Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith

Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee

13/07/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Delyth Jewell MS
Huw Irranca-Davies MS
Janet Finch-Saunders MS
Jenny Rathbone MS
Joyce Watson MS
Llyr Gruffydd MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dr Chris Llewelyn Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Welsh Local Government Association
Dr Tim Peppin Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Welsh Local Government Association
Roger Waters Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Rhondda Cynon Taf
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Andrew Minnis Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

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 yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau.
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest

Bore da a chroeso i chi i gyd i gyfarfod Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith Senedd Cymru. Mae hwn yn gyfarfod, wrth gwrs, sy'n cael ei gynnal ar ffurf hybrid, ac fe welwch chi bod Delyth Jewell a Joyce Watson yn ymuno â ni drwy gynhadledd fideo ar gyfer y cyfarfod yma. Ac ar wahân i addasiadau sy'n ymwneud â chynnal y trafodion ar ffurf hybrid, mae holl ofynion eraill y Rheolau Sefydlog yn parhau, wrth gwrs. Ac mae'r eitemau cyhoeddus, fel sy'n arfer digwydd, yn cael eu darlledu'n fyw ar Senedd.tv, ac mi fydd yna gofnod o'r trafodion yn cael ei gyhoeddi. Mae'r cyfarfod yn un dwyieithog, ac mae yna gyfieithu ar y pryd o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg ar gael hefyd. Gaf i atgoffa Aelodau bod angen diffodd y sain ar unrhyw declynnau symudol? A hefyd, gaf i ofyn a oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan? Na, dim byd. Dyna ni. Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Good morning and welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Senedd Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee. This is a meeting being held in hybrid format, of course, and you will see that Delyth Jewell and Joyce Watson are joining us via video-conference for this meeting. And apart from procedural adaptations relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. And the public items, as usual, will be broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and there will be a record of proceedings published. This meeting is a bilingual meeting, and interpretation is available from Welsh to English. Can I remind Members that you need to turn off the sound of any electronic devices? And can I also ask whether any Members have any declarations of interest to make? No. Okay. Thank you very much.

2. Teithio ar fysiau a’r rheilffordd yng Nghymru - sesiwn dystiolaeth 4
2. Bus and rail transport in Wales - evidence session 4

Mi symudwn ni ymlaen, felly, at brif ffocws ein cyfarfod ni heddiw, sef sesiwn dystiolaeth olaf y pwyllgor ar ein hymchwiliad ni ar ddyfodol gwasanaethau bysiau a threnau yng Nghymru. A heddiw, byddwn ni'n clywed gan gynrychiolwyr o lywodraeth leol yma yng Nghymru. Ac felly, dwi'n estyn croeso cynnes i'r tri sy'n ymuno â ni yn rhithwir, sef Chris Llewelyn, sy'n brif weithredwr Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru, Tim Peppin, sy'n gyfarwyddwr adfywio a datblygu cynaliadwy, eto gyda Chymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru, a Roger Waters, sy'n gadeirydd grŵp swyddogion awdurdod trafnidiaeth prifddinas-ranbarth Caerdydd, ac, wrth gwrs, sy'n gyfarwyddwr gwasanaethau rheng-flaen gyda Chyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Rhondda Cynon Taf. Croeso i'r tri ohonoch chi. Mi awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau. Mae gennym ni rhyw awr a hanner ar gyfer y sesiwn yma, ac felly—. O, Chris, rydych chi wedi codi eich llaw—ydych chi eisiau dweud gair ar y dechrau?

We'll move on, therefore, to the main focus of our meeting today, which is the committee's final evidence session into bus and rail transport in Wales. And today we'll be hearing from representatives from local government in Wales. And so, I warmly welcome all three of you to the meeting, joining us virtually: Chris Llewelyn, who is the chief executive of the Welsh Local Government Association, Tim Peppin, who is the director of regeneration and sustainable development, again, with the Welsh Local Government Association, and Roger Waters, who is the chair of the Cardiff capital region transport authority officer group, and also the director of front-line services in Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council. I welcome all three of you. We'll go straight into questions. We have about an hour and a half for this session, so—. Oh, Chris, you've raised your hand—did you want to say a word at the outset?

Ie. Diolch, Gadeirydd. Os yw'n bosibl, jest cyn cychwyn y drafodaeth, gaf i ddiolch i chi fel pwyllgor am roi'r cyfle yma i ni gyflwyno tystiolaeth i chi heddiw? Ond jest i ymddiheuro—fel arfer, fe fydden ni fel cymdeithas yn cael ein cynrychioli gan aelodau etholedig. Y bore yma, swyddogion sydd o'ch blaenau chi, achos, er bod etholiadau llywodraeth leol wedi cymryd lle nôl ym mis Mai, fel cymdeithas, dŷn ni'n aros nes bod pob cyngor yn cynnal eu cyfarfodydd blynyddol cyn ein bod ni'n ethol ein harweinyddiaeth ni, fel petai, a dŷn ni'n dal i fod yn y cyfnod hwnnw. Ac mewn gwirionedd hefyd, mae cyfnod eich ymchwiliad chi fel pwyllgor, ond hefyd ymgynghoriad y Llywodraeth ar y Papur Gwyn, wedi cymryd lle yn y bwlch hwnnw pan fo etholiadau llywodraeth leol wedi cymryd lle. Felly, mae'r hyn dŷn ni'n ei ddatgan heddiw yn seiliedig ar yr hen gymdeithas, fel petai, y polisïau sydd mewn lle. Fe fyddwn ni'n trafod yn hwyrach gyda'n haelodau newydd. Ond hefyd, fel roeddwn i'n sôn, ymddiheuriadau taw swyddogion sydd gyda chi heddiw, yn hytrach nag aelodau etholedig y gymdeithas.

Yes. Thank you, Chair. Just before starting the discussion, I just would like to thank you as a committee for giving us the opportunity to give evidence today. But just to apologise—usually, we as an association would be represented by elected members. This morning, you have officers before you, because, even though the local government elections did take place back in May, as an association, we are waiting until all the councils hold their annual meetings before we elect our leaders, as it were, and we're still in that period now. And, in truth also, the period of your committee inquiry, but also the consultation by the Government on the White Paper, are taking place in that gap following the local government elections. And so what we're stating today is based on the old association, as it were, and the policies that are already in place. We will be discussing later with our new members. But, as I mentioned, I apologise that you have officers with you today, rather than elected members of the association.

Diolch am yr esboniad yna, Chris. Mae hwnna'n bwynt pwysig—mae'n un dŷn ni'n ei gydnabod, a dŷn ni'n ddiolchgar iawn i chi am ymuno â ni. Ac wrth gwrs, dŷn ni'n nodi o'r dystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi ei derbyn bod hwnna'n bwynt yng nghyd-destun ehangach y Papur Gwyn—fod yr amseru, efallai, wedi bod yn anffodus o safbwynt cyfraniad gan aelodau. Iawn, awn ni ymlaen at gwestiynau, ac mae'n bosib y deuwn ni nôl at hwnna ymhlith rhai o'r pynciau dŷn ni eisiau eu trafod yn nes ymlaen. Ac mi gychwynnwn ni gyda Janet Finch-Saunders.

Thank you for that explanation, Chris. That's an important point—it's one that we acknowledge, and I'm really grateful to you for joining us. We also note from the evidence we've received that that is a point in the broader context of the White Paper—that the timing, perhaps, is unfortunate, in terms of contributions from members. So, we'll go on to questions, and it may be possible that we'll come back to that in terms of the subjects we want to cover later on. We'll start with Janet Finch-Saunders.

Diolch, Chairman. Could each witness—and I don't know if this will affect officers now—provide their own assessment of current public transport service levels in Wales? Thank you.

