Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith

Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee

22/11/2023

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

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

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Geoff Ogden Trafnidiaeth Cymru
Transport for Wales
Heather Clash Trafnidiaeth Cymru
Transport for Wales
James Price Trafnidiaeth Cymru
Transport for Wales
Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde Trafnidiaeth Cymru
Transport for Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Andrew Minnis Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Elfyn Henderson Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Francesca Howorth Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Katie Wyatt Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Lukas Evans Santos Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy 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. Cyflwyniadau, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon, a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest

Bore da i bawb, a chroeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith. Croeso i'r Aelodau i'r cyfarfod. Mae hwn yn cael ei gynnal, wrth gwrs, mewn fformat hybrid, ac, ar wahân i addasiadau sy'n ymwneud â chynnal y trafodion ar ffurf hybrid, mae holl ofynion eraill o ran y Rheolau Sefydlog yn parhau. Mae eitemau cyhoeddus y cyfarfod, wrth gwrs, yn cael eu darlledu'n fyw ar Senedd.tv, ac mi fydd Cofnod y Trafodion hefyd yn cael ei gyhoeddi yn ôl yr arfer. Mae e'n gyfarfod dwyieithog.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee. Welcome, Members, to this committee meeting. This meeting is being held in a hybrid format, and aside from the adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, all of the other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of this meeting, of course, are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. It is a bilingual meeting. 

All in order? Is it working? Yes. 

Ie, dyna fe, grêt. Mae'r offer cyfieithu ar y pryd ar gael o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. Felly, ar y cychwyn, a gaf i ofyn a oes gan unrhyw un fuddiannau i'w datgan? Na, dim buddiannau. Mi ddylwn i nodi hefyd, gyda llaw, ein bod ni wedi derbyn ymddiheuriad gan Janet Finch-Saunders y bore yma. Felly, fydd hi ddim gyda ni. 

Excellent. Interpretation equipment is available for simultaneous translation from Welsh to English. Do Members have any declarations of interest to make? No, I see that there are none. I should also note that we have received an apology from Janet Finch-Saunders this morning. So, she won't be joining us for today's session. 

2. Craffu blynyddol ar Drafnidiaeth Cymru
2. Annual scrutiny of Transport for Wales

Iawn. Mi awn ni at yr ail eitem, felly, sef ein sesiwn craffu blynyddol ni ar waith Trafnidiaeth Cymru. Mae hwn yn rhywbeth y gwnaethon ni ddiwethaf, dwi'n meddwl, ym mis Mawrth y llynedd, felly mae'n amserol eich bod chi gyda ni unwaith eto ar gyfer y sesiwn yma, i gasglu tystiolaeth, yn bennaf, ar gyfer yr ymchwiliad i reilffyrdd y byddwn ni'n ei gychwyn—wel, rŷn ni wedi dechrau ymwneud ag e, a dweud y gwir—a hefyd i baratoi ar gyfer gwaith craffu cyffredinol y Dirprwy Weinidog Newid Hinsawdd, a fydd yn digwydd ymhen ychydig wythnosau.

Felly, croeso cynnes i'r tystion sydd gyda ni y bore yma. James Price, prif weithredwr Trafnidiaeth Cymru, croeso. A gydag e, mae Geoff Ogden, sydd yn brif swyddog cynllunio a datblygu trafnidiaeth; Jan Chaudhry-Van der Velde, sydd yn brif swyddog gweithrediadau; a Heather Clash, sydd yn brif swyddog cyllid, llywodraethau a gwasanaethau corfforaethol. Croeso cynnes. Fel roeddwn i'n esbonio, mae gyda ni ddwy awr ar gyfer y sesiwn yma, ac mi fyddwn ni'n cymryd toriad rywle yn ystod y cyfnod yna.

Awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau, os ydy hynny'n dderbyniol. Ac a gaf i ofyn, yn y lle cyntaf, i chi sôn ychydig, efallai, am y cynnydd sydd wedi cael ei wneud o ran symleiddio a phrif ffrydio proses Trafnidiaeth Cymru ar gyfer gosod cyllidebau, ac hefyd, ar gyfer cynllunio busnes? Ac, yn benodol, efallai—rhywbeth sy'n bwysig i ni fel pwyllgor, wrth gwrs—a fydd cyllideb lawn Trafnidiaeth Cymru ar gael, ochr yn ochr â chyllideb ddrafft Llywodraeth Cymru, fel bod, wrth gwrs, modd i ni graffu ar honno'n fwy effeithiol ym mis Ionawr?

