Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith
Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee17/03/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Huw Irranca-Davies MS|
|Janet Finch-Saunders MS|
|Jenny Rathbone MS|
|Joyce Watson MS|
|Llyr Gruffydd MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Rhun ap Iorwerth MS||Dirprwyo ar ran Delyth Jewell|
|Substitute for Delyth Jewell|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Geoff Ogden||Trafnidiaeth Cymru|
|Transport for Wales|
|James Price||Trafnidiaeth Cymru|
|Transport for Wales|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:00.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:00.
Croeso cynnes i bawb i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith. Dwi eisiau croesawu'r Aelodau, wrth gwrs, i gychwyn. Rydyn ni wedi derbyn ymddiheuriad gan Delyth Jewell, ac mae yna groeso arbennig i Rhun ap Iorwerth, sy'n dirprwyo. Croeso, Rhun, atom ni ar gyfer y sesiwn dystiolaeth yma. Mae e'n gyfarfod dwyieithog wrth gwrs—mae yna ddarpariaeth cyfieithu ar y pryd ar gael inni yn y cyfarfod yma. A gaf i atgoffa pawb does dim angen ichi reoli eich microffonau eich hunain—mi fydd hynny'n cael ei wneud ar eich rhan chi gan ein technegwyr ni. Gaf i ofyn hefyd ar y cychwyn a oes gan unrhyw Aelod unrhyw fuddiannau i'w datgan? Na. Dim byd. Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Ac yn absenoldeb Delyth hefyd, sydd fel arfer yn barod i ddirprwyo â mod i'n colli cyswllt â'r cyfarfod am ryw reswm, gan ein bod ni'n cael cyfarfod rhithiol, mae Huw Irranca-Davies wedi cytuno i gamu i'r adwy a bod yn Gadeirydd tra fy mod i'n trio ailgysylltu, pe bai'n dod i hynny. Diolch yn fawr.
A very warm welcome to you all to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee. I would like to welcome Members, first of all. We have received apologies from Delyth Jewell, and there's a particularly warm welcome to Rhun ap Iorwerth, who's substituting on her behalf. A very warm welcome, Rhun, to this evidence session. It is a bilingual meeting, of course, and simultaneous interpretation is available from Welsh to English. And may I remind everyone that you don't need to control your own mics—that will be done remotely by our technicians. May I also ask whether there are any declarations of interest? None. Thank you very much. And in the absence of Delyth, who usually substitutes if I lose connection with the meeting for any reason, Huw Irranca-Davies has agreed to step into the breach and to take the Chair whilst I seek to rejoin, should it come that. Thank you.
Ocê, ymlaen â ni felly at brif ffocws y cyfarfod y prynhawn yma, sef craffu ar waith Trafnidiaeth Cymru. Mae hon, wrth gwrs, yn sesiwn graffu flynyddol gyntaf i ni gyda Trafnidiaeth Cymru. Mi fydd rhan gyntaf y cyfarfod yn canolbwyntio ar graffu cyffredinol ar lywodraethu a datblygiad Trafnidiaeth Cymru. Ac yn yr ail ran, mi fyddwn ni'n derbyn tystiolaeth ar gyfer ein gwaith ni ar adfer trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus ar ôl COVID. Ac fel y gwelwch chi ar y sgrîn, dwi'n siŵr, yn ymuno â ni mae James Price, prif weithredwr Trafnidiaeth Cymru, a Geoff Ogden, sy'n gyfarwyddwr gwasanaethau cynllunio, datblygu a chynghori Trafnidiaeth Cymru. Croeso cynnes i'r ddau ohonoch chi. Mae gennym ni ychydig llai na rhyw ddwy awr, felly mi fwriwn ni yn syth mewn i gwestiynau, ac mi wnawn ni gychwyn drwy wahodd Janet Finch-Saunders i arwain ar y cwestiynau cyntaf. Janet.
Okay, we'll move on to the main focus of this afternoon's meeting, namely to scrutinise the work of Transport for Wales. This is our first annual scrutiny session with Transport for Wales. The first part of the meeting will focus on general scrutiny on governance and the development of Transport for Wales. And then, in the second session, we will take evidence as part of our work on restoring public transport post COVID. And as you'll see on the screen, joining us are James Price, chief executive of Transport for Wales, and Geoff Ogden, director of planning, development and advisory services for Transport for Wales. A warm welcome to both of you. We have a little less than two hours, so we'll move immediately to questions, and we'll start with Janet Finch-Saunders, who will lead on the first questions. Janet.
Thank you, Chair. Bearing in mind that TfW—[Interruption.] Sorry, hang on—. Sorry, there's a dog barking in the background.
We can hear you over the dog barking. That's fine. That's fine.
Okay. Bearing in mind that TfW's 2021-22 remit letter requires an annual business plan and 12-month financial plan, will you explain why TfW has not published a business plan since 2018-19, and what steps are going to be taken about this? Thank you.
Okay. So, I'll answer that one. Just in terms of the way that we work, Chair, if it's okay, can I bring Geoff in if I need to, if that's okay?
Yes. As and when is fine, James. And, Geoff, you interject as well, if you wish—that's fine.
Fine. Thanks. So, in terms of the business plan, I think the main message that I need to get across is that we absolutely have had business plans, because otherwise we couldn't operate ever since we were established. And the business planning process has been improving as we've gone about our evolution and as we have grown. The reason why we haven't published a business plan ahead of time, if you like, for the last two years, is that we've never reached a stable position in Government funding that allowed us to publish a business plan. And I don't think that that is through anyone's fault in any part of Government, or in any part of TfW. In essence, as soon as COVID started, we went into an emergency budget situation, and every iteration of budget we thought was correct was changing on a weekly basis. So, we went into a series of, basically, authority-to-spend agreements with the Welsh Government. That is all wrapped up in a business plan, and it has been every year.
I think we absolutely should be publishing a business plan—ideally, in advance of the coming financial year, but certainly as soon as possible as we move into it. And I think probably the best news I can give you on that is that this year's planning for the coming financial year has been the best that we have done. We started the business planning process with the Welsh Government officials' teams actually even before we had the remit letter. We haven't yet got a fully financed remit, but we're working towards that and I hope to have that very soon. And I would be expected to be scrutinised on that.
Thanks. Just a supplementary then: TfW's 2022-23 budget for rail alone is £653 million, with further funding to be agreed with the Welsh Government. So, do you agree with me that there should be complete transparency as to how taxpayers' money is spent? And if so, when do you predict having a business plan and one that can be available to the public?
Okay. So, yes, I think we should have complete transparency and, in terms of how transparent we want to be, apart from avoiding, obviously, breaking any data protection laws, or any really truly commercial in-confidence issues, we want to be completely transparent. We've set up a transparency working group. You might ask, 'Well, what does a working group mean if you don't see anything on the back of it?', but our ambition is to be the most transparent public body in Wales.
In terms of the data for this year, I'll take a commitment away from this committee to get that business plan published as soon as it can be. I think we ought to potentially think about if there are any other ways to share financial information with you at a disaggregated level that is maybe outside the business planning process, if that final business plan hasn't been approved by the Welsh Government.
Thanks, James, but, you know, to be fair, this isn't the first time that transparency has been an issue with TfW. Because the fifth Senedd's Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee inquiry into the TfW's future development actually criticised a lack of transparency by your organisation. So, I think you would agree with me that that isn't acceptable. And I suppose, really, we're looking for greater transparency going forward. Can you assure us in this committee that that's going to be the case?
So, I think—. Well, yes, I can. That is our ambition. There's nothing stopping us. No-one is up to anything. We're not under any pressure not to be transparent. There is no need not to be transparent. And we've got some very good people working in the organisation who, in the past, have held senior roles in the Wales Audit Office, for example. So, they fully understand what you're getting at.
I think there may be a need for a bit of out-of-committee exchange of letters, even maybe with some of the clerks, to explore what we could do that would better answer this rather than necessarily having to wait another year for you to come back and say, 'It still doesn't feel like it's transparent enough.' So, my commitment to the committee would be that we will be much more visibly transparent than we are today.
In terms of the budget lines—. Chair, do you want me to get going into that or—?
Briefly, then, yes. I think the question generally is: how can we see this information without bringing you before committee really, isn't it?
So, I think we need to have a conversation with the Welsh Government—this is TfW need to have a conversation with the Welsh Government—about some of our budget lines. Because, in essence, from what I can see, having gone on to the Welsh Government published websites, you get to see a total TfW figure. That figure is made up of lots of different Welsh Government budget expenditure lines, but they're not full Welsh Government BELs. So, different parts of the Welsh Government will decide to spend with us on a particular activity as well as they might be spending with a local authority or a consultancy or even with a project delivery organisation. And I think we need to do something to tidy that up so that you have got visibility of that aggregate TfW figure below the aggregate. And I completely understand why you want that. I think it's a series of reasonable administrative constraints that have led to it, but we need to get better—or we need to do something different. I don't think we need to get better; we need to do something different to give you the visibility that you want and that we want to show you.
Thank you, Chairman.