Yes. Thank you, Chair. I'm happy to kick off on that. I think, at the moment, we are in a recovery period still, following the COVID experience, when public transport levels obviously reduced to very low levels both on train and bus. And given the climate change imperatives, and the need to move swiftly to achieve the modal change targets we're looking for, there is a huge need to encourage people back onto public transport. Now, we are seeing recovery, but the concerning thing is that, before the pandemic, bus patronage was on the decline, whereas rail passenger numbers were increasing. And what we've got to do now is return to that uplift in rail passenger transport through the various improvements that are proposed, and then it’s really important that we get the bus services right to encourage people back on and ensure that we provide the sorts of services that are needed. So, I think, in terms of the current state of public transport, it is in a recovery stage and what we do now over the coming couple of years is going to be critical in terms of helping that recovery and making sure that we address some of the long-term challenges that the buses have been facing, but also the new challenges that have come in as a result of the pandemic, with the increased numbers of people working from home, for example. 

09:35

Just to add to that, if I may, in terms of the current situation with the patronage, the latest figures that we’ve got show that paid services, so, fare-paying passengers, are currently at about 60 to 65 per cent of previous pre-COVID levels in the south-east Wales region, and the concessionary fares are actually a slower return—so, between 50 and 57 per cent across the 10 authorities in south-east Wales.

The main challenge, really, at the moment, above and beyond that, is the ability to provide services. So, whilst there is funding available, potentially, to increase and enhance services at this point in time, there's the availability of resources from the bus operators in terms of drivers, due to the lack of numbers of drivers available, but also the fact that COVID is hitting those drivers. You’ll see, if you look on the social media pages of the main bus operators, a change in service patterns. They are regrouping to core services and you’ll see very significant numbers of short-term cancellations of services and that is primarily due to short-term driver availability. But there is an industry problem in terms of the number bus drivers that are available. Thank you.

Okay. Before I bring Chris in, Huw just wants to make a short intervention as well.

A very short supplementary, thanks, Chair. Is there any difference between those areas where the operators, such as a municipal authority in Cardiff, have higher wages, and other operators, in terms of that driver shortage? Is there a difference, where there are higher pay differentials?

It's not clear to me that there's a difference between the two necessarily, although we are seeing a number of services in some of the depots towards the tops of the Valleys suffering, perhaps disproportionately, compared with others. Cardiff Bus themselves have reverted now to Saturday services on Monday to Saturday through the school holidays, due to the reduced demand for travel. So, it’s affecting everybody, I think.

Okay. I'll bring Chris in now and then we'll go back to Janet.

Thanks, Chair. I was just going to add, there are supply-side workforce issues across all service areas and I think it affects transport in the same way that it does most other public service areas as well. And then, on the demand side, I think it’s a difficult time in terms of assessing the likely return to pre-COVID patterns, especially in terms of working from home. We, as the WLGA, and I know all local authorities and, I think, the Welsh Government, are all trying to assess the working patterns of their staff and how they'll return. We’re involved in an agile and flexible working group with the Welsh Government and other trade union partners, and at the moment it’s very difficult to assess the pattern that’s emerging. There’s also likely to be a seasonal dimension to it as well—differences between the warmer months and the colder months. And then some of these difficulties are compounded by the cost-of-living crisis—the high energy costs and so on. So, I think it’s a very difficult time to make an accurate assessment. Some of the issues that we’re looking at are contestable in any case, and I think now is a very difficult time to be looking at them. That said, it shouldn’t, of course, hinder the work that is taking place or this inquiry for that matter. But, as I say, it is a very difficult time to be looking at this range of issues.

That certainly chimes with the evidence we've received, which tells us clearly that the purpose of public transport is changing and I suppose you're right, Chris, in that we're still trying to fully understand what that means, really. Janet.

09:40

Thank you. On 26 May, we undertook a stakeholder evidence session and it was made clear to us that demand management was needed to recover passenger numbers, to reduce car use, and hit modal shift targets. What more do you think the Welsh Government could and should be doing? Is there a need to get out there and do some data collection, even?

Thank you, Chair. I think there are a number of things that can be done, and certainly, publicity and promotion of public transport is going to be really important, because as with a lot of climate change issues, the key thing now is behaviour change, and highlighting the benefits of using public transport, not only in terms of the environmental benefits, but also in terms of the improvements that are being made to the services. Some people who are very used to driving their cars may have not been on a bus or train for a long time, and those are the people that we need to change their behaviour, and they may have images of old rickety buses churning out lots of fuel out the back, smoke out the back, and a lot of the public transport is now light years ahead of that. There is more comfort; there's the ability to charge IT equipment on there; there's information, there are audiovisual displays about where the public transport vehicles are, next stop to get off, so all those things that perhaps put people off using public transport in the past are much improved. I think there needs to be a concerted effort to explain the benefits of using public transport and some incentives to encourage people out of their cars as well. We'll probably come on to that a bit more later on.

Thank you. That's a good point you make. However, Tim, for someone from north Wales who—. I want to use the train on a weekly basis, but it's fair to say we do have some astonishing journeys, poor conditions, even down to—. Only the other day, when you have really—. You have air conditioning going in the winter sometimes, and in the summer, it can be blowing warm air on the trains. I've been on dirty trains, I've been on very delayed trains, and it is a fact that, in my own constituency casework, the problems with travelling from north to south are raised frequently.

So, I take your point, we've got nice new buses going round at the moment in my constituency, and they're fabulous, but we've still got issues with the rail service, so how can we coax people back on to using north-to-south travel? Including myself. I'm sceptical. Do I drive this time or do I plump for the train? How do we build that confidence back in, when we do have such a poor rail service at the moment?

Chair, shall I—?

I fully accept that point and it only takes one bad experience to put people off using public transport, and this is why it's so important to get it right. I think, in fairness to the public transport operators, they've had a very challenging period. As was mentioned earlier, there are staffing issues and that can impact on this in terms of maintaining the fleet. There needs to be ongoing maintenance, and if there are reduced numbers of staff, there may be problems making sure that all the kit is maintained in the way that it should be. But I agree that we've got to get those things right. If we want to publicise the benefits of public transport, then the product has got to come up to the expectations. So, I would say that there is a need for investment in the network to make sure that those sorts of issues are addressed, and that it is an ongoing investment, rather than fits and starts. We need that steady investment, coupled with publicity campaigns and then, we need to address the issues of staff shortages as well.

Thank you, Chair. Just to build on that: it's no surprise to anybody at this table, and all will be aware of the historic underinvestment in rail services in Wales, in terms of the infrastructure and the services. I'm sure other witnesses have already made the point about HS2 and the issues there, so I'll say no more on that.

09:45

No, you don't need to say any more on that, Roger, but it's a point that certainly is well made. Okay. Thank you. Janet, are you happy? Does that cover it?

Yes. There we are. Okay. We'll move on to Delyth, then. Thank you.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Bore da, bawb. Mae nifer o'r pethau dŷn ni wedi bod yn eu trafod yn cydblethu mewn i'w gilydd. Roeddwn i eisiau mynd â chi nôl at rywbeth sydd wedi codi yn barod, ond i edrych arno fe efallai mewn bach mwy o ddyfnder. Dŷn ni wedi gweld bod y rhesymau pam mae pobl yn defnyddio trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus wedi datblygu, eu bod nhw'n newid, ac yn dal i wneud, yn sgil y pandemig. Chris, roeddech chi'n dweud bod angen asesu patrymau gwaith pobl achos mae mwy a mwy o bobl yn penderfynu gweithio o gartref yn fwy aml, a phethau fel yna, ond hefyd mae mwy o bobl yn penderfynu defnyddio neu efallai eisiau defnyddio trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus mwy ar gyfer leisure, yn hytrach na dim ond ar gyfer mynd mewn i'r gwaith. Dwi'n gwybod bod hyn wedi codi yn barod yn beth sydd wedi cael ei ddweud, ond oes yna rywbeth mwy byddech chi eisiau ei ddweud am os oes yna ddealltwriaeth dda ar hyn o bryd yn llywodraeth leol pam—? Wel, na, nid jest pam mae hyn yn digwydd, ond sut mae hyn yn mynd i effeithio ar gynllunio ar gyfer rhwydweithiau bysys, neu unrhyw beth fel yna? Dwi'n cydnabod ein bod ni wedi cyffwrdd â hyn yn barod, ond oedd yna unrhyw beth arall roedd unrhyw un eisiau ei ychwanegu i hynna?

