Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport,Ken Skates, has released a written statement this morning outlining a multi billion pound ‘groundbreaking transformation of transport across the country and in the borders region’.
Although ‘Transport for Wales’ will be partnering to deliver the plans, they did not deliver the whizz bang glossy embargoed media release to us. It was sent to the default BBC, ITV, Newsquest and Trinity Mirror (now ‘Reach’) however as has been usual it appears various independent Welsh media outlets have been missed off that so as they did not want to communicate to you via us, we have ploughed through the formal detail.
Just after 9am we were sent the formal Welsh Government written statement that contains details of what has been announced.
It explains £738m is earmarked for the south Wales Metro, a further £800m in new rolling stock and almost £200m in modernising all 247 stations.
There are promises of significant improvements in fares and ticketing, including the expansion of smart ticketing, an improved compensation scheme offering refunds for delays of over 15 minutes (rather than today’s 30 minutes) including an automated process for advance fares.
From January 2020 there is a promise to ‘make fares easier to understand and fairer’, with the introduction of many new off-peak fares, reduction in walk-up north Wales fares.
Half-price concessionary fares will be extended to 16-18 year olds.
Their statement says there will be an improvement in the cleanliness of stations and trains with the introduction of new quality standards ‘backed by considerable investment’.
New trains are promised including specifying comfy seats: “By 2023 95 per cent of journeys will be made on 148 brand new trains, over half of which will be built in Wales, and the fleet average age will drop from 25 years now to seven by 2024.
“The new trains will offer an overall improvement to the quality and ambience of passenger facilities compared to the current fleet. We are committed to ensuring that this includes comfortable seats.”
95% of seats will have power supplies by 2020 , with 100% being achieved by 2022 along with aircon – a welcome addition for anyone who has been on the trains over the last few weeks.
2Mbps per user internet connectivity at all stations is promised, with a useful ‘seamless transition between on-train and station-based communications’ offered. 132 ‘not spots’ on the rail network will be targeted, so by 2024 85% of journeys will have end-to-end internet access.
In terms of North Wales there is a commitment to carbon reduction with a reduction in carbon emissions of 25 per cent across the whole service by the fifth year, as a result of introducing the latest generation of low emission Diesel Multiple Units.
The document contains large amounts of information on the South Wales Metro, however looking northwards the ‘North East Wales Metro’ (revealed last year) is explained: “There will be an acceleration of the introduction of the North East Wales Metro. We will be introducing a Chester-Liverpool service from December 2018 and a significant increase in Sunday services on most routes from 2019.
“The North East Wales Metro transformation will benefit from the station investment programme, expansion of smart ticketing and the improved compensation scheme offering refunds for delays.
“We will see a second, limited stop express service every hour on the Wrexham-Bidston line from 2021, and from 2022 see services stopping at Wrexham as part of a new 2 hourly Liverpool to Cardiff service.
“Four stations have been identified in the North East Wales Metro area to receive further investment as part of a flagship programme for stations; these include Chester, Shotton, Wrexham General and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Other planned improvements include a new Liverpool to Llandudno service, faster journeys between Cardiff Central and Holyhead and increased trains per hour for four other lines.
“Linking up the nation we will build on the fast service between North and South Wales with further improvements in journeys times, and the expansion to three trains per day of the popular locomotive hauled catered service from December 2019 making use of more comfortable Mark 4 carriages”
Issues around the UK are recognised, with the Cabinet Secretary noting: “Our protections include a parent company guarantee, break clauses allowing us to terminate the contract at year five and year 10 and the ability to appoint an operator of last resort.”
There is a ‘contractual profit capping and sharing mechanism’, so partner KeolisAmey does not expect to pay dividends to its shareholders for the first five years, reinvesting profits to fund the investment.
The new service will be branded as ‘Transport for Wales’ styled as TfW – described as a ‘service made in Wales, for Wales’.
The following graphic illustrates how the fleet will be refreshed over the next few years, with the ‘key’ timetable changes in the table below.
We cant bring you quotes from First Minister Carwyn Jones, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, the chief executive of Keolis or what James Price the chief executive of Transport For Wales thinks as we were not sent the details.
Below, our tweet from this morning over the lack of communications from Transport For Wales…
We would love to bring you info on @wgcs_economy‘s billion quid rail plans but it seems @transport_wales has no interest in communicating with some of north east wales! So have a Thomas The Tank Engine gif instead 😀 pic.twitter.com/yIJZgLIdU9
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) June 4, 2018