The Welsh Labour run Government has come under attack over its transport policies and decisions which it is described as ‘bogged down, stuck, and going nowhere”.
Transport Fails Wales, says Wales infrastructure committee chairman. Russell George AM chaired a meeting of the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure, and Skills Committee, which focused on rail services.
The meeting follows results from a Rail Passenger Survey carried out by Transport Focus, which found TfW’s rail passengers were among the least satisfied in the UK.
The operator, which runs services throughout Wales and some cross-border services to England, was the fourth-lowest ranked operator out of the 24 in the UK.
Headline statistics from the survey included that the percentage of customers satisfied with their journey in autumn 2019 was 79 percent, down three percentage points compared to the same season in the previous year.
In late December, the Welsh Labour Government was forced to acknowledge that the older, ‘Pacer’ trains – which do not comply with disability access legislation – and Class 37 rolling stock, which can be up to 60 years old, would remain in service during the first part of 2020.
Satisfaction with value for money on TfW had fallen significantly among weekday customers to 48 percent, compared to 57 percent in 2018.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative spokesperson, Mr George said, “Expectations of Wales’ rail service are simple. As the passenger watchdog Transport Focus put it,’Passengers tell us that their top priorities for the new Wales and Borders railway are getting a seat on reliable services that provide good value for money.’
“Sadly, during 2019 we have just not seen significant progress. Over the last year, we continue to see cancelled trains, delayed trains, lack of staff, signalling problems, capacity problems, lack of quality information to passengers, and overcrowding, and this is unacceptable by anyone’s standards.
“This is not the ‘transformational’ improvement to services that Wales was promised by this Welsh Government and neither does it represent the additional capacity or the vision of future rail services in Wales.”
In Spring 2019, the Economy, Infrastructure and skills committee published its report into the rail disruption which has affected passengers, highlighting a number of possible causes and potential remedies.
The Committee’s clear message to Transport for Wales was that if a similar level of disruption is experienced by passengers in the future then they must be adequately compensated as it will be some time before the full fleet of shiny new trains arrives.
Earlier this week during First Minister’s Questions this week, Paul Davies AM/AC – the Leader of the Opposition – took the Welsh Labour Government to task over its disastrous handling of roads infrastructure, including the A465 Heads of the Valleys Road.
Just last week, the announcement of a further delay to works on the vital A465 left residents, commuters, and business owners frustrated.
Construction of the route commenced in 2014 and was slated to be complete by the end of 2018, then 2019. In April last year, the Welsh Government said work would run into 2020, costing an extra £54 million, bringing the project cost to £324m. It now has a completion date of 2021.
Mr Davies added that the Welsh Labour Government’s failure to dual the A40 in West Wales and its vetoing of the vital M4 Relief Road were as other examples of its failures.
Mr Davies said, “It’s a fact that communities are frustrated with the Welsh Government’s approach to road infrastructure in Wales and there seems little accountability from Ministers for your Government’s mismanagement.”
He told the First Minister, “You’ll be aware of plans by Cardiff Council to introduce a congestion charge – a ‘Valleys Tax’ – to charge non-residents to travel in and out of Cardiff.”
Mr Davies pointed out that the proposal requires Welsh Government sign-off, and the he then asked if it was his government’s intention to approve it. The First Minister refused to.
Mr Davies expressed his concern that if the Welsh Government does sign off the proposal, it could create a “them and us” situation between Valleys residents and those of the capital.
Speaking later, Mr Davies said, “This Welsh Labour Government is acting like a driver ignoring their car’s satnav.
“First they circle a roundabout a few times, before taking the wrong exit down a country lane. They then have trouble reversing out – while blaming every other driver around them – before getting bogged down, stuck, and going nowhere.
“The long-suffering people in Wales deserve a government with drive and direction, and it’s not Welsh Labour.”