Thanks, Chair. Good morning, everyone. A number of the things that we've been discussing intertwine with each other. I'd like to take you back to something that was already brought up, but to look at it perhaps in a little more depth. We've seen that the reasons why people use public transport have developed, that they're changing, and they're still changing, as a result of the pandemic. Chris, you were saying that there's a need to assess people's working patterns because more and more people are deciding to work at home more often, and so on, and also more people are choosing to or want to use public transport more for leisure, rather than just for going into work. I know this has already come up in what's been said, but is there anything more that you'd like to say in terms of whether there's a good understanding at present in local government regarding not just why this is happening, but how this is going to affect planning for bus networks, or anything like that? I know that we've touched on this already, but was there anything else that anyone wanted to add to that?

Just briefly, Chair. In terms of our current understanding, because the local authorities are working very closely now with the operators in terms of the bus emergency services funding, the BES funding, we've got a very good understanding of where the current demands are, so probably a better understanding than ever before. I think the challenge is to understand now where we can take that into the future, to grow the patronage and to address the climate change challenges. 

I'll just add to Roger's comments. As local government, we always argue that authorities are best placed to take account of local circumstances, because they understand the areas they represent. We argue that the role of central government is to set the strategy nationally and then it's for authorities to interpret according to local circumstances. And maybe, going back to Janet Finch-Saunders's point earlier as well, the reason that local authorities provide a range of public services is because those services are so important that we feel they shouldn't be allowed to be dictated by the winds of the private sector and private sector market, because they're so important that everybody should have access to them. And in a sense, public transport is in the same position. One of the reasons we look at public transport and the provision of rail and bus services in the public sector is because we think that, left to market forces, there would be too many people who would be disadvantaged and wouldn't receive the services they required—the vulnerable, the old and so on; people in remote communities. And what Roger was saying, and I think what we say within local government, is that authorities are best placed to understand the needs of their communities, because of the way they work, because they're accountable, because they operate within a local framework, where there is democratic accountability, but, at the same time, a lot of these challenges are intractable challenges, and, very often, the solutions are imperfect as well. But the fact that they're imperfect shouldn't prohibit us or prevent us from trying to pursue and fulfil whatever potential we think that there is there. So, authorities, they've got a long history, they serve their communities very effectively, they deliver things like home-to-school transport and so on, they understand the economic context in which they operate, the SMEs that operate within their areas, but nobody should underestimate the challenge of doing that as well.

Thank you for that. Taking us back as well to another issue that's been touched on in Janet's line of questioning—I'm gesturing because that's the box that Janet's just appeared in; I know that you in the room will wonder why on earth I'm pointing over to the left—another knotty issue in all of this is what role behaviour change programmes might have in this. And I know that Jenny will take this in a more specific vein in a moment, but Janet and some of you were discussing how people's behaviours and attitudes towards public transport might change because of bad experiences. So, in addition to this, another thing that's come up during our evidence sessions is the really knotty issue about people's perceptions about public transport, and that isn't just about personal experiences, that can just be about the way that we are socialised, the ways in which there are certain—

Beth ydy 'ystrydebau' yn Saesneg?

What is 'ystrydebau' in English?

The way in which there will be certain 'ystrydebau'—I can't remember the English word for that now. Llyr, do you remember?

09:50

Stereotypes.

'Stereotypes'—thank you.

How there'll just be different stereotypes. When we were talking with the Deputy Minister about this, we discussed how, in London, it is just the norm that people would commute to work on the tube, on the bus, and that there wouldn't be any kind of distinction between the two. Somehow, in other parts of the UK—I don't have experience of living in other cities in England, but I think that this would, anecdotally, be the case—people seem to have more the negative perceptions of buses. So, how do you think that behaviour change can play a part in all of this?

Thank you, Chair. I think behaviour change is one of the most fundamental things that needs to be addressed, and it is a challenge, because we've had years of socialisation, as you say, where getting bigger, better things is seen as progress and you're more successful the bigger and better the things that you have. So, a lot of people still view the car you drive as a status symbol, and if you have to go on public transport it's almost seen as a second-class form of transport. So, what needs to happen is more information about the reasons why travelling by public transport is becoming increasingly important, why attitudes need to change. And there is that important area of nudge, encouraging people to make the change. I think a lot of the younger generation coming through are more conscious of environmental issues, they're more interested in using IT equipment when they're travelling, rather than just driving, and we need to build on that sort of trend.

So, there are things that can be done: we could look at fare levels, and I know that some areas are looking at lower fares to try and incentivise public transport use. It does require, of course, investment in it, but we need to see the long-term gains. So, all the work that is currently being discussed about better integration so that when you plan a journey—. I was in a meeting yesterday where Transport for Wales were talking about being able to do a search of, 'I want to go from my house to here. What's the best way to get there?' And you'd get multiple options rather than having to go and prejudge, 'I'm going to drive. How long is it going to take and what's the best route?' You'd have all that set out so that you can start to take conscious decisions based on evidence.

And then I think there are other things. The West Midlands introduced a car scrappage scheme where people whose cars were coming to the end of life could actually get their car scrapped, but then they would get public transport credits as a result of that. And it may be just that sort of thing that tips people to think, 'Well, actually, overall, do I want the cost of a car—all the insurance costs, the rising cost of fuel, the inconvenience of getting it serviced every year, and so on—if I can find a better way of getting around and if public transport is of a quality that meets my needs?', then people will start to think seriously about making that change.

Equally, there are measures that can be taken and probably will have to be looked at in terms of car users. Car congestion charging in London is a big factor and one of the reasons why people there are more willing to use public transport. And we need to look at things like road user charging in the future, because, as we move to electric vehicles, clearly, the fuel tax is going to disappear and the Government will need a source of revenue, so they're going to have to start thinking about charging for road use. And all of those things will tip the balance and make people think more about, 'Do I drive? Do I use public transport?' So, I think behaviour change is going to be a critical part of this, but it needs to be reinforced by investment in the services.

09:55

Yes. Thanks, Chair. Just to add to that, I think Tim is absolutely right: there are incentives that can be put in place in terms of using public transport, but also publicity campaigns as well to better inform people and maybe make them realise that public transport is changing and has changed. And then, similarly as well, the disincentives of putting measures in place to discourage people from using their cars, making them slightly more difficult and more challenging.

I think Delyth's points are very valid. I lived in London, and I have lived in other cities in England as well, and the default position is to use public transport—there is a cultural issue there. I now live in a rural part of Wales, and the default position is to use the car. There's a generational issue here as well. I've got three sons at universities in cities. They're far more ready to use public transport; they use digital technology as well far more effectively than I certainly do, and I suspect that that is probably more widespread as well. So, there is something clearly to build on there as well. So, there's a big digital dimension to this as well. But I think it is that trade-off between incentives and then the disincentives not to use private cars.

Just briefly, if I may, Chair, yes. The London transport network is a completely different prospect to what we enjoy in Wales, and even in south-east Wales, where we've probably got the closest thing to that. There was a concept of a £4 billion metro for south-east Wales—we are £750 million into that at the moment. That will deliver electrification on the core Valleys lines and tram trains, but that's not an offer across even the 10 authorities. So, that needs to move forward before we can even think towards a London-style mentality.

