The Welsh Lib Dems are urging the Welsh Government to use its newly devolved powers around rail franchising to plan for the future with a Welsh Rolling Stock Strategy, investing in new train carriages and ensuring the future growth of our rail services.
Around 73% of the existing fleet of carriages will be unable to operate after 2020 due to electrification, franchise renewal and EU accessibility legislation coming into force. The Welsh Lib Dems want the Welsh Government to put plans in place now to ensure this is done smoothly and efficiently.
The call comes as the Welsh Labour Government reveal in an answer to me that, despite spending large amounts of time calling for rail franchise powers to be devolved, they have spent no time working on plans to use those powers.
Welsh borrowing powers, combined with European Union investment and future franchise agreements, could be used to invest in new carriages instead of wasting the money on the M4 relief road.
Train users across Wales know all too well just how old, creaking and overcrowded our trains are right now. Just last month a train door was ripped from its hinges as it entered a tunnel. It’s no wonder that so many get in their cars instead of taking public transport.
No longer can Welsh Labour Ministers pass the buck on rail services, as the buck now stops with them. It’s shocking to find out that the Welsh Labour Government hasn’t spent any time figuring out what to do with the powers that they’ve been so desperate to be given. These new rail powers are a golden opportunity to improve our train services, and without a Strategy in place right now that opportunity could be lost.
It makes sense for the Welsh Government to invest in its own rolling stock. Not only would it be cheaper for any future Government-owned franchise to have its own carriages, these carriages could be leased to any private company running Welsh rail services in the future to recoup costs for the Welsh public purse.
Nowhere in the Welsh Labour Government’s decision-making over the M4 relief road did they take into account the potential impact of expanding public transport instead. Labour may be ignoring the benefits, but I’m absolutely convinced by the case for investing in our railways instead of building an expensive and unneeded road.