Thank you, and it isn't just budget as well, because you have corporate key performance indicators. How are you performing against those KPIs and how do you report that publicly?
Okay. So, on the KPIs, I think I've got some clearer and maybe better news for you on that, but it obviously isn't visible enough. If you look on our website, and we can send you a link, you will see all of our KPIs for the rail part of our business, anyway, which have been fully reported for the last four months. So, there is a suite of KPIs on there that have been fully reported for the last four months. We intend over the next couple of months to broaden that into some wider corporate key performance indicators as well, but what we're trying to do is to get them in a format that allows you to compare our performance with some benchmarks, because otherwise they won't necessarily be an awful lot of use in terms of what they show. You can get trends off them, but it would be good if you could compare benchmarks. So, again, I'm very happy to take a commitment to write back to you with a timetable for when those will be visible. But the rail ones are all up there and have been up there for four months.
Okay, there we are. Thank you for that. There are a few things to be done to follow up on those points, then. Thank you. We'll move on to Joyce.
Good afternoon, both. Transport for Wales has had growing responsibilities since you were first formed, and I'm specifically interested in that transfer process, the rationale for the areas that have been transferred, and how the board prepares and is assured that it's ready for those new roles that you've actually assumed.
Okay. So, just as a—. Before I answer that one, the other thing I should have mentioned—and you'll be aware of this—is that, looking backwards, we've got full transparency in the annual report. I appreciate you want to scrutinise what we're about to do as well as what we have done. In terms of the question—. Sorry, can you just remind me very quickly? I did take it fully in. Just one word will do.
It was the growing responsibilities—
Okay, yes, absolutely. So, in terms of that, we have a number of processes that we've put in place. Firstly, there's a process that we have in place with the Welsh Government, where the Welsh Government have something that they call a FIT steering board, which is a future integrated transport steering board. They themselves consider what activities they may or may not want Transport for Wales to do. Now, that isn't a consideration of individual pieces of work that you might call consultancy, which are task and finish pieces of work. This would be a consideration of: would we be given a further responsibility to take forward indefinitely, like active travel, for example? So, that's the first area.
The second area that we have is almost a replication of that within Transport for Wales, and then a consideration of the output of both of that by our board, and our board wants to assure itself of two things. The first is that the activity that is being discussed makes sense, in the terms of: does it add value to what we are doing in terms of creating an integrated transport network for Wales? And, secondly: is Transport for Wales able to sensibly take it on and provide a high quality of service? Because we do not want to grow for the sake of growing; we want to be able to deliver what we're asked to do. And then there's a final question in the sense of: would the transfer be taking place in a sensible timeline with the right amount of budget? Have we got the right skills necessary to do it? And then there's a project management—. If all of those are green, there's a project management approach to bringing that activity into Transport for Wales.
Can I ask—? Obviously, there is a step before all of that, and thank you for what you've said, but the step before that has to be the conversation between yourselves and Government, because they've decided that you might take something on, but I'm assuming they haven't just said, 'Here you are', so they haven't—[Inaudible.]—this.
Absolutely. Sorry, I should have been clearer. That's the first part in the process, which is the Welsh Government's future integrated transport steering group, on which we are represented. In fact, Geoff Ogden, who is on the meeting with me this afternoon, is the representative for that, and I don't know, Geoff, whether you want to add any flavour.
Yes. I think it's fair to say that there's a strategic intent behind all of this, which is essentially that Transport for Wales is around the transport network integration—system integration—and delivery, and Welsh Government is around strategy, funding, policy, prioritisation, and that's the general intent behind the discussions that we have. The board that James has talked about—at different points in time, it's been much more substantial than it is now, but, essentially, the programme, or the series of steps that James has outlined, is what we would generally go through. I think it is important to say the due diligence side of making sure that Welsh Government are content with what Transport for Wales are taking on and that our board are content with the direction of travel is regularly checked upon, certainly at Transport for Wales, where we're reporting to the board, to make sure they're content with the direction of travel. And the other thing that I guess is supportive in this space is that we do provide advisory services into Welsh Government, so actually we're able to do some of that due diligence through that process of understanding what the overall approach might be.
Okay. So, you would expect with any additional responsibilities that funding would flow consequently from Government to cover that responsibility? Because we as a committee have received evidence, for example from Natural Resources Wales, where we're constantly hearing that resources aren't maybe what they could be or should be on the one hand, but then on the other hand, they're always being given additional responsibilities and that isn't a very sustainable trajectory, really.
I think there's always going to be a natural tension in those conversations, isn't there? And part of that I think is absolutely right, so Government has got a duty to make sure that it gets the best value for money that it can for every pound it spends. It will want to make sure that it's squeezing every bit out of TfW that we can. We need to make sure that we're doing that as well, but being able to do the activity safely and well. So, if you were to heavily scrutinise our engagement with Welsh Government, you would see that back-and-forth, and as I said in answer to the first question, I think, around whether we've got a business plan for the coming year, we've still got a gap on financing on that, which I don't believe does allow us to deliver the remit. But I am equally confident that, through close yet robust working, we will get to a place where we do have the required budget, or we will have to cut our remit slightly to allow for that to happen.
Okay, and I'm sure we'll pick up on that a little bit later on as well. So, we'll move on to Jenny now then.
Thank you very much. I just wanted to ask you a little bit about how you manage your relationships with both outside consultants and all the other stakeholders that you need to do business with. Obviously, there's a lot hanging on the success of your company for the people of Wales, so getting it right is complicated. I particularly wanted to focus on your relationship with KeolisAmey, because I see, James, that you told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that the arrangement for managing the contract that was previously in the hands of KeolisAmey is for five years, and obviously, from that, well, what happens after? And how does that inform the conversations you have in the TfW Innovation Services Ltd board meetings, because that's where, I imagine, the big budget decisions have to be if not made, at least discussed? So, I wonder if you could just tell us a bit about all that.
Okay, I'll try to, and, Geoff, just a bit of a warning, I'll bring you in on the back end of this. Geoff is chair of the innovation services joint venture.
I saw that from your paper, yes.
Yes, it's quite helpful. If I just very quickly explain what the different parts of the business now look like, because I think that is important, and people could get maybe a view of the importance of the JV that is greater than it actually is. So, when Keolis left, or when KeolisAmey left the contract, that meant that they were no longer involved in running day-to-day rail services. It also meant that Keolis was no longer involved in building the south-east Wales metro. So, our involvement for metro was then purely with Amey, the infrastructure company, and their subsidiary, which is called Amey Infrastructure Wales, but that's basically just a division of Amey. Keolis, therefore, have got no involvement in that part.
What we did want to do, though, was to make sure that we extracted maximum value, in a positive sense. I was, obviously, wanting to do this for the Welsh taxpayer, but I think Keolis wanted to do it for their brand and for their future in that exit. So, what we agreed was that we would have a joint venture with Keolis and Amey that allowed us to have full and, in essence, unfettered access to any of those two companies' intellectual property that fits with our broader activity for a five-year period. There are break points in it if we need to get out of it, if it's not working for us or if it's not working for them. The total value that could or is likely to be spent in that area is in the region of £10 million over the five-year period. So, it's a substantial amount of money, but in the context of a rail budget that is running at, maybe, with the transformation going on, £400 million a year, it's very much in the margins.
So, I wouldn't say that we are taking the big decisions at all in the joint venture area. What I would say is that some of the intellectual property that the joint venture has that we have access to could well be quite transformative if we can get access to it and use it in a sensible way in areas like integrated ticketing or demand-responsive travel, or even a new patented way of fixing electric cabling to masts. But, Geoff, do you want to just add, again, some flavour to that?
I think you've covered it pretty well. I guess, if we go back to what we originally procured in terms of the operator and development partner side of things, Keolis and Amey came in with a joined-up-systems approach to delivering the south Wales metro in a completely different way to what existed out there already. So, things like the tram-train technology, the ability to extend the network—they're all things it's useful to have advice on tap to us that we can draw upon, also as we develop our own skills and our own knowledge of that system as it starts to land with us. So, there's that. And then, along the same lines, as James says, there are other bits of intellectual property that were part of the original bid that we can maintain access to and, in fact, seek to exploit, in a good way, even more for ourselves, and potentially develop new intellectual property that we can use ourselves and potentially look at whether that's of use to others and might create an income stream, for example, to go alongside everything else that we're doing. So, I think there is value in us having that JV; it's one of a number of different ways that we can engage with the market, and we've got other ways in terms of engaging with the wider supply chain too. So, it's one of a number of streams of advice and support that help us take forward some innovative solutions.
How do we know that neither Keolis nor Amey are driven to encourage you to try out innovative things that may or may not work in the hope that, in five years' time, they'll know much better what they shouldn't be spending money on and that it might look like a more attractive proposition if they were in the market for bidding for the contract?
Can I answer that one, Geoff?