I think our communities are really struggling at the moment in many, many ways: the cost of living, the cost of fuel, and I think the cost of fuel alone is probably dampening the demand for car travel. And if they had a credible alternative in public transport, I'm sure they would be using it. Thirty per cent of some of our communities don't have access to a private car, so they have no choice other than to use public transport. So, I think we've got a challenge to up the standard of the offer that we have at the moment, and we know that fares are a big barrier to travel. I think we need to look at some initiatives around that. There have been initiatives—Cardiff, Swansea, Newport—but I think we need to be doing more of that to encourage people back onto the buses and give them a good experience and hopefully, then, we can grow.

So, one of the areas that we're looking at, as a council—and other councils are doing the same—is whether we can use the revenue funding available through the shared prosperity fund to incentivise some of this and maybe offer cheaper fares in the peak hours to get people out of their cars and onto buses. So, I think that's the way to go before we talk about the sticks, then, rather than the carrots. I think that there's a lot of work to do, and I have a concern that, if we do put too many sticks in place, we need to understand what that means for our economy and how that affects our competitiveness against other regions across the country, because our GDP is 70 per cent of the UK average, so we don't need too many more sticks, do we?

Okay. Jenny wants to come in on this specifically, and then Huw as well, and then we'll go from there.

Okay. So, just going back to the image problem. Lord Deben, who's the chair of the Climate Change Committee, has advised us that all the benefits that have been achieved in better fuel efficiency in vehicles have been eliminated by this enthusiasm for sports utility vehicles, which just are so damaging—they eat up so much money, and carbon emissions, when, in fact, a smaller car is clearly what's needed for the future, and we've heard that from witnesses in this inquiry. So, is there something specific that could be done to highlight that you may need to use the car because there isn't enough public transport, but the type of car you're using is going to be much less damaging than the idiotic, image-driven car that you may have bought, thinking that that was the best thing to do? Is that something that local authorities, if you were thinking of road charging or differentiating charges, depending on how damaging that particular vehicle was—? Perhaps Tim Peppin—

10:00

Tim Peppin, you were talking about image. So, what can local authorities do to counter the multimillion-pound vehicle industry that will continue to behave like this if we don't do something about it?

Okay, we'll go to Tim first, and then Roger can come in afterwards.

Okay, thank you. I think that there are things that can be done on the car front, for example, on single-occupancy vehicles. In some areas there have been restrictions on lanes that can be used by people using single occupancy. If you can car share, get more people in, then clearly that helps in terms of reducing congestion. There are also opportunities with things like car clubs. That may be an option to make them available in certain communities, especially low-income communities where people can't afford a car—being able to use one as and when required may be a way to overcome it.

In terms of what local authorities can do about people's choices of cars, it's very difficult, isn't it? It needs a much wider effort by all bodies to encourage people to think more responsibly about how they're getting around and how they're travelling and whether the journeys they take are necessary or unnecessary.

So, you discount the idea of local government differentiating between the different types of cars as a way of getting people to think about that?

I think it would be getting into difficult territory for local government. I'm not sure what my colleagues feel, but I think that could be problematic.

I think there probably is a fiscal approach that is needed to encourage people towards smaller vehicles with less of a carbon footprint, but it's probably at a UK or a Welsh Government level rather than a local level, I would suggest.

Tim has made the point, really, about car clubs. There's a paper going to the Cardiff capital region transport authority tomorrow that updates on our progress regarding ultra low emission vehicles, charging points and so on. One of the initiatives that we are taking forward is to set up the regional car clubs. So, initially, we'd be looking at 58 vehicles to go into our communities. I think that will do two things: the parts of our communities that I mentioned that don't own cars will be able to access these vehicles, and the driver for us is to make them as affordable as possible for people to use. The second element to that is maybe around nudging people who perhaps have a second car now that they're finding they don't use as often, but if they could rely on a car club, maybe, on those odd occasions, then that might just be the incentive they need to dump the second car and live a little more frugally in terms of their carbon footprint.

Okay. There clearly is an opportunity in the rise and rise in fuel costs to get people to rethink the economics of it, but, at the moment, is it the case that taking a journey by car is still cheaper than going on public transport, in the main? And what consideration have local authorities given to the idea that's being touted in Cardiff to have a flat £1 fare for bus journeys to encourage many more people to use the bus?

Thank you, Chair. I think one of the problems we have is that people think it's cheaper to use the car because they only think about the petrol costs for that particular journey. When you take in the overall costs of a car over the course of a year, there's a lot of additional expenditure: your insurance costs, your servicing costs, repair costs when things go wrong, maintenance work. If you add all of that up, then that makes that journey that much more expensive compared to public transport. But the problem is people tend to think, 'How much is my fare? How much is it going to cost me to fill up the tank?', and make that simple calculation rather than that more rounded one.

Okay, but given the imperative to reduce carbon emissions, what plans do local authorities have to force people to think much more clearly about increasing their use of active travel and public transport?

Yes—oh, sorry.

10:05

Local authorities are developing climate change strategies and implementing policies and strategies around encouraging the public to take a more thoughtful approach to their transport usage, so you'll see things like electric vehicle charging points being rolled out at the moment across the region. There's a contract being undertaken by Connected Kerb at the minute, which will see, I think, something like 190 sites having the benefit of electric vehicle charging. So, I think it's this approach of reducing and taking away the barriers that perhaps prevent people at this point in time in making the right choices, and helping them along the way.

Okay. Both Huw and Janet wanted to come in, and then we will have to move on to another area. So, Huw first of all. 

Thanks, Chair. Very briefly, if we pull all this together—nudges, tackling the supply-and-demand issues, technical fixes to make it easier and more convenient to travel by bus and less convenient, I think we have to be honest, to travel by car, and make that choice and so on—what role does marketing and promotion play within this? What's your assessment of the role of local government in actually encouraging people to say that it is better by bus, it is better by train, it is better by community transport? Do you have a role, or is that left up to individual operators, community transport and train providers to do that?

For me, these are national messages, and duplicating 22 times over doesn't seem the best use of energy. These messages can be pushed out at national level. Clearly, the private operators and the people that are making the profit at the minute from transport will have their role to play as well, but for me there's an overarching message to everybody that can be done centrally.

Chair, rather than asking everybody to reply, could I just ask you how good do you think we've been at promotion and marketing of public transport, community transport, and alternatives to the car before the pandemic? And how good do you think we are currently at persuading people, as we come through this stage of the pandemic, to get back on the bus and the trains and community transport?

I think it's a really interesting question. It is contestable and subjective, but I think what you can say is that, clearly, we can do more. We can see that at the moment that there is evidence that the communication hasn't been or isn't effective. Like Rogers's point, a lot of these issues are national, strategic issues, but it's important as well that every tier of government and service providers aligns with the national strategic approach as well. So many of these issues overlap as well. Going back to Jenny's point earlier in terms of the four-wheel-drive vehicles and other pollutants as well, there is a trade-off between the economic needs and the push for economic growth, coupled with the service delivery dimension of public transport and the climate change needs as well. The truth is, governments around the world try and get car companies to invest in their areas, to move their production to develop new models in their area, and there is a careful trade-off between trying to attract inward investment, create prosperity, create jobs in particular areas, and then the demand for those vehicles as well. So, it's a delicate balance, which is why then so many of these issues, I think, are national and strategic in the first instance, but it's important then that we get the alignment down from the national to the local level.

Okay. Thank you, Chris. Janet has previously indicated that she'd like to come in on this.

Well, it is, and it's all part of this bigger discussion, and it's a bit controversial. E-scooters—and I'll declare an interest, because I do have two e-scooters that we've used on the continent over the years—do fit, as far as I'm concerned, into the mix of moving towards carbon-zero targets. They're used in England—they're piloted in England, I should say—but we haven't yet had that debate properly in Wales. As local authorities, do you believe that e-scooters have a role to play? They use very little electricity. There are two lines of thinking on this, Chair—that there is a role for them, but obviously with more regulation. There are electric bikes that are in circulation, and in terms of accidents there's no difference—

10:10

As local authorities, do you believe that e-scooters can be part of the mix of low-carbon, low-energy-using modes of transport to get around?

