Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

National Assembly for Wales

Pwyllgor yr Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau

Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee

Datblygu Trafnidiaeth Cymru yn y dyfodol

The future development of Transport for Wales

EIS(5) FDTfW21

Ymateb gan Yr Athro Stuart Cole

Evidence from Professor Stuart Cole


1.       Integrated Transport Structure 1999

In 1999, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Welsh Office, Mr (now Lord) Peter Hain invited myself and others to prepare a report ‘The Transport Legacy in Wales’ (see Appendix).

Peter Hain also asked me to prepare a separate paper (published by the Welsh Office) on ‘The short term possibilities and long term vision’ which considered, inter alia, the structure and functions of a national transportation authority and the role of local authorities.  This extract is included as an appendix to this submission. Although it was written 20 years ago it remains my view.

2.   Governance, structure and funding of Transport for Wales (TfW)

2.1 The Welsh Government sought to indicate in 2014 that the railways in Wales were to be seen as under government control when it determined to create one brand (TfW) for the governance authority and the railway operational business.

Network Rail, now within the public sector at the Department for Transport, was established when operational weaknesses were found in Railtrack plc. Subsequently when it was determined that as the funding of Network Rail borrowing came from DfT, Welsh Government ;and the Scottish Government, it could not be considered a private sector company.

2.2 Structure – TfW / TfW Rail

These have two quite different roles:

Ø  TfW is described in the bid documents as ‘the Authority’.  Headed by Mr James Price, it is the ‘agency’ of the Welsh Government which implements the latter’s policy in relation to railways in Wales (within the Wales and Borders franchise).  This satisfies the Government’s promotion of a ‘not for dividend company’ operating the railway.

Ø  TfW Rail is in effect KeolisAmey trading as TfW Rail.  It is the Train Operating Company (TOC) responsible for mobilising the new network provision – procuring and operating the trains, creating timetables (within guidelines set down by TfW), operating stations and managing the track either directly (Core Valley Lines) or through Network Rail.  This satisfies the Railways Act requirement for a private sector company (despite all bidders being in some way part of a state owned railway elsewhere) to be the train operating company.

The ability of both to work together is the key to success in the new franchise.  This current structure should stay in place and its viability tested certainly over the challenging period to 2025.

2.3 The integrated structure under one brand has benefits in terms of the travelling public’s perception of government providing the railway service.

The only concerns will arise if:

(a)   There are major disruptions to the passenger railway plan.  The ‘blame culture’ is not to be encouraged but should for example the new trains or overhead wiring not be delivered on time/on budget (as has been seen with the GWML), whose responsibility it is to put it right.  In addition, whose financial risk will it be if the target price of Valley Lines electrification is exceeded – TfW (the Authority) or TfW (KeolisAmey) in the Operational Development Partnership.  It becomes difficult for government then to explain  the difference.

(b)   There are operational issues such as arose in autumn 2018. The Committee during its recent inquiry saw differing views of TfW and Arriva Trains Wales on, for example, fleet transfer conditions.  The differing perceptions of two quite separate organisations makes such issues easier to understand.

However overall the single brand is the better option when both parts work alongside Network Rail.  The near proximity of their offices/operational control facilities is also important.

2.4 Management Team / Skills

A high quality management team is now being built up at both TfW and TfW Rail. Advice given in 2013 (by Professor Stuart Cole) indicated a need for a high-level TfW permanent team from that date and experienced support staff. This team would have covered the rail franchising processes (to TOCs), interface with Network Rail and procurement options for new or cascaded rolling stock.  These would have had high quality skills to assess the bidders’ plans (assisted by some of the high quality consultants employed) and formed the permanent team to take forward this large enterprise.

The management team for TfW Rail (in effect Keolis) could not have been fully created until the winning bid was determined.

2.5 Funding

At present TfW can only be funded by Welsh Government (or UK Government through WG) in both capital account (investment) and revenue account (subsidy).

