Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, has announced that a major shakeup of the Welsh rail system will see day to day running of Transport for Wales train services handed over to the Welsh Government.
Passenger numbers during the pandemic have dropped to as low as 5% of pre-Covid numbers, but services continued to provide a service for key workers.
The introduction of the Metro, new rolling stock and other improvements still remain a priority for Transport for Wales and its partners. However, Ken Skates has approved a new relationship between Transport for Wales, Keolis and Amey.
From February 2021, day to day rail services will be run by a publically owned subsidiary of Transport for Wales, allowing the government to have a bigger role in the delivery of train services on the Wales and Borders route.
With great uncertainty over passenger numbers, this provides the most stable base to manage rail services in Wales.
Infrastructure management of the Core Valley lines transformation will continue under the current contract.
James Price, Chief Executive at Transport for Wales said: “I’m pleased with this agreement, which will allow Transport for Wales to continue to deliver the transformation of the Wales and Borders rail network over what’s an incredibly difficult period for the industry, with a huge reduction in passenger journeys and revenue. KeolisAmey have made a significant contribution to transport in Wales over the past two years and I’ve welcomed their collaborative approach to securing this agreement, which has allowed us to achieve a positive way forward for the Wales and Borders contract.
“We will continue to benefit from the international industry expertise of both Keolis and Amey whilst giving TfW and Welsh Government more control to deliver our key transport objectives, as we look to sustain the good progress of the rail network and ensure it plays a vital role in helping Wales to be well-placed in a post pandemic environment.”
“There is no doubt that there will be difficult decisions in the future as we adapt to the realities of a post-covid era, but this agreement will give us a stable base from which to build back better.”
Kevin Thomas, Chief Executive of KeolisAmey Wales, Operator and Development Partner of Transport for Wales said: “Our partnership with TfW will always have the passengers and the communities we serve at its heart – finding the right solutions to improve services across Wales and the border areas.
“In light of Covid-19, we recognise the need for Welsh Government to have a sustainable way forward for delivering its ambitious objectives for rail and we are pleased to have agreed and put in place robust principles as we work on the details of a new agreement.
A huge amount has been achieved in the two years since KeolisAmey became operators of the Wales and Borders franchise. Prior to the impact of Covid-19 the network had more trains running more frequently than ever before, with progressive improvements in performance and passenger experience. We have successfully managed the introduction of more modern and reliable trains across the network and delivered the groundwork for the introduction of new trains from 2021/22 – exclusively for Wales and supporting further service frequency improvements across vital commuter routes. An important result of these major achievements has been the creation of sustainable jobs, skills and apprenticeships, in support of the people and economy of Wales. ”
“Keolis and Amey are determined to see improvements delivered, and to play a significant role in the transformation vision, adding value through our international experience and expertise. We also recognise this as an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the additional skills we can bring to wider public transport projects across Wales in the coming years. We’re committed to our partnership with TfW and the next phase of this exciting transformation journey that will improve transport, connect communities and support prosperity.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers are less concerned about what goes on behind the scenes provided it doesn’t result in disruption for them. A stable, reliable railway will be a key part in getting Wales moving again and helping rebuild the economy.
“Welsh Government and Transport for Wales must now work together to build an attractive proposition that will encourage people back to rail, when the time is right, and offer what passengers are keen to see – good performance and more flexible tickets that fit the way we live and travel now. Passengers will also want to see the promised investment delivered.”
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