Is Transport for Wales on track?
With several issues affecting rail services in Wales and the Border over the last few weeks, Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), used the first FMQs of the new year to hold the government’s transport record to account.
“Let me give you some of (TfW’s) failings: performance in terms of passenger time lost in cancellations was worse between July and November last year than the previous year; it has struggled to secure long-term rolling stock; it’s failed to meet the Welsh language standards on several occasions; and we’ve seen chaos over the renewal process for bus passes.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM
He also criticised the Welsh Government’s investment in Cardiff Airport, extending loan facilities while the value of the airport continues to fall and it struggles to make a profit.
As you might expect, the First Minister didn’t agree with this gloomy assessment. Rail fares in Wales were cut for many journeys at the start of January, while since Cardiff Airport was taken into public ownership, its passenger numbers have increased by over 70%, with turnover up last year by £2.9million. In a swipe at Alun Cairns, he also hoped Wales now has a Welsh Secretary who will speak up for Cardiff Airport.
Welsh Government “going backwards” on new homes; National Forest “a 20-year project”
Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) picked up on a video marking the First Minister’s first full year in charge, in which Mark Drakeford stated that the Welsh Government has delivered 480 new homes a month during 2019.
“….as the Assembly research service, quoting your own Government’s statistics, say that the corresponding figures for 2016 and 2017 of homes built per month were 552 and 574 a month respectively. You were even marginally down on 2018, so it doesn’t seem that that’s something, First Minister, to crow about – you’re going backwards.”
– Adam Price AM
Adam Price also picked up on the Welsh Government forestation and reforestation programme, with a figure of 14,000 trees a day quoted – though this was combined for Wales and Uganda (where the Wales for Africa programme is undertaking reforestation work). What had happened to targets for Wales?
The First Minister repeated the Welsh Government’s commitment to build 28,000 affordable homes by May 2021; he didn’t understand how this target could be deemed a “deterioration”. The Welsh Government also couldn’t be expected to “announce a national forest and it simply grows in front of you” – it’s a 20-year project.
Playing with history
Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) to perhaps nobody’s surprised returned to Brexit. Did the First Minister have any regrets that a softer Brexit than the one now almost certain to occur was rejected by Labour under Theresa May’s tenure? Was it the First Minister’s intention for the government to continue voting against Brexit?
The only regret the First Minister seemed to have was a missed opportunity to take Brexit back to the people. As for the Withdrawal Agreement:
“….the Member will have seen the legislative consent memorandum that was published yesterday. It analyses not Brexit – it analyses the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. It concludes that the Bill is not in a state that would allow the Government to recommend to the National Assembly that it should give its consent to that Bill, for the reasons set out in it. There will be an opportunity to debate that here on the floor of the National Assembly, and we will see where the majority opinion in this Chamber rests.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford AM (Lab, Cardiff West)