Yes, with the right regulation, I would say. 

Okay. Thank you. Joyce, you wanted to come in briefly as well. 

We've talked about cleaning up cars, of course, versus taking public transport. What we haven't talked about is cleaning up public transport. When you're promoting public transport as a modal shift, what focus is being given to also, at the same time, promoting cleaner transport, whether that's hydrogen in the future or electric immediately, as playing a significant part? Because I haven't heard that mentioned here this morning. 

There has been a bus decarbonisation working group that's been looking into this, and looking at what is needed to convert the fleet across. The Euro 6 standard already is quite low emission, and what we don't want to do is see those vehicles being turned in to buy electric ones before the end of their useful life, because that's not environmentally sound, either. So, I think we need a sensible strategy of investing in a new fleet as and when the current fleet comes to the end of its life. But it will be more expensive upfront, and that's why we need to take a whole-life-cost approach, because the running cost, the maintenance cost of electric fleet will be lower, and therefore we can transition to an electric fleet of buses provided the upfront investment can be found, and that's the big question, really. 

Chair, just on that very issue, we've taken that evidence here as a committee—. I think it was here; it might have been in a previous committee in another life, I'm not sure. But anyway, the point is that the timescale for that was somewhat in the future, because buses can last for a very long time. So, with that in mind, and what you've just said, is there an urgent need for investment in that area? Because people aren't going to swap a diesel car very easily to go on a diesel bus. It's a mixed message. 

I think the point is well made, Joyce. There will be implications, I think—it's been highlighted to us—in relation to the White Paper, that that transition to zero-emission buses, for example, might be hindered by the process. Do you have a view on that? No? Tim.

I think the investment decisions at the moment are going to be difficult because there's uncertainty over how things are going to unfold. So, some of the operators will be thinking carefully about what investments they make. This is why getting the transition period right is going to be so critical, really, because we need to work together—Welsh Government, local authorities, operators, Transport for Wales—and have a clear strategy to give certainty, because people don't like investing in a period of uncertainty.

Cardiff and Newport have both been successful investing in electric buses. Why have other local authorities not applied for Department for Transport funding?

In south-east Wales, Cardiff Bus, Newport Bus and Stagecoach have all been successful in securing funding and in developing electric vehicles. It's a complicated process. They are all private companies, so the initiative, really, is with them, but where possible we are working with them to make that transition. The cost is significant. I think a typical public transport vehicle would be around £200,000 where an electric equivalent is probably in the order of £350,000. So, there isn't a business case, as such, to make that change at this point in time for these businesses, so they need that capital support from the public sector to make that change.

10:15

Yes, but Cardiff and Newport have managed to achieve that. Why have other local authorities not stepped up to the plate there? 

I think Stagecoach in Caerphilly have also changed a significant amount of their fleet. They're also looking at it in other local authorities. But it's that joint working, really, and appetite from the private sector to make that change, as well as the local authorities supporting them in that mode. 

Okay. Thank you. We're about halfway through our time and I think we've barely covered a third of the areas that we were hoping to pursue, so we'll try to change gear a little bit. I'll invite Delyth now to do just that, I hope. 

Diolch. I always appreciate a pun. A little earlier, we were talking about how public transport, if we create incentives, can open up opportunities for people, but we were looking, I guess, at people who have the choice to be able to make different choices—their socioeconomic status means that they can make different choices. Looking at that same phenomenon of how public transport can open up opportunities but with a different lens, looking at the people whose socioeconomic status means that they can't make different choices, what role do you think that social inclusion and social justice has to have in terms of planning transport networks, particularly bus services? The reason I'm asking this is that the University of South Wales has found that the most deprived areas were most affected by lost bus services during the pandemic. I know that what we were talking about a little earlier is so important in terms of making sure that we give those incentives to people who are able to make different life choices, but for the people who at the moment don't have that same ability, that their status just doesn't allow them to do it, how can we make sure that this is a driver for better social inclusion and for tackling poverty?

Can I come in first?

I think it ties in with the point I was making earlier, really, that there is clearly a big role here for local authorities because they are in touch with their communities and they know where those areas of deprivation, whether at a community or an individual level, are. And this is where a strategic integrated approach to the planning and provision of public transport is such a key. And, in a sense, it's taking the profit motive, if you like, out of the system but seeing it as a social good, recognising the needs of individuals and communities, and this is the essence of public service provision. It recognises that some people need access to goods and services despite the fact that their socioeconomic circumstances in other situations would prevent them from accessing those services. This is why we provide education, social care, health services through public sector provision, because we think that everybody should be able to access those services. In this instance, our argument would be that the local authorities have a key role to play because they know where those communities are and they can plan those services effectively. They've got a history and tradition of doing that, and they do it reasonably well in terms of public transport, but again there's more that can be done. So, our argument would be that they have a key role to play.  

Thank you, Chair. Can I ask whether you think, on that basis, that we should in Wales, with some top-down direction from Welsh Government, apply exactly that normative approach to public transport planning, where you say the values we expect to have from public transport are that everybody should be able to access their GP surgeries, their hospital, a job, wherever they need to get to, their friends, socialisation, and on that basis you then plan your public transport from that, from precisely that? It's the same thing that we talk about in terms of education and housing and so on. It doesn't mean there aren't difficult choices to be made, but we start from the premise that everybody, no matter where you live, should be able to access public transport—or let's broaden it, community transport—and should be able to get to the places they need to go on a daily basis.

Yes, most definitely, and I think that is at the heart of the White Paper, really, moving to a system where we can plan networks to meet needs better. But, I think linked to that there is also a link to the role that local authorities have in terms of planning, because we've also got to look at where we place facilities, because access to those facilities is partly down to transport, but it's also partly down to where we put things. And making sure that we locate services and facilities in locations that are easily accessible is a key part of making sure that there is an inclusive approach. We've seen the growth of out-of-town shopping facilities and out-of-town sports facilities, and so on. If we can adopt the 'town centre first' approach and encourage facilities to be based in one place, then public transport becomes a much more viable option and a better choice.

10:20

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I think this is—. It's a fascinating question and it does get to the core of public service provision. I mentioned at the outset that we hadn't really had an opportunity to discuss the White Paper or this consultation exercise with elected members. This is a very political question, but in terms of the ethos of local authority service provision, this aligns very closely with the way that authorities provide other services and the way they see themselves. I think there's plenty of evidence that if we adopt a more coherent and integrated approach to the provision of all public services, and we see the interconnectivity and the overlap between those services, then we squeeze more value out of the investment that we make, and we improve the quality of service provision for service users as well, which is what local authorities are set up to achieve. Local authorities and services aren't ends in themselves—they exist to provide services for individuals and for communities. So, in that sense, I think these are valid issues to look at in that holistic way that's been suggested.

Okay. Huw wants to pick up on this, and then maybe I'll come back to Roger to conclude on this. 

Just a very quick follow up, and it goes to the heart of Delyth's question. Do you think that in the White Paper there is sufficient clarity to ensure that everybody—no matter where they live in Wales, what community, how currently isolated they are—will have access to the opportunities that others have to be able to get about in their communities? Or, do you think that there is more explicit direction that is still required? 

I think this is a real challenging element to it, isn't it? What service standards do we want to put in place for our communities? Now, that's the challenge, and what will the cost of that aspiration be? It's meeting the aspiration with the affordability. So, that's the challenge for the future. What's been described in terms of understanding the social needs of communities, that's been exactly the local authority's role since bus deregulation, and we try to do that within the bounds of bus deregulation as it stands. But, doing it in a more regulated manner with the franchise system, proper integration around transport will be so much easier when we control the levers. But, it comes back to the point that funding has been starved in recent years. Will there be additional funding to meet all these aspirations going forward? And it's understanding that costing and being prepared to make that decision, perhaps to the cost of other services.

