New board to be set up for Welsh railways

New board to be set up for Welsh railways

A Wales Rail Board is being created, after a recommendation by the Welsh Affairs Committee was partly accepted by the government. The Welsh Government wants Westminster to go further by devolving Welsh railways completely, but the new board will include representatives from the Department for Transport, the Welsh Government, Transport for Wales, Network Rail, Avanti West Coast and GWR, because these last two operators also use some Welsh lines. The Welsh Government said it supported the need for close ‘strategic collaboration’. The Welsh Affairs Committee had been told that ‘a joined-up and clearer approach is needed to unlock rail investment’ in Wales. However, the new Board must not be just a ‘talking shop’, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts has warned. The MP has criticised the Westminster government for ‘leaving us with crowded and unreliable trains that dawdle along old and crumbling tracks’ and has called for a 10-year investment plan.

GWR’s director for Wales Richard Rowland said: ‘We support the aspirations of both the UK and Welsh Government to improve rail services in Wales and very much look forward to the new senior level joint Board. Good rail connections are a driver for strong economic recovery, for environmental benefits and for bringing communities together.  The report sets out a number of opportunities for rail in Wales, and we are committed to playing our part. We believe in a collaborative, partnership approach and we are ready to work with both Governments, with Network Rail, with TfW and with our customers and communities to find the right solutions to encourage more people to move from private car to rail.’

Rail freight back to pre-pandemic levels

The volume of freight carried by rail has returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to statistics published by the Office of Rail and Road. The regulator’s Freight Rail Usage and Performance statistics show that in the first quarter of this year (April to June 2021) a total of 4.33 billion net tonne-kilometres of rail freight was moved. This was an increase of 36.5 per cent on the same quarter last year and an increase of 1.3 per cent compared with the same quarter two years ago. Construction products moved by rail increased most compared with the same quarter a year ago because of high demand for aggregates in connection with the start of construction of HS2. Meanwhile, coal is continuing to be less important and was down by 65.2 per cent compared with 2019-20, but in spite of this fall the amount of freight lifted over the past year increased by nearly five million tonnes.