That's an absolutely fair question. We've just gone through a review of the joint venture, or Keolis, certainly, have done a review of their part of the joint venture, and their biggest frustration is that they haven't been able to do—. Well, you could read that their biggest frustration is that they haven't been able to do what you've just described, in that they haven't been able to sell as much into the business as they had hoped. So, I don't think that's happening. I think Geoff has got a strong process to guard against that, because, in essence, the process is we will only take to the JV things that we need, and we will also typically be looking to the market and looking inwardly to ourselves as well, and we will take the best value or the best product. I think we've got the opposite problem, to a certain extent, at the minute, which is that, potentially, there are things that are in there that we've got five years' access to and maybe we're not taking full advantage of it.
If I could, perhaps, I wouldn't say that the innovation services joint venture is a misnomer, but it's not all about new stuff going forward. We are developing our own innovation strategies and, clearly, we need to understand the extent of risk and reward and where we are on the innovation curve compared to a maturity curve on different things. There are some areas where, actually, it's relatively safe to take a bit of a risk in terms of new innovation and piloting new things; there are others where it absolutely isn't and you'll want to be following the curve more. So, we've got that in our sights too, in terms of that decision making.
Okay. You're a very new organisation, so what progress have you made on reducing your dependence on external consultants, given that they always come at a price that's much more than if you had this expertise internally?
So, on consultancy spend—I remember a couple of previous committees where we discussed this—I think we've made significant progress. I believe that I either quoted figures or I wrote to a previous committee, saying that we had around 39 consultants that were doing work that was akin to what we could be doing in-house. Off the top of my head—and I will have to write to you to confirm this—I believe that the number is now more like 29. But the bigger context is that, as an organisation, depending on whether you include rail or not—if we don't include rail, we're probably five times bigger than we were when it was 39, and if we include rail, we would be more like 10 times bigger than we were then—I think we have genuinely made progress on that. We are obviously still using some consultancy—what you might describe as consultancy companies, but they are for task-and-finish pieces of work. They are not people who are sat in our offices alongside us doing jobs; they would be someone maybe building a small, bespoke piece of IT for a ticket vending machine, for example.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you, Jenny. Rhun.
Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi. Prynhawn da. Buaswn i'n licio edrych ar faterion yn ymwneud â phennu cyllideb Trafnidiaeth Cymru a mynd â ni nôl at ddechrau'r drafodaeth y prynhawn yma a'r cwestiynau o gwmpas y cynllun busnes. Rŵan, ym mis Ionawr, mi gawson ni'r ffigurau gan y Llywodraeth yn nodi nad oedd y gyllideb ddrafft yn gwneud unrhyw ddyraniadau y tu hwnt i reilffyrdd oherwydd bod trafodaethau yn parhau efo Trafnidiaeth Cymru. Ai trafodaethau o gwmpas y cynllun busnes oedd y rheini? Ai dyna sy'n dal pethau nôl?
Thank you very much. Good afternoon to you. I'd like to look at some issues of budget setting for Transport for Wales and take us back to the beginning of this afternoon's discussion and those questions around the business plan. Now, in January, we got the figures from the Government noting that the draft budget made no allocations beyond rail as discussions were ongoing with Transport for Wales. Were they discussions around the business plan? Is that what's holding things up?
Yes. Essentially, yes. The process that we have in place, which is evolving and I think is getting better, is that a remit letter is worked up as we work up a business plan. It's still, I think, a little bit messy at official level, and the big thing that makes us different, in my experience anyway—Natural Resources Wales might be different now—is that, in the past, NRW would have a budget for all of its activities, and our budget tends to come from a number of different budget expenditure lines within the Welsh Government. So, there are probably 20 or 25 different bilateral discussions going on with different budget holders across the Welsh Government, all of which come in to TFW and we run our corporate overhead as an ongoing charge on all of those different activities. So, we have to hold it all together, and until we have every single piece of that pinned down, we're not in a position to be able to have a final business plan for the year. In essence, that's the detail of what's caused us not to be able to have a business plan, particularly through the COVID period, and I don't think anyone could've had one through the COVID period with that process. But we could certainly have one and will have one that's publishable for this coming year.
Maybe I'm failing to understand, but it strikes me that, perhaps, discussions are happening at the wrong time of year and maybe discussions should take place in the run-up to the publication of the draft budget, perhaps. Is there a chicken-and-egg situation here that needs resolving? You can't get a budget until you have a clear business plan that's agreed on, but you're also sort of saying that you can't put a business plan in place until you have a budget.
I think there is a bit of that. I think there probably will always be a bit of that with Government budgets. I know Welsh Government has some indicative budgets for two years forward, but we also probably know that those are going to change, with additional spend in some areas from the UK Government as consequentials, and reductions in other areas as consequentials. So, we always have to respond to those things.
I think we've been on a learning process, to be honest. I guess that the big question—I'm not sure it makes that much difference—and philosophical question is whether there ought to be one TfW allocated budget that then is broken down into different lines that you can scrutinise us on, or whether we should continue having different bits of different budget expenditure lines within the Welsh Government that we then aggregate together to have our running cost. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other, but the way that we are doing it now means that we need to start the process earlier than we have been doing, which we have done this year, which is why I'm more confident, but it's still a learning process for all concerned.
From a scrutiny point of view, of course, what we want to be able to do is check delivery against what was promised would be delivered, and that's why it's important for us here in the Senedd to understand what you're trying to achieve, so we can measure—. So, do you, as a matter of principle, think that your business plan should always be transparent? I appreciate that you've said today that you will take away from this committee today, 'From hearing what you're saying, I will publish the business plan.' Should that just happen though, anyway?
Absolutely, it should. And just to go back to the detail point, the reason that we weren't able to publish it through the COVID periods is that we didn't end up with one final business plan until nearly the end of the financial year because there were ongoing discussions with UK Government, ongoing discussions with Welsh Government, almost on a weekly basis, in terms of revenue support for bus, revenue support for rail. But we're through those times now, so we need to be delivering those products in a different way. So, some of the real key people in my team will be listening to this now, and I'm hearing the key things and, obviously, we can provide you a look back in terms of what we've done, but you want to see whether we have done what we said we were going to do. So, the look forward is equally important.
And, of course, we would recognise that there's a level of detail that we wouldn't expect, perhaps, or we couldn't scrutinise because it would be the minutiae of how you run a transport system. It's that overall sort of business plan that we're interested in.
A quick question on the five-year statement of funds available for Transport for Wales, referred to in the Wales transport strategy: how does that work from your point of view? What kind of mechanisms are in place to review that five-year forward look?
So, at the minute—and, again, I might need to bring Geoff in on this—I think that is more of an aspiration of the Welsh Government than necessarily a reality. We would certainly say that a five-year plan was entirely desirable. No. 1, it allows us to plan more sensibly; it allows us to recruit the people we need, with the certainty that we can keep them employed for at least five years; it allows us to work with our supply chain and get better value for money; and it allows us to move projects backwards and forwards as events unfold, but still deliver things within a five-year block. It's what Network Rail does, for example.
I think the difficulty for the Welsh Government in moving there has been that Welsh Government itself doesn't have five-year visibility on budgets from the UK Government, which is my point about why I think it's aspiration rather than a deliverable as of today. We do have a light-touch plan, I guess for two years after the current year, and we're discussing that with Welsh Government. There are some bigger gaps in that in terms of what I believe we need to deliver, certainly Welsh Government's aspiration for us. But, as I'm sure you'll appreciate and you will have observed over many years, even an indicative allocation for future years can still be influenced and changed. So, I'm not worried by the figures that we have, but if we were to be able, working together, lobbying the UK Government, to get into a position for a five-year statement of funding, that would be a much better place to be.
Yes, of course. Okay, thank you. Diolch.
Thank you, Rhun. Just to pick up on the comments you made about there being about 20 or 25 bilateral discussions happening, how can we be confident that—maybe this is a question to Government, but, clearly, you will be diligent in this respect as well, I'm sure—that there's no overlap or duplication in elements of that funding, if there are so many hares running?
So, our finance team carefully looks at all of that for those reasons. Our business planning process should also deal with that. And, to build on that and make it better, we're going through a process that is just reviewing what we would call our operating model, how we operate as a business, recognising that we've evolved quite a lot from the early days, and that we may be able to—well, I believe we will be able to—improve on our planning process, which will make that even better. But I think that if you were to audit our activity at the minute, we would come out with reasonable assurance around it. I would like to get to a place that is better than that.
Yes, okay. And, as I say, that's probably a question to Government more than to you in many respects. Back to Janet now, then.
My next question has actually been covered by Rhun. Sorry.
Okay, fine. Thank you. We'll move on, then, to Joyce.
Well, maybe this next bit will help you with all the other bits, because there is a new national transport development plan, and there are also regional transport plans that the Minister mentioned in her draft budget statement. So, the question is obvious: how will they be developed in tandem, because one should be feeding the other?