There is a longer term possibility of a precept through local authority Council Tax as police authorities and community councils currently enjoy.  The popularity of this may be varied and one might recall a form of this argument when the Greater London Council attempted to use a precept to fund its cheap fares (Fares Fair) policy in particular on the London Underground which did not serve the London Borough of Bromley who took legal action which delayed introducing the fares policy.

2.6 Brand Placing /Style

The big red T has potential to be the ultimate strong Welsh brand. The WG has impressed the need to highlight Wales in all marketing and promotion.

Its attached words TRAFNIDIAETH CYMRU (TrC) and TRANSPORT FOR WALES (TfW) says what it set out to do – provide public (at least for the present) transport for Wales.  However following discussion  with marketing professionals and product managers a view was put where long term brand impact has been compromised by ‘too early’ introduction.  Several comments emerged:

·         In appearance it has not a sufficiently bold RED

·         Red and white would be appropriate for Wales; but the use of black is a mystery. It is funereal - in particular the male staff ties (neckwear) where the red T is replaced by a white motif

·         There is inconsistency in background colours for the TrC / TfW signage – usually white; occasionally black or even Arriva (ATW) turquoise

·         The point size of the logo and associated words is small compared with the previous ATW point size.  There should be no reluctance in making clear this is a Welsh train company even when operating in England

·         The TrawsCymru logo and bus paintwork style shows the colours of Wales; the major places served; the brand TrawsCymru is ‘in your face (a marketing term); and it is what it says on the tin – service across Wales

·         An interim name (e.g. Rheilffordd Cymru & Gororau (Wales & Borders Railway) might have been used until the new product was in place.  It was likened to Marks & Spencer taking over a Poundland store (no offence meant to either company) and installing its M&S brand before completely refurbishing and restocking the store.  It was suggested that there is a parallel here and that TrC / TfW may have damaged its otherwise potentially strong image unnecessarily.



3.  Developing governance structure and funding – and good practice examples

3.1 The future of bus integration in Wales is the current subject of a consultation paper “Improving Public Transport”. Welsh Government is examining proposals, one of which is particularly relevant to this inquiry,

The consultation paper suggests establishing a Joint Transport Authority (JTA) (as provided for in the Transport (Wales) Act 2006). As the adviser to both the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee and in joint session the National Assembly for Wales scrutiny committee on the Bill, this proposal raises a serious concern.

3.2 The purpose of the enabling legislation was to allow the creation of a single national JTA for Wales covering the railways and what is now the TrawsCymru bus network.  Separate local JTAs on a regional basis involving the local authorities (not dissimilar to the regional transport consortia - SWWITCH, Sewta, Taith, TraC).  There is already in existence a national JTA in the form of TfW.  Creating two separate national structures one for bus and one for rail would not provide for an integrated network.  A bus JTA for Wales is unwise therefore on two counts:

(a)   buses are local operations and should in the main be considered locally.  Regional JTAs within the same national structure is therefore preferable.

(b)  it would be more difficult to integrate national and local/regional rail and bus services.

3.3 Consequently my conclusion is to retain TfW as the national JTA and create local JTAs based on similar areas to the public transport consortia.  Further argument on this issue and the basis of the JTA clause in the Transport (Wales) Act 2006 can be seen in Appendix 1.











Fig 2 below defines the future role of TfW and other transport related organisations.

[The discussion on franchising buses or using Quality Contract Schemes is a matter for discussion elsewhere]

Fig 1 Map of current rail franchise and TrawsCymru services

TrawsCymru routes // Wales & Borders rail franchise routes (TfW)


4.  Good practice – Netherlands

The Netherlands has taken national public transport integration and devolution and to some extent made them compatible.

The OV Chipkaart is the national travel card and it can be used on trams, buses and trains anywhere in the Netherlands.

