It's worth noting that in 2003, a 15 year franchise for running railway services in Wales was awarded to Arriva Trains Wales. Arriva Trains Wales is currently making a healthy profit from this agreement. Despite this, most demand for additional rail services are currently met directly by Welsh Assembly Government funds and are not funded by Arriva Trains Wales which as its priority is to service its shareholders.
Plaid Cymru's announcement that we will consider putting the management of Welsh railways in the hands of a 'not for profit' company when the current franchise contract with Arriva Trains Wales ends in 2018 is significant. This is major step forward when it comes to developing a transport system to suite the needs of the people of Wales, rather than as an add on to transport policy in England.
In Wales we should consider ensuring the transfer of control over the franchise to Welsh Ministers in order to put the franchise in the hands of a ‘not-for-profit’ company. This would allow the new company to reinvest its profits in developing better and more train services for people, instead of the current model where the majority of profits are returned to Arriva Trains Wales' shareholders. This could release extra money to invest in an improved All-Wales Rail Service which could amount to between £100m - £120m over a decade.
There are some serious potential benefits:
• Significant savings – releasing a fund for possible reinvestment projects such as re-opening lines across Wales, improving journey times or purchasing additional rolling stock.
• The development of an All-Wales transport network – with integrated ticketing and timetables across public transport in Wales.
The Glas Cymru model of how a ‘not-for-profit’ company can operate, already provides an excellent example of what's possible and could have great potential for the delivery of much better and more integrated rail services here in Wales.
Plaid Cymru, in government, has gone to great lengths to ensure that improvements to current rail services where they can be made, have been made, running 'rail in Wales,for Wales, means that the possibilities of reopening previously closed railway lines and closed railway stations becomes something more than a pipe-dream. It would also make sense to get the powers to take over responsibility for running the tracks from Network Rail - as any rail projects in Wales are going to be well down the list of priorities. There needs to be much better integration of track and train - something that will allow for far greater efficiencies.
There is a clear need to ensure that easily accessible rail services are available to far more people in the near future. Improving infrastructure, including rail, is absolutely vital to the development of the Welsh economy - to create the successful, sustainable, prosperous and green nation that we know Wales can be.