I think this is a really important area, and one that I've talked about many times over many years. I think we are improving, and when I say 'we', I don't just mean Transport for Wales here; I mean all the bodies. So, this would be local authorities, the city region bodies, to the extent that they exist in different parts of Wales, the nascent corporate joint committees, and Welsh Government. It's not an easy area to navigate, I would say, and it would be very easy to simply have a top-down approach that might academically look the most sensible thing to do. But I think the problem with that is, No. 1, democratic accountability. So, if we think about things like local roads or local bus services or transport to schools and hospitals, those are things that feature very heavily in local government and in local elections for local government. So, I think it's right, and there's no way of getting away from the fact, that local authorities have got a very strong role in that. Equally, if we don't have a national approach that ties everything together, things simply won't work. You couldn't have 22 different ticketing systems, 22 networks that sat in isolation from each other, and that didn't cross the border, et cetera, et cetera. So, we are having a series of conversations with local government, both with individual authorities and through the Welsh Local Government Association, and with the Welsh Government, to try and create a path where Transport for Wales can provide expert services to local government in the same way that we provide them to the Welsh Government, and in that way try to be the technical glue that holds all of this together. I don't ever see that TfW would be laying the law down or telling people what would happen. Our aspiration is that we provide evidence-based options to elected authorities, all the way up to the Welsh Government—and, in some instances, to the UK Government, actually—and that elected Members then take the final decision on those things.
I appreciate I haven't answered your specific points. On the specific points, everything is obviously hanging off the Wales transport strategy. There was some initial confusion, I think, in documents talking about the national transport development plan, which kind of said it was something that Transport for Wales was going to own. That is no longer the case. So, that is a Welsh Government document that Welsh Government owns, but that Geoff's team, actually, is doing most of the work on. The reason it needs to be Welsh Government, rather than Transport for Wales, is its breadth goes wider than our remit, including covering the Welsh Government and including giving guidance to local authorities. So, at a high level, you've got the Welsh transport strategy, you will have regional strategies then that will be influenced by the WTS and owned by the future CJCs. We will be influencing both the WTS and the CJCs, and hence the regional plans.
I should probably pause, because I've talked for a bit, but maybe I'll bring Geoff in if you want to go more—
I think the only thing just to say—. So, you've mentioned about 'developed in tandem'. I guess what we've been doing in the development of our metro programmes and the projects supporting those is working really closely with the local authorities, with Welsh Government, with Network Rail, with the Department for Transport to develop those programmes, and they will feed into the national transport delivery plan. But, equally, I would anticipate that they will form an important bedrock of the regional transport plans as well. A lot of them reflect good work that's already taken place in the regions. We've been able to add some value to that through our new transport models and the evidence that we've got to help shape them, develop them et cetera. Because the regional transport plans will come subsequent to the national transport delivery plan, I'm not sure I could say they'll be developed in tandem, but I think they should all align, if you see what I mean, because they will all have come from the same basis of work, I would anticipate.
Okay. Would you allow me—? Can I—? Huw would like to come in, Joyce. Is it okay if I allow Huw to come in first, and then we'll move on?
Oh, right. Okay.
Thanks, Chair. This sounds like a really good example of co-production, in the classic well-being of future generations of Wales example. What I'm struggling with a little bit—. And I commend that; there should be no surprises, people are working this through together, the plans regionally, nationally, are being worked up, not quite in tandem, but alongside each other and everybody's keeping each other involved. Can you just explain to me, because I wasn't quite clear from your answer: where is, to use the Tolkien phrase, the one ring that binds them all? Which is the most powerful? Is it the national plan that others ultimately need to fall in line with, or can they depart from it?
So, I think, if we go back to the statement of funds available, the national transport plan will be accompanied by funding statements. So, I would say that needs to align. We still—. This is the first time this has been done, okay, so there's a lot of work to develop it. You would anticipate that in future iterations of this it would be more about collecting the kit of parts and going, 'Right, okay, here's what it looks like now.' Clearly, you want to keep your mind open to new opportunities, but I think it's important that that refresh process allows that iteration, and, equally, as we said earlier, if this is a five-year plan, we do need to have some level of agility within it, and there does need to be some ability to move things round, but in a controlled way. So, I would say it's the NTDP feeding into the Wales transport strategy.
That's quite helpful. So, co-produced and all that jazz, but, actually, you've got to follow the lines of money, and the money will be directed towards not just regional, but national priorities as well—
So, that will determine the ultimate outcomes, I guess. Thank you.
Okay. Thank you, Huw, and thank you, Geoff. Back to you, Joyce.
Just finishing it off, I suppose, this section. There are tiers, and the final tier, I suppose, is the corporate joint committees and how they fit in, to use that term, that Tolkien circle, if you like, so that everybody's engaged, but, more importantly, that they feel ownership, because, if they don't feel ownership, they're not going to deliver it happily.
Absolutely. So, if I can just take what Geoff said just a little bit further, the place where we've had these discussions most intensely, actually, is on bus, in terms of how we work with local authorities and CJCs on bus. But I don't think it should be any different from what we're talking about now.
I would see that there would be two golden threads running through it. The first one is the political steer, which has to be within the context of the Wales transport strategy and national development plan. I think that that should come from the CJCs' political leadership. The second is the technical analysis glue and options machine that should drive that thinking, which is Transport for Wales. So, that's broadly speaking what we're building up to, obviously, working with relevant local officials in different parts of local government right across Wales.
Okay. And the transport planning skills gap—clearly, you have a role in supporting some of these bodies to make sure that they're delivering what we want them to deliver.
Yes, I think that was—. So, I'm choosing my words carefully, because I genuinely believe what I'm saying, that this is not for Transport for Wales to come in with huge boots and stomp over someone else's territory, but we know how difficult it is to get transport planning expertise even at a national level, and the same for project management expertise at the minute, actually. That was why I made the point about our aspiration is to be the technical support for all of these activities. That is beginning to happen, in most parts of Wales, just naturally anyway, without anyone needing to have it forced upon them. And, obviously, if people want to work with us, that's going to be a lot better than being forced to. But, I guess, at some point, there does need to be national guidance, so as you can't simply go off and completely do your own thing that doesn't fit in with anything else.
I think—. Just to add to that, I think there are a couple of key things for me. We have built our skills base in Transport for Wales around that more strategic intent with the programmes. We've also been able to—. We've got at least one graduate transport planner in our team. We're keen to grow our own capability, as well as not lose the opportunities of bringing in external support from beyond, and also working with other organisations. So, we are a member of the Urban Transport Group, so we look at the scenarios of how things might be happening in the future, so bringing that learning in.
And then, I guess, the other thing is the use of our analytical unit and the transport models we've got. So, for the first time ever, we've got three transport models across the whole of Wales. We have to be very careful how we use them at the moment, coming out of COVID, which perhaps we'll come back to a bit later on. But, actually, that provides a really good evidence base and a decision-making support tool, which is helpful too. So, I think not only are we trying to do our bit organisation and employment wise, but we're trying to do it from a strategic point of view too.
Thanks. Okay. Thank you so much for that. I think that probably concludes the general scrutiny element of our meeting, and it's probably the right time for us just to take a short break. We'll break for 10 minutes. We'll reconvene just before 14:00 so that we can kick off the second part of our scrutiny at 14:00 promptly, when we will be looking ahead a little bit and discussing post-COVID recovery, as Geoff touched on now. So, we'll look forward to that, and we'll reconvene at 14:00. So, we'll just adjourn the meeting until then, and cease the broadcast.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 13:49 ac 14:01.
The meeting adjourned between 13:49 and 14:01.
Croeso nôl i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Seilwaith. Rŷn ni'n parhau â'n craffu ar Trafnidiaeth Cymru, ac rwy'n croesawu'n ôl James Price a Geoff Ogden o Trafnidiaeth Cymru. Rŷn ni'n mynd i ganolbwyntio ychydig nawr ar ddyfodol trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus, a gwnaf i wahodd Janet Finch-Saunders i ofyn y cwestiwn cyntaf.
Welcome back to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee. We are continuing with our scrutiny of Transport for Wales, and we welcome back James Price and Geoff Ogden from Transport for Wales. We're now going to focus on the future of TfW, and I'll ask Janet Finch-Saunders to ask the first question.
Thank you, Chairman. This is about governance arrangements and development. On 20 October 2021, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change told us that bus passenger numbers were 66 per cent to 70 per cent, and rail 65 per cent, of pre-COVID levels. What is the current situation, and is it feasible to expect the public transport sector to achieve the targets of 7 per cent of trips to be made by public transport by 2030, and 13 per cent by 2040, which is of course up from a baseline of 5 per cent? What work are you undertaking with communities across Wales to understand if they want a different timetable, even, to that in place pre pandemic?
This is a really big question. Maybe if we try and break it down a bit and start with a simple answer and then I'll explain the rationale for my simple answer.
So, is it achievable? I think the answer has to be 'yes'. And has COVID made any difference? This might shock you, what I'm about to say—I would say 'no', not in a real sense. And the reason for that, particularly for Wales, is, if you look at the proportion of transport that is carried out via public transport in Wales compared to somewhere like London, we are very low. Public transport is always in the margins. Public transport and active travel, even, are in the margins, and therefore even if 20 per cent of travel completely disappeared as a result of COVID, by simply doubling our market share, which is very low to start with, we will more than make up for that travel that has disappeared. That is very different from somewhere like London, where nearly all travel is on public transport in the first place. So, I think that is something that is really important for people to remember, and there's a lot of stuff that is written in the mainstream media that is basically written about London and that is not referenceable, I don't think, to lots of other parts of the UK.
