In 2020, it was announced that a UK Government Enquiry had been set up to look into how levels of funding for Welsh railway projects are decided, infrastructure projects and needs identified and how the UK and Welsh Governments currently work with one another on managing Welsh rail infrastructure. It is also examining whether Wales has attracted enough rail infrastructure investment since privatisation began in 1994, as well as the opportunities for Wales of the recently launched Union Connectivity Review.
Reform of rail services has been a focus of both Cardiff and Westminster. In September 2020, the UK Government announced that it was ending rail franchising to bring in a new model more focused on service reliability and passenger outcomes, while the Welsh Government will nationalise Transport for Wales services from February 2021.
The Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee said: “The need to address long-term weaknesses in the Welsh economy, while also reducing our contribution to climate change, means that investment in rail infrastructure has a key role to play in the post-Covid recovery. While daily travel patterns may change permanently as a result of the pandemic, the need to upgrade Welsh rail infrastructure will remain a priority both in terms of ‘levelling up’ and working towards a Net Zero economy. Our inquiry is looking at how and where decisions about investment in Welsh rail get made. The committee is also examining historic levels of infrastructure investment in Wales and the pipeline of future projects to improve our rail network. The recently announced UK Government review into connectivity between the four nations also provides us with a timely opportunity to shape government thinking on how to improve rail infrastructure in all parts of the UK.”
The Committee invites written evidence submissions addressing the following points via the Committee’s website until 26 February 2021.
· Where does responsibility lie for rail infrastructure in Wales?
· How effectively do the UK and Welsh Governments cooperate with one another in the management, and funding, of rail infrastructure in Wales?
· Should responsibility for railway infrastructure in Wales be fully devolved?
· What share of investment has Wales secured in its rail infrastructure since privatisation came into effect in 1994, and how sufficient is that level of investment?
· How is funding allocated to rail infrastructure projects across the UK and how are the different infrastructure needs of the regions and nations of the UK assessed?
· What will be the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for the railway network in Wales (including the sustainability of services and potential impact on investment in the railway infrastructure)?
· What opportunities are there for Wales as a result of the recently launched Union Connectivity Review?
Questions Being Asked
Network Rail, Transport for Wales and operators of train services in Wales are giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee as the Committee considers the infrastructure needs, and future requirements, of the Welsh rail network.
Witnesses are split across two panels.
In the first panel with Network Rail and Transport for Wales, MPs will be addressing:
· the implications of the abolition of the rail franchise model;
· the effectiveness and fairness of infrastructure investment levels and distribution;
· the Union Connectivity Review.
Among the subjects the Committee are exploring on the second panel with senior figures from Great Western, West Coast and CrossCountry railways are:
· challenges to rail service delivery;
· the suitability of Department for Transport methodology in rail project funding decisions;
· the impact of Covid-19 on the sustainability of the rail network in Wales.
Thursday’s evidence session will be the second oral evidence session of the Committee’s railway infrastructure in Wales inquiry.
Thursday 11 February 2021
James Price, CEO, Transport for Wales;
·Bill Kelly, Route Director Wales & Borders, Network Rail.
· Mark Hopwood, Managing Director, Great Western Railway;
· Richard Scott, Director of Partnerships and Strategy, West Coast Partnership;
· Sarah Kelley, Regional Director for West & Wales, CrossCountry.