Transport for Wales responsibilities likely to expand in the medium term

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

Yesterday, AMs discussed the Economy & Infrastructure Committee’s report on the future of Transport for Wales – summary here.

Blurred lines of responsibility

Chair of the Committee, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), stressed the confusion over what Transport for Wales is; it’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Welsh Government yet there was an element of independence. Nonetheless, the teething issues which affected rail services in autumn 2018 seem to have been worked out and he was pleased by TfW’s response to the report.

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) stressed the importance for ordinary passengers to have their say, while Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) picked up on some of the criticisms aimed at TfWs relations with trade unions:

“….we had to say to them, ‘Look….if you are going to be transferring people to TfW from other bodies, then they need to be clear about what’s happening and they also have to have a role on that board.’ I’m glad to see….that TfW has now engaged with all the trade unions….But it shouldn’t be an afterthought; they should be there from the start as part of the social partnership, and we shouldn’t be seeing that happening again here in Wales.”
– Bethan Sayed AM

“Nobody checked my ticket”

Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East) said TfW had to take a greater lead in providing expert skills training and apprenticeships, based on similar programmes in Merseyside and Manchester. David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) believed there was a potentially bright future if TfW lives up to promises on job creation, apprenticeships and new trains.

Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) said there was a “long, long way to go” to properly link bus services and active travel routes to major rail stations, which were often the best means by which to connect more deprived areas. She supported moves towards integrated ticketing and supported a highways role for TfW.

Both Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales and Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly) said transport wasn’t been properly factored into new housing developments, meaning they quickly become car-dependent. However, the latter also supported calls for integrated ticketing, for a very different reason to some:

“I took my children on a return journey from Hengoed to Aber….but I bought my ticket using my TfW app. So, I bought my ticket before I left the house. Nobody checked my ticket on the train. There must be technology that would enable the conductor on the train to know whether tickets have been purchased or not….The carriage was full, so the conductor simply wasn’t able to get from one carriage to the other to check my ticket, but I had bought the ticket. But it would be very tempting….to not buy a ticket; human nature.”
– Hefin David AM

Review set to take place on transferring more responsibilities to TfW

Deputy Economy & Transport Minister, Lee Waters (Lab, Llanelli), said the expectations of the public and ways by which they use transport was already changing due to new technology – such as smartphone apps – and an “Uber for buses” is set to be piloted in the Valleys and Wrexham.

TfW was established to provide the expertise and capacity to deliver the government’s policy goals. A review was set to take place regarding TfW’s functions so the Welsh Government can be left to focus on the bigger picture challenges in transport:

“In the medium term, we have instructed officials to plan for the migration of the remaining transport delivery functions, such as highway improvements and operations, from the Welsh Government into TfW. Doing this will leave the Welsh Government free to focus on the policy challenges posed by decarbonisation, air quality, autonomous and electric vehicles and so on to develop a multiterm legislative programme and policy framework that will help us realise the ambitions we have for TfW.”
– Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport, Lee Waters

He also confirmed that, with recently-proposed regional working in local government, transport was likely to be dealt with regionally, with TfW providing a similar expert role for councils as it does to the Welsh Government.

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