So, the numbers say that, if it was achievable before, it's achievable now. I think the analysis that we have done suggests very strongly, actually, that if we are to meet any of the climate change targets that the UK Government and the Welsh Government have, then, unless someone else is going to massively over-achieve against their targets, it's essential that we do hit those targets. In terms of hitting them, though, I think there are a number of aspects to consider here, and I'll try not to drill into too much detail and try and keep it reasonably strategic. The first one is that we need to provide a set of product offerings that people want to use and that people are able to use, and that's maybe easier said than done.
The second is that I think, even with all of the positive carrots, if you like, that we can offer, there will probably also be a need for some—I don't really like to use the term—sticks to encourage people away in some instances and at some times from the private car. That needn't be through mechanisms like road pricing, albeit some form of sustainable vehicle like that might be helpful, but there would be other ways of discouraging people from using the car whilst encouraging people to use public transport.
Then I guess the third part of all of that for me is that—and this is the real challenge for TfW—we need to be using the resources that we have, which are obviously constrained, in the most effective way to move people efficiently. One of the things that is a bit distressing at the minute is that typically on a Sunday on the Marches line we are already over capacity. When we bring our new services in in the future, with a 65 per cent increase in capacity, yes that's going to solve the problem, but my view is that that will fill up quite quickly as well. So, the thing that I'm beginning to think about now is what is the sustainable model for the level of growth that we want to see on public transport. As part of that, I think we need to, in a sustainable way, get our cost base down a bit. Lots of people before me would have said things like that, but lots of people before me weren't in a climate change emergency, I guess.
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you very much, James. Huw.
Thank you, Chair. James, I wonder if I can ask you—. You mentioned there carrots and sticks; some of the mechanisms we might have at hand are carrot and stick at the same time—things like, for example, prioritising bus and mass transport through things such as fast buses, dedicated lanes in and out of Newport, Cardiff, our big cities, because they squeeze individual car transport with people and it makes more attractive the offer where you can say, 'Well, it's going to be 10 minutes faster if you're sitting in the bus, because there'll be a dedicated bus lane.' Can you just tell us a little bit more about some of those—making it more attractive, but also whether you agree that some of this needs squeezing some people if not out of cars entirely, out of cars so regularly, so often for routine journeys?
I do fundamentally agree with the statement that you just made, absolutely. And there's another point I should have made, which is that until our capacity is all used up, the capacity that we've already bought, if you like, we are in a really unusual situation that the more successful the policy of getting people to use public transport is, the less it will cost you, because we'll have more revenue. And that's quite an unusual position. But that only goes so far, as I said before, because at some point all the carriages are used up and you need to buy some more, there's a step up of capital and then the same thing happens again.
In terms of things like bus lanes, bus rapid transit, the reallocation of road space for walking and cycling, I think everything you've said is absolutely really true. If anyone has any time and wants to look at it, I think the term internationally is still 'gold-standard bus rapid transit', which is fully segregated bus rapid transit, that is capable of moving people just as quickly as urban rail and, in some instances, at much better value for money. It's got a bad reputation in the UK because the UK typically tries to do it on the cheap, and mix the bus rapid transit with normal traffic, and then it's just bus.
We are doing lots of work in this area—that's point 1—certainly in areas like the Burns commission area and in north-east Wales, but I think it would be wrong for me not to point out the obvious local-level political challenges in doing that. So, most of the networks that we would be talking about here are not in control of a national body or even a regional body; there will be local authority roads. As we know, it can be very difficult—politically very difficult—to drive through some of those things. I think evidence says that a well-designed scheme, two years after it's implemented, is typically welcomed, but it's not welcomed in the run-up to it. I think that is something that is beyond TfW's capability to deal with, but it is something that is worthy of some scrutiny and some thought.
Okay. Thank you. Jenny.
We'll come back to some of the issues around the Burns review and the metro schemes slightly later in the agenda. I just wanted to ask you, in light of what you've just said that COVID is marginal to your plans, which is really interesting, whether you think the modal shift targets are ambitious enough in light of the climate emergency, as opposed to easily achievable.
I don't think they're easily achievable. That's the first point. I guess the point I was making is that, because of the small proportion of people who use public transport, I don't think that COVID is anywhere near as disastrous as people think it is. It just provides a bit more capacity for us to get more people out of their car. In terms of—. Sorry, can you repeat the second part of the question?
I think it was really about, 'Are these ambitious enough?' Obviously, I represent Cardiff Central, an urban environment. I appreciate that the challenges are rather different in a rural environment, but in an urban environment, people who continue to travel into work or school by car are killing some of our community with air quality, brutally, and obviously they're not doing any good for future generations' management of climate change. So, I really want to know how you're working with stakeholders to ensure that the vast majority of people travelling to school or work—obviously, these are regular journeys—are built into your targets, once the options are there, once we've increased our capacity.
Understood. I'll bring in Geoff in a bit on this as well, because it's Geoff's team that is doing lots of the analytics behind it. I guess on the first point, do we think we need to be more ambitious in terms of the climate change targets, the answer to that I think is in two parts. Firstly, we can replicate and endorse the targets that Welsh Government have. They are evidence based and replicable. But, all future forecasts are based on a series of assumptions, and it depends what you assume on electric vehicle take-up, for example, as to how many people you need to get to move. There is a scenario where we need to be more ambitious than the currents targets are to hit the climate change targets, but all of the figures in all of the documents are there or thereabouts.
What I do think is true to say is that it's easier to achieve some of the modal shift in certain parts of Wales than it is in other parts, and I absolutely think we ought to do everything that we can to take advantage of any advantage that we already have. I wouldn't normally say that, because that would normally go against equality and trying to deliver equally across Wales, but given climate change, the impact will be felt globally and right across Wales, but the behaviours are very local that drive it. If we've got a local opportunity to change behaviour, then I think we should do it. I think one of the big things we think there's an opportunity on is active travel in urban areas, but not just urban areas, shorter-distance rural routes as well, and having a sense of a redesigned and safe network that people understand is really important in that. That is one of the things that TfW is supporting not just Welsh Government but also local government on. Geoff, do you want to add anything to that?
It's an interesting question whether they are challenging enough. I think they are challenging, which is what's been said, and it's going to take a number of different levers and ways of achieving those targets there. I guess one of the things that we're doing as we're developing the programmes is, when we've got a reasonable idea of what the programme might look like from a macro level, we're then taking it through an assessment of what difference it will make to decarbonisation. But, to be fair to everybody across Wales, I think we do need to translate it into the regional agendas, because, as you've said, it's very much about different approaches in different areas. I think the Wales transport strategy recognises that the rural pathways is an important one in this respect, and that actually it's not going to be as easy to move people to public transport in as large numbers as in urban areas perhaps. We need to keep working on that narrative and the common understanding supporting the logic of how we're getting there. I don't know—is it challenging enough? I'd just go back to I think it is pretty challenging, and that's what we're trying to do—meet those targets that are already published.
Okay. Because obviously they don't look that brilliant when you look at them: 7 per cent by public transport up from 5 per cent by 2030, and only 13 per cent by 2040. It doesn't feel that challenging, but I appreciate in some areas, in rural areas, that may look very challenging. But on the other hand, you've got electric bikes, which definitely expand the possibility for active travel in rural areas. So, it's how can we ensure that we are really pushing you hard, as well as working collaboratively on getting the behaviour change.
I think, beyond this split between the different modes, if we just look at the sustainable transport figure—walking, cycling and public transport—then effectively that's going up by 50 per cent by 2040 from a 2019 baseline. If we think about the 2025 figure, that's 10 per cent up, and the middle figure, 2030, is 20 per cent above. So, when you think about it's getting 50 per cent more people into sustainable transport than are currently using it, and you're doing more trips by that, alongside also reducing the number of trips as well through things like remote working et cetera, I guess that's where I see the challenge. But, yes, the actual percentage by different mode is a different thing again.
Can we bring Huw in here? He wants to just come in. And then maybe, Jenny, if you want to I'll come back to you, and I think maybe Janet wants to come in on behaviour change as well. We'll come to Huw first.
Thanks, Jenny. It's just building on the point that Jenny just touched on. I'm interested to know how much the targets are granulated down geographically. Because you could do a lot on this in terms of the main routes in and out of our big cities, where there are big metro developments et cetera, and those are very, very important, but are we actually breaking this down so that we say, in Carmarthen, in Bridgend, in wherever, we have separate targets? Because I'd love to know what the baseline is of public transport travel within my area and what the target is for that to push up. James made the point that we're starting from a very low base. Well, maybe we should be looking at that granulated targeting that says, 'Well, where we've got an exceptionally low base, there needs to be an exceptional drive with some piloting and innovation and funding going in to shift that modal investment and the planning.' Some of this is outwith TfW's control, but the whole gamut needs to be looked at. Do we have that baseline data and are the targets geographically granulated as well?
