Posted 8th February 2021 | 2 Comments

Welsh railways return to public ownership

Updated 10.13, 14.18

THE first British railway operator to be formally renationalised is Transport for Wales, which became publicly owned yesterday.

The Welsh Government said it had taken action to ‘protect services, safeguard jobs and deliver infrastructure improvements in light of the ongoing challenges of coronavirus’.

Transport for Wales is now providing Wales and Borders services through a subsidiary, Transport for Wales Rail Ltd. The changeover had been announced in October last year.

The former TfW operator Amey Keolis will continue to be involved through its subsidiary Amey Keolis Infrastructure Ltd. This company is upgrading the infrastructure on the Valley Lines, which will become South Wales Metro, while a new partnership with Keolis and Amey, led by Transport for Wales, will be known as ‘Transport for Wales Innovation Services’. This will develop integrated ticketing and ‘on demand’ transport systems, as well as some design services for different modes of transport and the integration of light and heavy rail.

Transport minister Ken Skates said: ‘Our rail service is a critical asset and one we must protect. Since the pandemic began we’ve provided significant financial support to keep trains running. The need for greater public control is a reflection of the ongoing pressures of coronavirus and the challenges being faced across the rail industry as passenger demand remains low.

‘We remain determined to deliver key commitments made at the start of the journey with Transport for Wales, including the creation of Metro systems and the delivery of brand new rolling stock. Bringing the rail franchise into public control will help secure this better future for passengers. It is a public transport asset, in public ownership, for the public good.’

KeolisAmey Wales said: ‘KeolisAmey would like to pay tribute and thanks to all our hard working employees who played their part in the enormous progress we made laying the foundations for transformation and who were central to our success, since we were awarded the Wales and Borders franchise in 2018.

‘We welcome the confidence shown in our experience and expertise by Transport for Wales and the Welsh Government with the establishment of a new joint venture, which will provide support and advice.’

English National Rail operators have been under government control since March 2020, although LNER and Northern had already become ‘franchises’ owned by the Department for Transport before the first coronavirus lockdown.

The DfT is now winding down its remaining franchises and negotiating terms for terminating their contracts. They are expected to be replaced by concessions awarded to companies in the private sector.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the Welsh changeover was ‘a welcome and timely development and RMT will continue to make sure that the staff at the frontline of this new arrangement are properly looked after and properly rewarded.’

He continued: ‘It also makes a mockery of the continued refusal to bring ScotRail under public ownership and the halfway house in England that allows private companies to extract profits although the services are under de facto public ownership. That nonsense needs sorting out sharpish.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Neither full scale nationalisation, nor full scale privatisation are going to give us the sought - after rail Utopia. The railway has diverse parts, with some passenger operaions being natural monopolies with captive markets, whilst others are suited to commercial competition in the private sector.

    Those natural monopoly services are mostly short distance and commuter, which lend themselves to being run through local direct democracy, On a national scale , though, such an approach breaks down due to size ; hopefully the Welsh arrrangement can work, but a new BR would be far too big to be properly accountable.

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    A new dedicated franchise in Wales. With new trains and rolling stock on order to replace the old. About time that the Welsh government is investing money to improve the railways and transport in Wales. As well roads.