The OV Chipkaart is based on mileage travelled – a reasonable base. But the fare per mile varies between travel modes and also between the companies. Trams in Amsterdam, Delft, Rotterdam or Utrecht (the primary cities of the Ranstaad) are operated by the municipally owned companies as before but all have different fares per mile. While that might not seem odd as they are in different cities, the three different bus companies operating in, for example, Amsterdam all charge different mileage rates to one another and to the tram operator. But all accept the OV Chipkaart as required in their franchise contracts with the transport authority (Netherlands Government or Provincie Governments).

Nederlandse Spoorwagen (NS) (the equivalent of what was British Railways)is the state – owned primary railway operator with a mileage and peak / off peak period based fare structure. The fares are lower than those in Wales (or the UK) and further discounts for different travel patterns are provided through the OV Chipkaart. All of this sounds fine with one card for the whole national network.  But to achieve the lowest travel cost with often two or three cards offering different discounts and a card required for each person including children has caused some irritation with the pricing structure amongst passengers.

There are some rail operators with familiar names (Arriva, Veolia, Connexion) operating limited local train services in rural areas and is the source of another passenger annoyance. To use the OV Chipkaart the passenger has to check onto and off the vehicle. On NS journeys may be made between different connecting train services by this process. On using services operated by more than one train operator there are two separate checking points, so for example interchanging between NS and Veolia trains the passenger has to process the OV Chipkaart possibly incurring a higher fare.

This has been the consequence of devolving the railway franchising process to the Provincie level without specifying a revenue allocation formulae between the railway operators – to the inconvenience of the traveller.

So what are the lessons to be learned:-

·         The OV Chipkaart is a smart idea.

·         It has stored value (as the London Oyster card) and based on the same principle as the GoCymru card which the Government should introduce into the current rail franchise.

·         Maintain a national franchise ticketing system for Wales.

5 Future TfW role / additional responsibilities / integrated with Welsh Government and regional JTAs

5.1 TfW cannot be a policy making body unless it has a democratic body overseeing it.  The current ‘division of labour’ where Welsh Government delivers policy and TfW delivers the outputs should remain at least until 2025 when the new railway network, trains and survives will be settled in.

The role of the Economy, infrastructure and Skills Committee in respect of TfW should also be considered.

5.2 There is an unenviable challenge facing Transport for Wales (TfW), the arms - length body set up by the Government to plan and implement the new Wales & Borders rail franchise.  But it was surely also set up to integrate the new improved rail services with national (TrawsCymru) and local bus services.

A national public transport strategy has been elusive without regional transport authorities fully supporting integrated bus and rail operations so making travel easy for passengers. Network planning has local authorities providing the framework for bus services and the Welsh Government the new rail franchise and TrawsCymru.

This can be achieved through high quality -

(a)  Informationcomprehensively available on easy to read phone apps / hard copy shows the links between bus and train services. The current provision real time timetables at railway stations should be replicated at key bus hubs and stations linked to buses through a Wales national GPS system (as is operated by National Express).

(b) Interchangeimprovements which make journeys easier through joint and inter-journey ticketing – currently a barrier to their attractiveness compared with the private car. 

(c)  Investmentin infrastructure to provide clean, comfortable, safe and fully accessible (by foot and bicycle) means to improve the customer experience. A string of uncared for bus shelters does not constitute a bus station. Swansea’s high quality city bus station is the exemplar in Wales. It was achieved through the combined resources of national and local government to achieve the aspirations of the traveller.

Strategic bus and rail services have to interconnect across Wales and across our border into England; but the bus plans must also be locally centred. We have to decide what services we want and for whom. They have to be affordable and involve a combined approach by TfW, Welsh Government and local authorities.

While TfW has a major rail task, it appears only recently to have considered integrating bus operations. But the inter-connection should have been a requirement  in the tender document - hopefully to be issued to the four bidders later this month and there is an opportunity for TfW to ensure integration of bus services with the new Wales and Borders rail franchise creating an improved traveller experience.


Fig 2: The future role of TfW


The Transport Legacy in Wales Key Advisory Group Papers, Welsh Transport Advisory Group, Welsh Office, March 1999

WTAG Chair Mr Peter Hain MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Welsh Office