Geoff, do you want to take this?
I'm not aware of them. Some local authorities might have their own targets in their own respect, but I'm not aware of that as a general theme. I think anything that allows people, officers, Cabinet Members, et cetera to understand how this plays out for them and what part they can realistically do to achieve it is a positive step, I would say.
So, Geoff, that raises the question, then: the targets that we do have that Jenny referred to, those are aggregated targets, they're clearly based on assumptions of investment in metro and so on—. I guess the question to you both, as TfW and transport experts is: shouldn't we, at least on the regional footprints, be having granulated targets there so that we know what the region is doing?
So, for me, I think this is exactly where we need to be going to, and I think it's more granular rather than regional, actually. It's corridor by corridor.
And that's the case in transport planning as well, and we are getting into this. So, when we will be working out, particularly as we go forward, how we believe that our interventions are going to make a difference, they will be done on a corridor-by-corridor basis. When—yes, I'll say 'when' again, I won't say 'when and if'—when we move towards a more controlled bus network, for example, we will want to be making sure that we do not have a competing bus and rail network on the same corridor unless it's complementary, for example. And all of that needs to be done at that level. I think we've got the modelling capability to do it now. I think—sorry, I'm saying 'I think'. I know that the gap that you are pointing out is that we've got a top-down climate change target, and what we now need to do is have a series of bottom-up plans that at least meet it and, potentially, actually exceed it.
And I think—. Sorry—
No, that's okay. Come in, Geoff. That's fine.
I was just going to say I guess we're looking at that at a regional level, as I said, but I think, getting it at a more granular level, I would just—. We've got to move on this quickly, but I think, going back to the point earlier, some co-design on this rather than, 'Right, here's the local target'—. It needs to be realistic, taking into account the things that we were talking about earlier about the practicalities of the challenge in different areas. But, yes, I think it would be a positive step.
Yes, and I'm sure that's a sentiment we'd all endorse as well. Jenny.
Did you want to bring Janet in at this point?
Janet, you indicated that you might want to raise something under behaviour change.
Yes, just talking about the forecast and the regional transport models, and the impact that remote working is having on rail transport. How are you going to be able to predict that going forward? That's No. 1. And also, there's been a boom in the number of visitors who holiday in Wales; this was raised with me this morning. A couple of things there. What steps are you taking in my constituency in Aberconwy to ensure that there are added public transport links to top destinations like Beddgelert, Betws-y-Coed and Llandudno? But one thing that's been raised with me, with more and more people, with the active travel Act and more travel integration—sometimes a train will only have two spaces for a bike, but you might have five young people waiting at the stations with their bikes to jump on a train. How are you taking that into account? And the same goes for disabled people. I frequently hear that there's just not enough capacity for disabled people on trains, and I just wondered how you're going to deal with that going forward. Thanks.
There's about four questions in one there. So, James, I want you to address each of them, obviously, but maybe we'll need to be, you know—
Quicker. Okay. So, I think, at a headline level, those questions go to the heart of a really difficult issue, which is, even with all of the additional money that we are spending, we are still going to run into capacity problems on the network, and the difficult question is how we ration—well, is it right to ration capacity, or should we spend more money, I guess is the first thing. But, at some point, money will always come to an end, and then it's how we plan and how we ration against all of those points you've made.
I think what we want to do in the future is to be much more demand-led than we've been in the past. If you're thinking about rail, and, to a certain extent, bus, actually, having a more what I would call 'homogenous' fleet, where, basically, we're running the same type of fleet around the whole network outside of metro areas—. That will mean that we should be able to respond to events—hot weather, the tourist season—much better than we can today. But that will require us to work in a way that the railway has never worked before, but that's what I'm asking the team to start to think about. So, when we know that it's going to be hot weather in a month's time, we should be planning to run longer trains, once we have our new trains in the area where we know we are going to have higher demand. The flip side of that, of course—they have to come from somewhere else. Now, so long as we make those decisions broadly right, that will be an aggregate benefit to Wales as a whole, and I think that will be a better position.
And in terms of the disabled and the bike issue, again, there's always a trade-off—how much space do you provide for disabled people? I think that they should never have to wait or be—. Well, it's illegal, and we shouldn't do it. So, we should always be allowing people on, and we need to provide enough space for that. Most of this is at the discretion of the guard on the train. So, even when there are two spaces, we can have more. What we need to be doing is training our guards to be more strategically engaged in what we're trying to do as a nation, I think.
Okay. Thank you for that. Many of those points, actually, were raised this morning as well, in the stakeholder session, as I'm sure you can imagine. Geoff.
On the tourist side of things, and the visitor side of things, we've been doing some good work with Gwynedd and others around the Sherpa services in north Wales and Snowdonia, to try and address some of the challenges that were seen last summer about car access. So, again, we are doing what we can to support with evidence and expertise as best we can, to allow those things to be dealt with.
Good point. Thank you. Jenny.
Just going back to the Net Zero Wales requirement to have a 57 per cent reduction in car journeys, and your need to balance cost and availability of spaces, what work are you doing with stakeholders, for example employers or schools, to not just understand their plans for remote working, but also for flexi working, so that people don't always have to turn up at the office at 9 o'clock in the morning and leave at 5 o'clock, or whatever it might be? On particular days, somebody in a particular team will need to come in for the weekly team meeting, at time x. But, clearly, there are ways in which, by planning together, you could maximise the—
I agree. I agree. So, I don't think we're doing anywhere near—. I was just wondering whether I should say what I'm about to say, just in case it turns into something—a stick to beat me. I don't think we're doing anywhere near enough in this space, honestly. And I think that is because it's very difficult to do. Maybe in the past, it hasn't been so necessary as it will be as we move forward. And we're working in industries that, typically, have thought that they run a timetable and everyone fits around it, which is not how it's going to be in the future. So, that is an area that we will absolutely get into. We are doing it—it's not that we're not doing anything. We are certainly having conversations with employers about when they're bringing people back to the office, when they're not. But going to the next level, about what time, and, in fact, trying to influence employers, both through conversation, but also through pricing and different structures, about how we can even things out through the day—that's a whole new area we need to get into.
Another area, aligned to that, I was thinking about just in the week, and this is literally just me thinking this through, so you shouldn't place any weight on this, but remember I mentioned that the Marches services on a Sunday can be overwhelmed really very quickly? Potentially, part of a response to that might be to run a TfW coach service in parallel that's priced slightly differently from the rail service, as an example. Now, typically, if I said that, people would say, 'You've gone mad—we don't run coach services', but I think the space we need to get ourselves into is that we are about sustainable mobility; we're not about trains or buses or walking or cycling—it's whatever is necessary to sustainably move people.
Okay. So, beyond talking to employers in shops, how much are you using the data we all hold in our hands every time we leave the house?
So, a lot, and we're doing more and more. Geoff could talk a bit to that, but I'm much more confident we're at the leading edge on that.
Yes, we're using mobile phone data quite a bit, so in terms of the cell information from different cells as the mobile signal goes around. We've also been doing some pilots around the actual use of GPS data—anonymised GPS data from phones—which is more expensive to get hold of. So, we're just working out—perhaps going back to the conversation about innovation earlier—the extent to which it helps us with local considerations. But, yes, we are doing everything that we can to understand. And with new technology on the trains coming in et cetera, there'll be the opportunity to use some of the more automated systems through that to help us. So, there's a massive piece around using the information that we've got and really making some evidence-led decisions, and it helping us take things forward too.
Excellent. Okay, thank you for that. Huw.
Thanks, Chair. I want to move on to affordability and pricing, both of buses and trains. Where are we at the moment in terms of price increases this year? There was a cap put on of, I think, 3.8 per cent from 1 March on rail tickets. What about bus prices? How is this playing into the overall rise in prices and cost-of-living affordability? What's your take on this and how will it affect what we've just been talking about, which is trying to get more people on buses and trains?
Yes, so the broad picture in Wales for rail and bus is that a significant proportion of the fares that most people would use every day on rail are regulated. They're not all regulated, but a significant proportion are, and the actual policy position of all of the UK in this space is that fares should go up by retail price index plus 1 per cent. Now, over time, that means that prices will be getting more expensive, obviously.
The reality of that policy position, certainly for most of the years I've been involved is that not all parts of the UK—and I think Wales has been at the forefront of this, but all parts of the UK have either not applied RPI or only applied RPI, rather than actually going with the RPI plus 1. But even RPI, at a time when you are trying to encourage more people to use it, is difficult, and RPI at a time when many people's wages are not keeping pace with RPI is very difficult. And, of course, because of the deregulated nature of the bus network in Wales, there is no regulation on bus prices at all, so outside of TrawsCymru services, operators can charge what they see fit, and I'm guessing that they will be applying RPI plus wherever they can. So—
And they, of course, are under pressure as well from rising fuel prices and—
And wages themselves.
