Transport for Wales seeking to introduce “simpler” rail fare system

(Title Image: Jeremy Segrott via Flickr under Creative Commons Licence CC BY 2.0)

Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s economy questions.

National Infrastructure Commission “behind schedule”

Shadow Economy Minister, Rusell George AM (Con, Montgomery,) raised concerns about the National Infrastructure Commission’s slipping timetable regarding its remit. He was concerned about the length of time it takes the Welsh Government to make decisions:

“I am concerned that the Government has got here currently a very poor approach to long-term infrastructure planning and delivery. Of course, one example I’ve referred to is the M4 delivery road. We’ve had money spent – public money; vast amounts of public money spent – and we’re still waiting, of course, on a final decision.”
– Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM

He added there was little coordination between infrastructure spending by local authorities (leading to a “Mad March” phenomenon where projects are approved right at the end of a financial year) and that at a national level.

Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), agreed with some of the points. He was content with the pace of work undertaken by the infrastructure commission but accepted that there needed to be a clear pipeline of projects so people can remain in work and move from one project to another.

“Playing Bingo” with 20 Years of Economic Development

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) said this week was a perfect time to reflect on Wales’ economic performance over the last 20 years. He was proud of the work Plaid Cymru did in office whilst holding the economy brief – bringing in the ProAct and ReAct programmes – but can Labour explain the decline in comparative wealth in Wales since 1999?

The Minister told AMs there were many successes:

“In the last 20 years, we’ve seen the number of people in Wales without qualifications reduce from more than one in three to fewer than one in five. As a consequence, we now have a lower employment inactivity rate than the UK average….Jobs Growth Wales helped thousands upon thousands of young people avoid long-term unemployment….During the period of 2010-15….parts of England during that period that saw long-term youth unemployment rise by 2,000%. The figure here in Wales was less than 100%….”
– Minister for Economy & Transport, Ken Skates

Rhun said there was a sense Labour was “playing bingo” with economic statistics, cherry-picking good stories. While unemployment and economic inactivity were down, underemployment and low wages remain endemic and Wales remains rooted to the bottom of regional gross value added tables.

In reply, the Minister pointed out that since 1999, Wales has seen the fifth highest increase in GVA-per-head of the UK’s 12 nations and regions.

Simpler rail fares?

In a second question, Russell George AM said a constituent worked out that rail fares in mid-Wales were more expensive over shorter distances (i.e. from Caersws or Newtown to Telford) that they were if they travelled to Birmingham. Could he ensure fares were reasonably priced in the future?

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) added that on a recent journey along the Cambrian Coast Line, she noticed large numbers of young people using trains to travel one or two stops to school. Could the Minister commit to keeping fares affordable for young people?

“….the rail delivery group, which includes Transport for Wales, is looking into delivering a better value fare system. It will be underpinned by an easier-to-use range of fares and it will be delivered by updating regulations. It could see pay-as-you-go, with a price cap, introduced on commuter services….It could give flexible workers a far better deal as a consequence.”
– Minister for Economy & Transport, Ken Skates

The Minister added that consideration is being given to auto-enrolling young people on the MyTravelPass scheme and TfW Rail are going to: extend free rail travel to 11-year-olds, introduce free off-peak travel for under-16s when they travel with a fare-paying adult and extend child fares to the age of 18.

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