) asked what was being done to improve accessibility to sport in deprived parts of Wales following a recent report from Sport Wales.

“….(the report) did find that the levels of participation amongst the most deprived children were actually down on where they were last year, and the gap between them and children from wealthier areas—that gap has increased to 13%. And, as we know, even moderate physical activity has been shown to improve a child’s skill at maths, reading, improves their memory and well-being.”
– Shadow Culture Minister, David Melding

Culture Minister, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) told the chamber that lack of physical activity applies to all ages and 32% of all people in Wales do no exercise whatsoever. The Welsh Government want to focus on getting children active from as early an age as possible and are targeting early primary school children, both at present and within the new curriculum.

In Welsh Ownership

Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli) asked what the Welsh Government were doing to ensure Welsh companies remained in Welsh ownership?

“A decision by the German family firm Schaeffler to close its Llanelli factory is not a first. They tried to close it in the early 2000s, but then, a strong local management, committed to the area, fought back and developed new products that saved the plant. This time, the local management were not rooted in the area, and we are now seeing the consequences.”
– Lee Waters AM

The Economy Secretary said Business Wales and the Development Bank help businesses with succession planning, including a £15million management succession fund. However, he warned that Wales shouldn’t make the mistake of trying to transplant one culture onto another; it could prove difficult to change the “cash-in-and-check-out” 5-year plan attitude of the UK with the long-term planning that takes place across multiple generations in Germany and Denmark.

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