Yes, indeed. Before I go on to where we might go in the future with pricing and affordability, and it was a big theme of our meeting this morning with a lot of stakeholders and regular user groups and so on—affordability. It wasn't just some of the well-known reforms that there might be—streamlined ticketing and this, that and the other—it was actually to do with how much it costs to travel and how it compares in terms of buying a cheap car and so on. Well, no car is cheap at the moment the way that fuel prices are going anyway. But can I just draw a parallel and just test your view on this? There's a parallel discussion going on here in terms of what we do with energy in response to rising costs of gas and oil and diesel and this, that and the other. One stream of thought is that we should be opening up fracking and looking for more sources of fossil fuels, and the other one is that we should be going hell for leather, actually, with renewables and marine, tidal, and this, that and the other.
There is a parallel here in terms of the field of transport. There are big arguments I can see coming from people, saying, 'Make the prices cheaper at the petrol pump', and it's understandable. This was the old Top Gear argument that they used to marshal on Parliament regularly, with a petrol price escalator. The corollary of that is, actually, you superinvest into public transport to bring prices down. It's slightly unfair—maybe we should be asking the Minister this—but do you have a view? Do you have thoughts on that?
Personally, I would agree that public transport—. I don't think all public transport, but I think that, in certain situations, public transport is too expensive, and, if you push me further on that, long-distance rail is expensive. And actually, even short-distance public transport, if there's a family, can be expensive. So, I used to often—. I will say this to the team; when my kids were younger—we live at the very bottom of the south Wales Valleys—if four of us went into town, it would cost something like £25 to go on the train. When you haven't got that much money and it costs you a fiver to drive, or even £20 to go in a taxi, you're going to go in a taxi. Of course, if there's one of you, who is commuting for work, then the individual price is not that much and it's quite cost effective in comparison to everything else. But I think the more general point is that the more we can fill up the capacity that we have, the lower the price can be in general terms, because the subsidy can come down, and the more efficient as an industry we can become—and we've got some very inefficient regulatory activities built into what we do—the lower the price can become. And in parallel with all of that, I think there's a conversation around the positive and negative externalities of different types of travel and what the public purse response ought to be to that.
So, can you let us into any insights into what interesting discussions may be going on within Government about reviews of fares as we come out of the pandemic and try to effect this modal shift, not only in rail, but perhaps longer term, in terms of buses as well, or joint ticketing?
Okay. So, I'm happy to talk about what we're trying to do in terms of products and things like joint ticketing. What I don't think it's appropriate for me to get drawn on at all is any policy support we are providing the Welsh Government in terms of making things more affordable. That's for the Minister.
I did my best.
But I can talk to some of the things we have done already in that space, so—. And if I start with that, on the rail side, you will see some very strange historic pricing that is built into the system, even in Wales. So, historically, the Heads of the Valleys had a slightly higher pricing structure than the lower Valleys, and the north Wales coast had a higher pricing structure than the south Wales coast. Believe it or not, the reason for that goes all the way back to pre nationalisation and built-in differentials at that point that have then simply been exacerbated through RPI and RPI plus. So, we, as an authority, and as an operator, have been trying to even things up across Wales, without increasing the price for anyone, and that is by modelling that shows that when we bring the price down more people use it. So, we have done—. We can write to you on what we've done. We have done some things to bring the price, relatively speaking, in the Heads of the Valleys area, down, relative to lower Valleys, as an example. In terms of integrated ticketing, to be clear, our aspiration would be that—. Well, I would go further than tap-in, tap-out, but our aspiration is to have something equivalent and hopefully better, eventually, to tap-in, tap-out on all parts of the public transport network in Wales, where, in a similar way that you have in London, you have a capped fee.
In terms of what we are doing, there are pilots going to be run over the next 12 months for both bus and rail, starting in the south-east Wales area, simply because it has been easier to lean on the public-sector-owned bus companies that exist in Wales—so that's Newport Bus and Cardiff Bus—and there's a plan to try and bring that together as a pilot next calendar year. And again, we could write to you with our plans on that. I think what would really accelerate our ability to do that is bus reform in terms of moving to a regulated marketplace, because the technology is not a problem—that's very simple; we've fitted validators in all buses and in most of the south Wales stations, and they're going in right across Wales. The difficulty is getting commercial bus operators to accept a product that is not one they created.
Okay. Chair, I know we're pressed for time here. I'm wondering whether we write to James for further thoughts on the bus reform programme and the review of funding, the bus fleet, all of this, because they're all pertinent now, because it's the next stage, but it's probably 10 minutes of itself in questioning, I suspect. Unless there are any brief thoughts you want to share with us on that big bus reform piece, beyond just regulation, James?
So, just really briefly, our board—and our board is quite wide-ranging; it includes people who were very senior in Transport for London through to people who were very senior in industry—all believe that regulation is essential and that we can't run a network without some form of regulation. We think that integrated ticketing is going to be really important; integrated modal hubs—so, not a train station, but where you interchange sensibly—is going to be vital as part of this, and we are also working to trial a whole number of different ways to decarbonise the tailpipe of the bus network as well. For my money, that will be supercharged when you go to some form of concessional franchise model.
Excellent. Okay, thank you for that. And as Huw suggested, I'm sure we'll write to you to drill down on some of those points as well. Rhun.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. We're still in a fairly brave newish world of fully publicly run rail franchise in Wales. I'd just like to look at the changes that have happened because of that change of governance, specifically progress around delivery of the original franchise commitments, though it was a very different franchise at that point. What's your assessment of what has changed, the kinds of risks that are now becoming more apparent, or less so, if you like, because of that change of structure?
Okay. So, in terms of what we are doing, we want to bake-in all of the big things that we talked to people before about that were being done. So, the south-east Wales metro is being delivered as per original spec, the new rolling stock is all being delivered as per original specification, and stations across the network are all going to be improved.
I think the difference will be that we can be more, hopefully, socially—. We can adapt more to social requirements, rather than pure economic needs. We can evolve faster than a private sector contract would in terms of service offerings, so we shouldn't be locked into a service pattern for 10 years; we ought to be able to evolve it in, well, ideally, every year, but certainly in blocks of three years—
Can I just interrupt you there?
Yes, of course.
Those are principles that are very important to me, and I think I speak on behalf of at least some of the members of this committee too. Are you starting to see rock-solid examples of where you are able to do that and take decisions that would be different to those that would have been under the original franchise?
So, yes, lots of commercial decisions we are able to take a very different approach to them. I could write and outline some of these. We're also beginning to be able to have different conversations with people like Network Rail, and, say, rather than have a very adversarial approach, which was set up through privatisation, where one company, in essence, sues the other, we should stop doing all of that and put all of the money that is saved back into providing services for the customer.
The other area that I think you need to scrutinise us on, but I feel confident that we'll be able to give a good set of answers on, is, if you remember, in the franchise commitment, there was a statement that said, 'We will spend x million pounds on stations across Wales.' It never said what was going to be delivered for that x million pounds. And I always thought that was a strange thing to get excited about. It was a bit like going into B&Q and saying, 'I'm going to spend—insert the number—on my kitchen', but have no idea what you want to do with it. So, we are piloting by using the wider supply chains, including local authorities—and I'll give you two examples of this—getting something done for much less money and then either that money is available to go back into other parts of the public service or is able to be redeployed in further public transport. And the two examples I'll give are Queen Street—. So, we have tidied up Queen Street station. If you go and look at it now, you might think it needs a whole lot more further tidying up. But we tidied that up, and I think the total cost was maybe around £1 million, rather than the previous figure, which was looking like £4 million or £5 million, and we did it in a period of about four to five weeks, using local contractors, rather than three to four months. In west Wales—and Geoff will have to remind me of the station; it's the station we've just opened in west Wales, Geoff—we are working with a group of local authorities through the trunk road agents down there for them to do litter picking, gritting of the station, minor maintenance, rather than using the private sector, and the cost of—
Bow Street station. Thank you, Geoff. And the cost of doing is significantly below the previous costs that we had. My ambition is that we do that type of thing, and more, right across the whole of the network.
So, it seems you're clear that—. You're confident that the commitments made under the original franchise on improving quality of services still stand.
There's no question about that. Okay.
And just to build on that, there is—. We have already got a new grant agreement agreed with the Welsh Government. The reason I haven't led with that is, I think, in and of itself, having a grant agreement with another part of the public sector is an inefficiency that involves lots of lawyers and accountants, and we can move to an service-level agreement that is equally biting and, arguably, is more able to be scrutinised, because it'll be much clearer. But that can be made visible and we can write to you with all of that.
Yes. Okay. Maybe you can educate me here a bit. I was going to go on the question of a new service agreement that you said, I think in the economy committee in November 2020, would be put in place as a result of that change in ownership. Is the grant agreement that you're talking about—
That's it. Yes, that's it.
Okay. That's exactly what we're talking about. And again, key performance indicators, you suggested at that time, would have to be updated and changed to go alongside that. Where are we on that?
So, they are available. They're on our website. Again, I think, perhaps we ought to write to you and/or provide them in a better format on the website. I looked at them this morning. They are all there, they're completely accessible, but I think there's a slightly better way of presenting them so you can see historic data alongside current data. It includes all of the KPIs that we were originally going to measure Keolis with.
