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DfT washes hands of Welsh train problems


15 March 2019

The DfT has denied it failed to act early enough to prevent rolling stock difficulties in Wales and adjoining areas of England.

A National Assembly for Wales inquiry in 2013 advised the Welsh Government to prepare a rolling stock strategy “as a matter of urgency”, in particular to ensure an early start on train modifications to meet disabled access regulations by the January 2020 deadline. Spreading the work over several years would have reduced the cost and resulted in fewer trains being out of service at a time. 

Last December, Welsh transport minister Ken Skates said a strategy at that time would have been “pretty pointless” because the Welsh Government would not have been able to implement it. “Rolling stock was a matter for UK Government. We kept saying to the UK Government that rolling stock was an issue. They didn’t do anything about it.”

But Peter Wilkinson, the DfT’s managing director, passenger services, has written to the Welsh Government to say the DfT does not accept Skates’ assertions. 

Wilkinson said the DfT and the Welsh Government entered into a joint parties agreement (JPA) in 2006, which gave the latter responsibility for all Wales and Borders services except those operating solely in England. “Provision of capacity” was listed as one of the devolved responsibilities.

“This division of responsibilities in the JPA was followed in practice, as a number of changes to the Arriva Trains Wales rolling stock fleet took place during the 12 years of the JPA, which were agreed and funded by the Welsh Government using its discretion under the devolution arrangements as it saw fit,” said Wilkinson.

Modification of Wales and Borders trains to meet the 2020 deadline finally began in 2018.  

Transport for Wales postponed introduction of Chester to Liverpool services via the refurbished Halton Curve from December 2018 until May 2019, citing a shortage of rolling stock. 

This year it is cutting services on North Wales branch lines – one being closed completely – to release train capacity in South Wales each time a major rugby match is held in Cardiff.

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