I guess what I'm asking, Chair, is what would the WLGA's view be, what would local authorities' view be on the approach that should be taken by Welsh Government. Should they stipulate that we have not just high aspirations, but that this will be the approach that will be taken? Because then you can argue to them and we can argue to Welsh Government, 'Well, now you've got to will the resources to make it happen as well.' Is it your view that we should be much more ambitious in saying that no-one should be left behind? There must be a WLGA view on that.

I would say from a climate change perspective, there's an imperative there that we need to act. 

Yes. I may sound repetitive, but we haven't had this detailed discussion with elected members because of the timing, but in terms of existing policy and rationale, I don't think anybody within the WLGA or local government would be suggesting that communities or individuals should be left behind. Roger mentioned the fact that funding is going to be key to this. In terms of accountability, scrutiny, understanding the needs of communities, I think that authorities are well placed to be able to make that assessment.

The only other thing we need to look at as well is the transition. At the moment, we've got an imperfect solution to the public transport needs of the people and communities of Wales. We've got a better model that we aspire to, and I suppose the start of a strategy for delivering that, but we need to watch as well that we don't lose too much during the transition period as well. I think great care needs to be taken there. My suspicion is that, as far as the vision set out in the White Paper goes, I think all authorities and members would subscribe to that, because I think it is an exciting vision, but, again, more detail is needed in terms of fleshing out how exactly it would work.

I've said before, in other evidence sessions with other committees, that we take the view that the role of the Welsh Government and of central Government is to set the strategy, and that it's up to local authorities then to deliver that strategy locally, taking account of local circumstances. We always argue in terms of decentralising, devolving and so on. I think all of those arguments align with what's contained in the White Paper and the discussion we've had today. That would be my expectation, but I think we need far more discussion at a political level, and then at an operational level. Fleshing out some of the issues that have been touched on today will take a great deal of discussion and care. We need people like Roger, who've got that operational understanding, to be involved in that discussion, and indeed the co-production and co-construction.

10:25

Okay, thank you. We are short on time now, because there are a lot of areas. We want to get on to the metros, we want to talk a bit more about the White Paper, there's highway maintenance as well that we need to cover. So, I'll come to Joyce now for the next question, and then we'll have to move on to metros, I think. Joyce.

You've talked about planning, and Transport for Wales will play a key part in that, but there are planned corporate joint committees and they will be involved in planning for the future of public transport, because transport doesn't just stay in one particular local authority area. So, I'd like to know your views, and we'll have to be sharp about it, on whether you think those roles are clear and whether they're likely to be adequately skilled and resourced.

Yes. I think there is a big opportunity with the CJCs responsible for developing strategic development plans and responsible for developing regional transport plans, looking at integrating the two and making sure they work closely together. The problem we've got is that they are a bit out of sync. The SDPs probably won't be ready until the second iteration of the RTPs. But, that's what we need to be working towards: making sure that the transport plans align with the plans in the SDPs. I think, if we can crack that over time, that will be a big bonus.

Can I just request that you don't use 'RTPs' and things like that, because the public won't know what on earth you're talking about?

Yes. So, strategic development plans is what we mean when we say SDP.

Yes, I know. I was just saying it for the benefit of the public that are probably listening, hopefully. Okay, does anybody else want to respond to that from Joyce? Joyce, do you want to—

I think that's clear. I want to know then how the corporate joint committees will support and enhance public transport services through those regional transport plans, and whether you think that is a move in the right direction in terms of integration and increased investment in that bus infrastructure, bus lanes, et cetera, those things like that that will be needed if we're going to move this forward—pun intended.

10:30

Roger, do you have a view on that, given that, obviously, we're looking at a similar footprint, aren't we, in terms of the corporate joint committee in your area?

Yes, absolutely. The Cardiff capital region and the city deal is now quite well established, and I think is the ideal vehicle, if you like—no pun intended—to take forward this avenue of work. The governance is in place; the political accountability, et cetera, is all there and established, so it's ready to go. I think the local knowledge that is offered also at regional level is really important in planning bus services, and it will allow us to pool our resources to a degree, not forgetting that the local authorities have still got the responsibility for school transport, which also integrates with the public transport and is an important consideration. And it's the same people that do the public transport and the school transport planning. So, having that joint approach to it then, I think, will really pay dividends.

Yes, and that was an important point made in your written evidence, if I recall. Okay. We'll move on, if we may, to metros, and Janet, you're going to lead us on this.

Yes, thank you. Could you outline your views on the approach to the delivery of the three Welsh metro systems, and specifically whether the pace and approach to delivery can be considered effective?

I can offer a view on the Cardiff metro, but I can't offer a view on the other metros. Cardiff capital region metro is moving apace, with funding coming via the city deal, et cetera, and other sources. So, £750 million commitment to the electrification of the core Valleys lines, that's moving ahead and we're anticipating, I think, towards the end of 2024 now, all of the tram train services being in place for that. The metro is a bigger concept than that. It's an all-mode, multimodal offer that's integrated. So, we need to bring it all together. The Burns work now around Newport will start to see some of that work coming forward, but further investment is needed, and we're in the early steps.

Thank you. And then, do you agree with evidence from the bus industry that metro schemes are currently too rail focused, and that the governance arrangements for these programmes as a whole are still very unclear?

I think they're predominantly run through Transport for Wales. It's very clear on core Valleys lines because Transport for Wales are not only running the services, but they're responsible for the maintenance and everything that goes with it—tracks and so on. So, that is very clear and straightforward, and we're quite comfortable with that. I think rail investment is a long-term investment and it's been in short supply in the past. So, it's good to see things moving forward at long last. And bus will follow through the initiatives that are coming through now. The legislation for buses at the minute isn't helpful in taking it forward in leaps and bounds. But if we have some more regulation in, as per the franchising proposals, and the funding is right, then we can bring it all together.

Great. Thank you very much. And you've mentioned the Cardiff metro, but what about the other two? Does anybody have any view of how they're doing?

We're not heavily involved in the work with the Swansea bay and south-west or the north Wales metro, but very similar to what Roger said, I think those two are slightly behind the south-east Wales metro, but they are meant to be an integrated approach, involving not just rail, but also bus services and active travel. And I've not heard concerns about the pace there; they do seem to be progressing.

So, you wouldn't recognise a suggestion that maybe some parts of Wales are slightly feeling behind the curve on this? Because, obviously, we see what's happening in Cardiff and the wider city region there, and people maybe feel that north Wales, for example, is a bit of an afterthought, with lower levels of funding, less pace, as was suggested, in terms of driving this forward really.

I think that certainly south-east Wales has been ahead of the game on this because of the investment that's been committed via the city deal work. But there are some good proposals and some investments already in north Wales. You'll be very aware of the links with Merseyside, and the north-east Wales into north-west England links, and then, obviously, linking up with HS2 and the improvements for Chester and Crewe. So, there are proposals there, but it is all subject to the investment coming forward.

And that is all rail focused as well, of course, isn't it, which comes back to the point about an emphasis on buses. Chris, you wanted to pick up on that. 

10:35

It was just to say that the difficulty with all of this is that the circumstances are different, they're at different stages in their development. On the one hand, we know that the development of the metro systems are central to any successful city or growth deals. If you look at city regions across Europe, then it's a core and integral part to it. I think it's inevitable that you will get a sense that—. Because progress isn't even and consistent at the same time, if you look at different developments, then somebody will always be ahead, and somebody will always be behind. But it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good thing or a bad thing, it's just that circumstances are different. You see the same thing with the city and growth deals across Wales—they're all developing at their own pace, according to the local circumstances. So, I think it's very difficult to make that kind of judgement.

