Plaid’s right with its call for the management of Welsh railways to be put in the hands of a 'not for distributable profit' company when the current franchise contract with Arriva Trains Wales ends in 2018. In challenging times our country needs real leadership not lethargy, we need ambitious solutions to our problems, not make do and mend, if we are to make Wales the successful nation that it can be.
At a time when people are looking for an alternative to the car due to high fuel prices we have a situation where near continual hikes in rail fares (which just happen to boost rail company profits) mean that more and more people are finding rail travel unaffordable as well. Simple common sense suggests that we need to change the way the franchise system works here in Wales.
Plaid proposed to put Welsh railways into the hands of a ‘not for profit’ company back in November 2010 before the 2011 Welsh General Election campaign. If the current Welsh Labour government is serious about doing this then most of the preparation work for the re-franchising needs to be undertaken during the current Assembly term, so that there is sufficient planning time to develop a delivery model that is better suited to the needs of the people in Wales.
The Plaid Cymru plans would also mean that, in creating a not-for-distributable-profit organisation to run Welsh railways, more money could be made available to invest in rail services. This money could be invested directly to create more frequent services in the South Wales valleys, more frequent journeys to West Wales and on the Cambrian line, as well as additional services between the north and south of Wales. This could also mean more investment in new rolling stock to help keep pace with increasing passenger demand.
Now even though we are in difficult economic times, the Welsh government should be prepared to take radical and innovative action in order to get the best deal for the people of Wales. Sitting back and doing nothing is not an option, as rail fares in Wales continue to rise by as much as 11% while so many people are struggling to cope financially. If you are going to spend public money it is important to work it extra hard. At time when we have shrinking public sector budgets it is extra important that the Welsh government gets the best possible value for money out of every penny of public funds.
The Welsh government needs to wake up and to step up to the mark and use the excellent example of how a ‘not-for-profit’ company, Glas Cymru, can operate as the model to ensure the delivery of our nations rail services. There is absolutely no reason why train services here in Wales could not be run by a company with a similar not-for profit model, with a board containing representation from the Welsh government, experts from the fields of integrated transport, customer service, accessibility, rail projects and finance.
We need long term benefits not short term solutions, the creation of a not for profit rail franchise would deliver long term benefits for the economy of Wales and help to tackle climate change. When it comes to improving infrastructure, rail, is crucial to the sustainable development of the Welsh economy. An all Wales not for profit rail franchise could be a further step toward creating a national transport system for Wales, beginning to integrate all modes of public transport under one ticketing scheme similar, as is used in the Transport for London model.