So, they're all in there. Are you suggesting that there are some additional ones as well?
Yes. We've evolved some of them. It includes what you would expect to see—service quality standards, on time across the whole network, capacity—but we've included things that are not a lot of good at the minute because of the impact of COVID figures. We've included cost per passenger, emissions per passenger and a whole series of targets. I can't remember them all. But the first thing we do in every rail board is to hold the managing director of the rail part of the business to account on those KPIs that you can see online.
Diolch yn fawr iawn.
I'm afraid we're going to have to move on. We'll come to Huw and then we'll come to Jenny. I know that Jenny has a couple of things that she wants to raise, but we might not be able to cover them all, so you'll have to prioritise, I think. Huw first and then Jenny.
Thanks, Chair. It's a really quick one, actually, James. Back in September last year, all the committee members here who are regular subscribers to the TransportXtra online magazine will have been reassured by your quotes within that magazine saying that the creation of Great British Railways, the Williams-Shapps plan, wouldn't actually deflect or detract from Welsh Government's ambitions to integrate transport, provide a common branding, and so on. Six months on from that, with time to look at it, time to reflect, are you still of the opinion that it's no danger to Wales? Is TfW involved in it in any way at all, and what is that involvement?
I still think I would make the statement that I don't think it's a danger to Wales in the sense of I don't think anyone is trying to take anything away from us. However, what we haven't seen through any of that is any moves towards further devolution, which, obviously, people have called for, particularly in terms of track devolution. And therefore, unless we can get any betterment in terms of how we work with GBR in comparison to how we worked with the Rail Delivery Group in the past, DfT and Network Rail, then some of the historic problems will remain baked in. And that includes things like there will be a charge levied on us to be part of the new GBR that won't necessarily be optional, and that's to cover things like ticketing at a UK level. But many of those ticketing platforms at a UK level don't do what we want to do. So, for me—and I'm starting a conversation. I've no idea how far we'll get with it—I think we want to be in a position, by and large, to be able to join in where it makes sense for Wales and play our part, but to tune out where it doesn't make sense. And my biggest fear, actually, is that what Wales needs is a fully integrated, joined-up, multimodal transport approach, but GBR is all about the railway. And if you look at the figures, the railway is in the margins.
Just one observation, Chair. The parallel discussion is that the UK have massive investment now in electrification to some of the major metropolitan areas and the north of England and so on; my God, we'd welcome some of that investment in Wales if it was devolved or otherwise. Anyway, it's just an observation.
Yes, absolutely. Okay. Thank you, Huw. Jenny.
Three quick questions, really. One is on the south-east Wales metro system. On the one hand, things are happening at pace—you know, not a million miles away from where I'm sitting, we've got dedicated cycle lanes going in to create the Cardiff to Newport cycle route, which is fantastic. But on the other hand, the bus station, oh my goodness, the Cardiff Central bus station, how many years has it been delayed? And how much of that is to do with other commercial pressures to keep commercial landlords happy and give priority to them, rather than the good folk of Cardiff, who desperately need their bus station back?
On the south-east Wales metro, I probably don't need to comment any more than to say that we are continuing to progress with it at pace, and again, we can provide an update in writing on that. COVID has impacted it marginally, but I think the team and the supply chain have done a really good job of keeping it on track, and I feel confident in saying that if we roll forward three years, we could still describe the impact of COVID as being marginal on that scheme. The impact of inflation is going to be felt a bit in the end price of it, but no more than it is in anything else.
In terms of the bus station, I think others are better qualified to comment on it than I am, but obviously Transport for Wales fit-out is only able to start once the rest of the building is completed, and the rest of the building was only able to be completed when planning and other negotiations had gone through. I think, so long as we can make the rest of the bus network in Cardiff work, then the bus interchange will be an improvement on what we had before, but I think everyone needs to recognise that it's a bus interchange, rather than a station. The number of stand-down points there, I think, Geoff, is 14 or 16, rather than 40 or 50, which we had before, which means that many of the stops will be distributed around the city. The job that Transport for Wales is doing at the minute is to try and make all of those stops feel like one integrated whole across Cardiff and not a group of people who are wandering around trying to work out how to use the bus network, because that's the last thing we want.
I think if you could just send us a written note on the progress in delivering the three metro systems, along with potential problems, and also where you're at with your costed five-year delivery plan with key milestones—if you could write to us about that.
I just wanted to ask you about governance in the metro, because that is starting to be discussed publicly. Clearly, in a place like south-east Wales, you've got the Cardiff capital region transport authority, as well as all the different local authorities who pipe up on this. How do you see the governance being clear to the public so that they have a sense of how they know where to go when they're not happy, or when they are happy?
I think there are three broad categories here. The first category is the core Valleys metro, which is the rail part, and that is something that people would need to come straight to Transport for Wales for. We are delivering that ourselves. Then, there is a group of aspirational enhancements to those core Valleys, so that would be things like—I don't know—the north-west corridor, the extension further down into Cardiff Bay, extensions into other Valleys communities. Once they have been agreed and funded—I think that is a Welsh Government, TfW, stakeholder, city region conversation—and they come into our programme, that would be, again, Transport for Wales to be held accountable. And then, you've got a bunch of add-ons that local authorities are responsible for, and that might be they're providing some car parking provision to enable more people to park to use one of our stations. I can understand absolutely the point you are making, and I agree with it—I guess what you've got is some political dialogue going on that says, 'What should the next priority be?' So long as it's clear that that is a political dialogue, and that once a decision is taken to build something the funding comes with it together with the responsibility to be held accountable for doing it, which to date has been the case, then I think that's okay. We may need to do more to communicate that to the public, though.
Okay. Thank you. Lastly, what's your timetable for integrated ticketing? Is it at all possible until we've got rail reregulation, and, if it isn't, how quickly can you do it after we've got the Acts in place?
I touched on that earlier, and I think I said I'd provide a note on it, but, in essence, there's a pilot this year running into next year for bus and rail, independent of each other, and then, next year, we're trying to bring those two together in south-east Wales as a pilot, initially focusing the bus integration piece with Newport and Cardiff Bus. With reregulation it would be easy to roll that out more widely. The technology is fine, it's the commercials that are difficult.
Okay. Thank you.
Grêt. Rydym ni wedi rhedeg allan o amser. Felly, a gaf i ddiolch o waelod calon i James a Geoff am y dystiolaeth rŷch chi wedi ei rhoi inni heddiw? Mi fyddwch chi'n cael copi o'r trawsgrifiad—copi drafft—i wneud yn siŵr ei fod e yn gywir. Ac ynghyd â'r dystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi'i chael y bore yma yn y sesiwn fuddiol iawn gawsom ni gyda rhanddeiliaid, mae hwn i gyd yn gosod sylfaen cryf iawn inni fel pwyllgor, wrth inni edrych ar faterion trafnidiaeth, rhywbeth wrth gwrs fydd yn thema bwysig inni drwy gydol y Senedd yma, ac yn sicr mae'r diwrnod rŷm ni wedi'i gael heddiw yn sylfaen cryf iawn ar gyfer symud y gwaith yna ymlaen. Felly, James a Geoff, unwaith eto, diolch o galon ichi. Croeso ichi adael y cyfarfod tra ein bod ni yn cario ymlaen.
Great. We have run out of time. So, may I thank James and Geoff for the evidence that you have provided today? You will receive a copy of the transcript—a draft copy—so that you can check it. And along with the evidence that we gathered this morning in the very beneficial session that we had with stakeholders, this all sets a very strong foundation for us as a committee as we look at issues related to transport, and it will be an important theme for us throughout this Senedd term, and certainly today gives us a very strong foundation for moving that work forward. So, thank you very much, James and Geoff. You're welcome to leave the meeting now as we continue with our business.
Ac felly, fe awn ni at y pumed eitem ar ein hagenda ni, sef i nodi nifer o bapurau. Fe welwch chi nhw yn eich papurau o 5.1 ar yr agenda i 5.8. Ydy Aelodau yn hapus i nodi'r rheini i gyd gyda'i gilydd? Croeso ichi dynnu sylw at unrhyw beth yn benodol, fel arall. Ie, pawb yn hapus i nodi'r rheini. Dyna ni, felly. Fe nodwn ni'r papurau yna.
And we will move now to item 5 on our agenda, papers to note, and there are a number of papers to note. You will see them in your papers from 5.1 to 5.8 on the agenda. Are Members happy to note those papers together? You are welcome to highlight anything. Everyone content to note? Excellent. We will note those papers.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Eitem 6, felly, yw symud i sesiwn breifat, a dwi felly, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) and (ix), yn cynnig bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu cwrdd yn breifat am weddill y cyfarfod yma. Ydy Aelodau yn hapus gyda hynny? Dyna ni, ie, pawb yn hapus. Mi symudwn ni, felly, i sesiwn breifat, ac mi fydd y darllediad yn dod i ben. Diolch yn fawr.
Item 6 is a motion to move into private session, and I therefore propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix), that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting. Are Members content? Yes, everyone is content. We will therefore move into private session, and the broadcast will come to an end. Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:01.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:01.