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Transport for Wales plans are premature

29 September 2017

Responding to proposals revealed today by Transport for Wales (TfW) about future organisation of the Welsh rail network, TSSA Organising Director, Lorraine Ward, said:

"On the face of it increasing devolution of transport powers from the Department for Transport to the Welsh Government does sounds like a no-brainer. But, whilst the Tories are still controlling the purse strings and get to decide how much money they trickle down to TfW, devolution for devolution's sake may not be in the interests of Wales, rail safety nor represent good value for taxpayers right now.

"The Welsh Government is currently, quite rightly in a very public dispute with the DfT about funding - not only has the DfT cancelled Great Western route electrification between Cardiff and Swansea, they have also refused to pass on money paid by the franchisee as track access charges that should go to Network Rail (as the Network Grant) for infrastructure maintenance.

"Transport Secretary Chris Grayling showed this summer that frankly he doesn't give a stuff about Tory Party Manifesto pledges made to Wales. And whilst we are completely in tandem with the Welsh Government’s aspirations to take back control of Welsh rail into public ownership, it is not yet clear that powers have actually been transferred to the Welsh Government.

"Whilst Welsh Assembly ministers have proceeded on the basis transport devolution is inevitable for several years now and have set up Transport for Wales (TfW), run consultations about the Wales and Borders franchise and specified the extent of the franchise and inviting tenders, the Tories still aren't coughing up the dosh. TSSA is therefore concerned that Transport for Wales is running before it can walk and today's proposals are premature.

"We are also concerned that they have not ruled out breaking up Network Rail in Wales, which will fragment rail security and safety and is considered so controversial that even though it's on the Tory rail privatisation wish-list, even Tories have not dared to pursue this reckless strategy.

"This detail is not the stuff of sexy headlines, but it is the stuff of serious rail safety, future planning and job security that mustn't be compromised by a hasty, rushed and unthought through devolution deals. TSSA will now consult with our members across Wales before making any further response on today's proposals.

"But, we would also point out that should Jeremy Corbyn be elected Prime Minister, Labour's 2017 Manifesto For The Many has pledged to create the conditions in which the Welsh Government could indeed take back the keys to Welsh railway systems and invest in it via the new national and regional investment bank that will be created to reboot infrastructure spending and building in Wales."

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