I think maybe Government are guilty of creating unrealistic expectations as well in publishing these very colourful sort of underground-like maps across north Wales, and people expecting things to happen maybe sooner than is realistic. Okay. Thank you for those answers. We'll move on, then, to Huw.

Thanks very much. As somebody whose part of the metro has one hourly train coming from Maesteg—and I missed it by one minute this morning, so I had to wait for the next one—we don't feel fully embedded. If north Wales doesn't, Maesteg doesn't feel quite fully there either. But anyway, could I ask you for your thoughts, pros and cons, on the White Paper proposals? I'm taking as read that, generally speaking, you're well involved in the development of this, you're engaged with the Welsh Government, and you seem to be positive towards it. So, as a result, I'm particularly interested in whether you've identified any risks with it, in any shape or form, including risks to current operators, smaller operators, but also any financial risks and anything else. So, any thoughts on the White Paper on franchising?

I think, as you say, that there are lots of benefits from it. We are engaged in the discussions, and our role is to highlight where there are concerns and to work those through constructively, and that's the approach we've been taking. We don't want to just focus on the benefits, and say, 'Yes, let's plough ahead'; I think it's really important that we're highlighting areas where there are concerns and working those through. So, the cost issue is the overriding one—how is that going to be managed, because it will be more expensive to operate a franchise system, and we need to make sure that there is certainty over that funding, or else we could see a reallocation of funding from areas that are currently reasonably well-served to some of the less well-served areas.

One of the areas where we have got concerns is that the funding arrangements at the moment are very complex, and we've got to be careful that, in untangling those, and trying to move to a different way of working, we don't end up with a system that doesn't work as effectively, or some of the existing funding that local authorities have put in historically doesn't get withdrawn. Because there are elements of funding that went in pre mandatory concessionary fares that local authorities are still committed to in some areas, and we've got to make sure that we protect the funding going into the service during a period of change.

Another area we've touched on already is, if we move towards network planning at a national and regional level, the risk that that undermines the capacity at the local level. And that local knowledge is absolutely critical. I think we are concerned that we could see a loss of expertise to TfW, to the region, and that would undermine the capacity of local authorities to undertake some of their critical roles, including, as we've mentioned, the home-to-school transport. I'll leave it there; I'm sure others will want to come in as well on that.

One area, I suppose, is around the risk appetite. So, we talk about the gross cost service, where all the revenue risk would sit with the public sector. We've seen the issues that Transport for London have gone into through the COVID period, where the patronages dropped, the fare-box income has disappeared, and they've got something like an £800 million black hole. That's on a different scale to what we're envisaging here, but nevertheless, the principles are the same, so we need to be prepared to fund these services through some thin times, potentially. But I think that's an area that we would be concerned about. Tim has raised the issues around resources. But every public body is fishing in the same pool, for the same resources. Currently, they sit with local authorities. Most are getting towards a certain age as well. 

10:40

Can I just ask a short follow-up? It links back to an earlier question. In moving more towards the White Paper proposals, franchising bus services, a more joined approach, CJCs, regional partnerships, a more co-ordinated approach to it, does that offer hope that there could be an increase in investment in the decarbonisation of fleet et cetera, et cetera? Does that give the opportunity for ones that currently have not been able to do it?

It's probably a cleaner backdrop, isn't it? Once all the pieces knit together and everybody's clearer, it's probably a cleaner and more simple process to bring these changes forward.

Can I come in? I think anything that is more strategic, which thinks in the long term and which involves planning at all different levels being aligned, then clearly that is going to be more conducive to that kind of longer term investment. What we know is disadvantageous is short-term planning, short-term funding. And for small local firms, SMEs, unless they’ve got that assurance and surety of funding in the longer term, then you can’t be clear that the investment is going to come through.

I think there is a parallel here with the twenty-first century schools programme. Before the development of the twenty-first century schools programme, capital funding of school buildings was short term, it was provided on an annual basis. It means that authorities, small authorities especially, were never in a position to build new schools. With the development of the twenty-first century schools programme, we see exciting new schools all over Wales. Every part of Wales has benefited from secondary schools, primary schools. It’s transformed the landscape and it's that kind of strategic, long-term, joined-up working and commitment to investment that benefits any sector, whether it's, in this instance, public transport or any other sector.

That's an interesting and useful parallel, actually. Thank you for that. Okay. Joyce.

You've sort of touched on this, but what about your views on the White Paper proposals to remove the restrictions on local authorities operating their own municipal bus companies? Do you have any views? If you don't, we'll move on.

Thank you. I was just going to make the point that the costs and the expertise needed to go into this, if you’re not already set up, are large. If you’re going into a competitive situation, it’s very difficult to invest that amount of time, get the right expertise together, when you’re at risk of not being successful. The White Paper does talk about the possibility of operator of last resort. That may need to be a consideration if we get to that point. But then, you’ve still got to address the issue of where’s the funding going to come from, where’s the expertise—all the human resource issues that are associated with setting up from scratch. It’s a massive challenge, really.

Okay. Before I ask Roger whether he's up for it, I'll ask Jenny to come in.

So, what are the alternatives, then? What about joint ventures with private companies, for example—things like the Fflecsi scheme that you've got in rural areas in north Wales? Is that a way forward, if you don't actually have the expertise? What we need is to move forward at pace on using new technology to make bus services more convenient and more available.

The Fflecsi is operating in urban areas as well, and it's proving very successful. It is a more, as the name suggests, flexible way of providing that type of transport where people can call up and get a bus to come via the route that they're looking for. So, I think we definitely do need to look at those opportunities. But those are examples of working with existing operators, rather than the local authorities actually setting that up themselves. Although there are some examples. Monmouthshire, for example, have set up their own grass-roots services to meet local need because there was no market provision. So, there are examples where local authorities have been able to do this, but it comes down to what system they'll be operating in and what the legal background for that is. Is that under a permit or is it as a franchise, a competitive tendered service?

10:45

I don't see a scenario where local authorities are setting up municipal companies to compete with the private sector. There may be a need, when all else fails, if we can't get a franchise awarded, to put something in place. But there will be big lead times, there will be big costs, you'll need depots, staff, operator licences—it's not going to be a quick fix, and there could be a period of time when there isn't an alternative in place. 

Okay. Thank you. The Deputy Minister told us that the White Paper was co-produced with local government and the bus industry. I'm just wondering specifically how Welsh Government engaged with you, and whether your views were actually taken on board eventually. I don't know whether Chris or Tim wants to respond to that specifically. Chris.

If I come in, and maybe Tim can provide more detail. It is true that there has been a considerable amount of discussion and I think it's fair to describe it as co-production or co-construction. We always argue the case for co-construction—I think we deliver better services if we operate in this way. I mentioned social partnership earlier, and service users, all of us, are important. I suppose the difficulty in the level of government is that there's a very delicate balance between having a strategic approach to delivering a policy and the balance between being genuine co-construction and coming along with a model and saying, 'Here's one I prepared earlier—how does this look?' As local government, we sometimes complain that what we actually get is dialogue and discussion as opposed to co-production and co-construction. In this instance, it may be that opinion is divided, but I think the spirit in which the engagement has taken place, from the political level down to an officer and operational level, has been one of co-production. Tim, I think, will elaborate—he's been more involved in those discussions than I have.

Okay. Very briefly, then, if you would, Tim. Thank you.

Thank you, Chair. I know there have been ongoing meetings. We were meeting weekly to discuss the White Paper, and that gives us an opportunity to go through issues and talk them through. As I said earlier, it is really important that local authorities' concerns are aired, and we get the opportunity to talk those through and find a way forward.

Okay. Thank you for that. We've got one more area we'd like to cover in the remaining 12 minutes or so that we have, which is local highway maintenance, and I think I'll jump to Janet, if that's okay, to start with that. 

