|Making tracks for Cymru / Wales?|
The study for the Campaign for Better Transport, which makes interesting reading, shows that rail services in Wales are used less, have lower levels of passenger satisfaction, are lagging behind other parts of the UK and could be improved by devolving responsibility for our railways from Westminster to Wales. The report was released as details were released of a £ 24 million pounds ( includes £17m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) £ 5.1 million pounds from the Welsh Government, £ 700,000 pounds from Network Rail, and £ 400,000 pounds from Arriva Trains Wales) for much needed upgrades of railway stations at Rhyl, Aberystwyth, Pontypridd, Port Talbot Parkway and Ystrad Mynach. Improvements to the five railway stations will see welcome improvements to customer facilities, better access, increased capacity and more park and ride spaces.
The devolved Scottish rail service has delivered more and fared better than our rail service which is still managed by Whitehall. Discussions between the Department for Transport and the Welsh government in relation to scoping out the feasibility of devolving responsibilities for the rail franchise held until 2018 by Arriva Trains Wales are said to be on-going. Any comparison between Scotland and Wales is pretty much always going to be stark, with devolved management of services in Scotland consistently delivering significantly better results than the equivalent un-devolved management of services in Wales. Wales and Welsh interests are always going to come pretty low down the list in the priorities of a largely England focused Whitehall government department.
There is considerable room for improvement when it comes to the provision and development of our railway services here in Wales. Firstly, full control of the transport budget and related planning regulations needed to be devolved to the Welsh Government and secondly when the franchise is renewed in 2018 the railways in Wales should be run on a not for dividend profit basis, with all profits being ring fenced and reinvested into our railways. The healthy profits run up during the period when the East Coast mainline serve has been run by the Westminster Government after the collapse of the private franchise shows what could possibly be achieved here in our country.