Dafydd Elis-Thomas calls for "powers for a purpose" following Silk report
PLAID CYMRU Transport Spokesperson, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, has backed the Silk Commission’s proposals for the devolution of powers over rail infrastructure and rail franchising to the Welsh Government.
Speaking on an official visit to Cardiff Queen Street Station alongside Jill Evans MEP, Lord Elis-Thomas said that Wales needed "powers for a purpose" and that Plaid Cymru in government would set out a "deep alliance" where the rail franchise and rail infrastructure were delivered jointly.
Train and track are managed separately in the UK rail industry. A "deep alliance" does not change that legal separation, but sees the franchise-holder and Network Rail work closely together. A "deep alliance" has been rolled out by South-West Trains and Network Rail’s Wessex Route since 2012, and features;
A single joint management team.
Faster decision-making at the managerial level.
More co-ordinated management of disruption.
Better planning of track maintenance work.
Common goals across the two organisations.
The pooling of resources, including training budgets.
Network Rail has also said that it is willing to enter a "deep alliance" with the successful bidder for the next ScotRail franchise.
The party will consult on the exact details of how such an alliance could be developed in a Welsh context and what agreement would be needed, but believes that the devolution of further transport powers would enable a Welsh "deep alliance" to be supported by a strong Transport Minister who would also have powers over bus and taxi regulation, ports policy and road safety.
The party has suggested the idea in a consultation paper, along with a range of transport schemes that could be delivered as part of the National Transport Plan in the future.
Lord Elis-Thomas further drew attention to the work being undertaken by Network Rail at Cardiff Queen Street as part of the Cardiff Area Resignalling Programme as an example of Plaid Cymru’s previous record in government. Although work has commenced at the station relatively recently, the project has been planned for a number of years and was financially backed by Plaid Cymru in the One Wales Government. He said that this commitment to transport investment would be "renewed" in any future government.
Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said:
"Plaid Cymru supports the delivery of an integrated and sustainable transport network, building on what we achieved in government.
"In light of the Silk Commission’s second report it is clear that we need additional transport powers for a purpose. The report states that an integrated transport policy will become more feasible if Wales has these powers over rail franchising, rail infrastructure and also bus and taxi regulation. In Scotland these are the powers that have enabled significant progress towards integration.
On the future of the rail franchise, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas added:
"We are today renewing our commitment to transport investment, and also proposing a ‘deep alliance’ between the next rail franchise holder and the devolved Network Rail structure. The ‘deep alliance’ concept has been delivered by South-West Trains and Network Rail on the Wessex Route and has led to improved efficiencies and a better experience for the passenger.
"The recent report of the National Assembly Enterprise and Business Committee shows the desire in Wales to achieve an improved and more integrated service, and Plaid Cymru fully supports this aspiration."
Jill Evans MEP said:
"The infrastructure developments around Cardiff that Plaid Cymru is partly responsible for will help boost the economy. There are also funds available at the European level to improve the transport infrastructure in the north and the west, including the Holyhead and Milford Haven ports. The Labour government failed during negotiations with the UK government to achieve the best deal for Wales in terms of EU transport funding. We need a strong Plaid Cymru voice in Europe to fight for this investment and to put Wales on the map."