Thank you, Chair. I read in the evidence from the Cardiff capital region transport authority that historical underinvestment in road maintenance has led to a very substantial backlog of repair and replacement totalling over £2 million. How far do you think local authorities in Wales can address such backlogs on their own?

It's not a situation that's exclusive to Wales. I referred to the ALARM study you'll have seen, with a link in my evidence—there's a UK problem with this. I think people are quite cognisant, with the obvious examples of degradation of the road network in terms of potholes. What they don't tend to see is that all the buried services are also becoming well past their sell-by date and in need of replacement. So, I think local authorities will be looking to employ the most efficient methods of addressing these problems, but funding, at the end of the day, is the key to all of this. It's like maintaining a car—if you don't service your car every year, you know you're going to get a really big bill and a really big problem down the line, and the road network is exactly the same. 

In June, the Deputy Minister stressed to me that local roads—and I know this to be true—are the responsibility of local highway authorities.Do you agree with me, though, there should be better working together? Because, for instance, the Welsh Government, I believe, should be working more closely with local highway authorities to address some of these backlogs. In my constituency alone there are countless junctions along the A470 where co-operation is required by the local authority and the trunk road agent to work together to improve the highway. Would you agree with me that we need to see a lot more of that happening? Because sometimes there'll be small areas of a road that are considered to be part of the north Wales and mid Wales trunk road agency and local authority, and sometimes it's, 'It's not ours, it's theirs', and the time, the delays, rather than just working together and getting on with it, whoever's fault it is—whoever needs to fix it, just get it fixed. Sorry if I sound a bit frustrated on that one, but it does happen. 

10:50

I'm slightly surprised, to be honest. The A470 runs from the north to the south of RCT and we're pretty clear on roles and responsibilities there, to the square inch, almost. 

Last night, the Senedd voted in a default 20 mph for all urban areas, residential areas. So, how are you going to factor that into your repairs and renovation of the roads to ensure that we've got the street infrastructure that we need by September next year?

Well, at the moment the Welsh Government is funding the changes that are needed in terms of the orders, the surveys that are going on in terms of the infrastructure that's out there at the moment. The main changes are going to be the physical changes around signage and so on. We've got funding in the current financial year to deliver that. That will need to seep into the next financial year, because I think most of those signs are going to be replaced, probably, through next summer, ready for the September implementation. But we're taking steps forward on that. It's a big task, and it's tying up a fair bit of time, but it is funded. 

Okay. I'll invite Joyce to come in here, then, and then, once we've answered Joyce's question, we'll come to Jenny to conclude the session. Joyce.

Well, not surprisingly, funding is the key implementation way forward of getting anything done, so I want to ask if you've had any detail—or if you can give us any details of any discussions, rather, that you've had as local government and Welsh Government on the future funding of road maintenance, or highway maintenance. 

Thank you, Chair. Yes, we have an ongoing discussion with Welsh Government over highway maintenance, and the point we always make is that we need a long-term funding stream and certainty. And I look back to the days when the local government borrowing initiative was introduced, which was highly successful, allowed about £170 million to be invested over a three-year period, and we saw a substantial improvement in the highway network as a result of that. But, as Roger said, if you don't keep investing in the network, it will start to deteriorate again. So, we've had a succession of funding rounds where we've had £20 million a year with the road refurbishment grant. At the end of last year, there was a £70 million capital allocation, which included the ability to use some of that for road resurfacing. But it raises the question now of where do we go next. We've got no certainty over the funding beyond 2022-23, and we really do need to get to a position where we've got five-year programmes of certainty of funding so that local authorities can plan in advance and do planned maintenance, rather than relying on reactive maintenance and patch-and-mend repairs, which are never as effective as doing the proper resurfacing job.

And it isn't just potholes is it, Roger, as you remind us in the paper. 

The Deputy Minister has made it pretty clear that the outcome of the roads review is likely to see funding released, but this is not going to be business as usual. 'Llwybr Newydd' means that we're going to have to focus on the way we use the road space, as David Melding used to talk about. So, road space reallocation, more emphasis on bus lanes to speed up the time that it takes to travel by bus, widening pavements, creating segregated cycle ways. What planning have local authorities done to be able to hit the ground running on this really clear agenda in 'Llwybr Newydd'?

Yes, just to make the point, really, in terms of highways maintenance, if the road is reallocated for other uses, it still needs maintenance to perform that function. So, if a section of road is converted to bus lane, it needs to be maintained. Some of those bus lanes will involve coloured surfacing, and there are extra maintenance costs for coloured surfacing. Active travel routes on roads will still need to be in very good condition. We don't want those who travel actively put at risk—they are the most vulnerable road users—so the conditions need to be right. So, maintenance, I don't think it changes particularly whether we reallocate the space or not, you still need the funding, and where we are creating inter-urban routes for active travel, they will need maintenance. They're away from the main networks, so they've got an increased cost associated with that, but they also come with additional expectations around litter picking, cutting back overgrowth et cetera et cetera. So, there are new and different demands coming through all of the time.  

10:55

The McAllister report several years ago highlighted that some local authorities were miles better and more cost-effective in their road maintenance programmes than others. What is the WLGA doing to ensure that the best is raising the game of all local authorities? 

Yes, certainly. We're always happy to work with authorities to share best practice. We work very closely with the County Surveyors' Society, who are the technical leads in the authority, and we regularly describe new techniques, new technologies that some authorities are using, and share those experiences to try and bring everyone up to the best. 

But the other point I wanted to make is that this does vary between rural and urban areas as well. Bus lanes may be effective in urban settings; they may not be as effective in large parts of the rural areas. And similarly, the active travel provision, the needs and the way you tackle it will have to be adapted to the local circumstances. Long stretches of active travel provision in rural areas will require substantial maintenance, because not only is there the maintenance of the actual surface, but there will be safety issues, there will be lighting issues. If you want to encourage young children to walk to school on a country route, then there will be lots of safety issues that will need to be considered as well. 

There we are. Okay, we've covered the areas that we were hoping to pursue, I think, today unless there are any other burning issues that Members wish to raise. No. Okay, thank you. We'll draw that to a conclusion then. So, can I thank Tim, Chris and Roger for the evidence both in written form and that you presented to us orally today? This is our final session relating to our work on this particular area, and we'll now retire to chew the cud and deliberate what we've heard and what we've read. And clearly, that will then lead to a report and recommendations to Government. So, can I thank the three of you for your participation this morning? We will continue our meeting whilst you leave us, so thank you for being with us. You will be, by the way, sent a draft transcript to check for accuracy, as is always the case. So, with that, diolch yn fawr iawn i chi. Diolch yn fawr.

3. Papurau i'w nodi
3. Papers to note

Okay, so we'll move on then to our third item, which is to note a number of papers. You will see them in your pack, 3.1 through to 3.6. Are Members happy to note them collectively, unless anyone wants to raise anything in particular? No. There we are. 

Ocê, diolch yn fawr am hynny.

Okay, thank you for that. 

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod heddiw.
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) and (ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of today's meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).

Motion:

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.

Motion moved.

Felly, eitem 4 yw i ni symud i sesiwn breifat, so dwi'n cynnig yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix) fod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu cynnal gweddill y cyfarfod yn breifat, os yw Aelodau yn fodlon â hynny. Pawb yn fodlon? Hapus? Ie. Diolch yn fawr. Fe wnawn ni symud i sesiwn breifat felly, ac oedi am eiliad tan i'r darllediad ddod i ben. 

So, item 4 is to move to private session, so I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix) that the committee resolves to hold the rest of the meeting in private, if Members are happy with that. Is everyone happy? Yes. Thank you very much. So, we'll move into private session therefore, and we'll take a short break until the broadcast comes to an end. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:58.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:58.