We'll move on to the second item, which is our annual scrutiny of Transport for Wales. This is something that we did last in March of last year, so it's timely that you are with us here once again for this scrutiny session, to gather evidence, primarily, for our rail inquiry that we will be commencing—or, rather, we have commenced, truth to be told—and also to prepare for our general transport scrutiny with the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, in a session to be held in a few weeks' time.

So, a very warm welcome to the witnesses joining us this morning. We have James Price, chief executive, Transport for Wales, welcome. And joining him, we have Geoff Ogden, who is chief transport planning and development officer; Jan Chaudhry-Van der Velde, who is chief operations officer; and Heather Clash, who is chief finance, governance and corporate services officer. A very warm welcome to all of you. As I explained, we have around two hours for today's session, and we will be taking a break at some point during that time. 

We'll go straight to questions, if that's okay. May I ask, in the first instance, for you to outline the progress that has been made in terms of simplifying and streamlining TfW's budget-setting and business planning process, and, specifically, perhaps—something that is important to us as a committee—whether the full TfW budget will be available with the Government's draft budget, so that we can scrutinise that more effectively in January?

Okay. So, can I thank you for the opportunity to come here this morning, to start with? Being scrutinised is an important part of the public process, and making good use of public funds, and it's important for us, even if it's sometimes quite painful for us as well. So, thank you for the opportunity. 

In terms of how I'll handle questions, if that's okay, I will try and answer all of them myself, because that's probably what you want to hear, but, recognising that you may want to go into some detail on some topic areas, I've brought other members of the wider team, who, I guess, will introduce themselves as we go through, and you already have done. 

In terms of the first question around budgets and our budget process, and leading up to your headline question of will that information be available alongside the Welsh Government budget in January, the Transport for Wales budget, as we've talked about in committee before, is somewhat unusual in the way that it is formulated, in that there is no single line for Transport for Wales. We all know that. There are lines that are made up of different Welsh Government activities—active travel, individual capital schemes, individual rail schemes—and they will all have been subject to individual sign-off by Ministers, and they will all be owned by different officials, nearly all of which are typically in one directorate of Welsh Government, which is the transport directorate.

We have been trying to improve the way that we both plan for our budgets and we work with the Welsh Government. Included in that has been a whole series of what we've called 'deep-dives' with the Welsh Government to make sure that we are planning with the best set of figures, not just for the next financial year, but for financial years into the future. And, in terms of our business plan, the intention is absolutely that we should be landing with the Welsh Government a business plan that is capable of being a final business plan by the end of this calendar year, and if not then, the very, very beginning of the next calendar year. So, in theory, it should be possible for our budgets to be alongside the Welsh Government budget, as you have asked. It's not for me to state whether that will be the case, and obviously there is a whole host of reasons why that might be quite difficult for the Welsh Government, because it depends how the Welsh Government budget-setting process itself goes, which in turn relates in some ways to what happens at a UK Government level with consequentials. We still are in a position, certainly for the rail business, where there are a number of uncertainties about how the UK Government is funding rail in the aftermath of COVID, and that will in some ways flow through to the Welsh Government budget, which may flow through to ours. So, what I'm saying is, in theory, yes to everything that you've said; in reality, there may be some very good reasons why it's very difficult for the Welsh Government to do that. But, I can't answer that process because I don't see that side of things.

09:35

But, in terms of process, are you now much more satisfied that things are more—

I believe so, yes.

—streamlined, more effective, because clearly what you've articulated to us in the past about the number of touch points that you had with Government in your negotiations, it seemed to us to be quite ridiculous?

So, that has been brought together much more effectively. We still do have that larger number of touch points, but what the Welsh Government has done at official level at its end is to, I think very effectively, actually, bring those conversations together. Heather may want to add some flavour on that. 

Yes, if I can. Thank you. So, working with the Welsh Government and looking at the previous years, we've been able to bring forward our first draft budget for submission at the end of July, and that has taken place. And, as James mentioned, we've carried out a number of what we would call 'challenge sessions', looking at every aspect of the cost base in particular.

Both—with Government jointly, as well as, obviously, internally, as you would naturally expect. But, joint—we call them 'deep-dives', whatever the phrase is. 

Yes, Ministers are suffering from the bends, I think, there are so many deep-dives going on. [Laughter.]

Indeed, yes. And we will be submitting a second draft in December, and that's the information that James talked about, which will inform the Welsh Government. What is then taken from that information and discussed to look at the various forms of funding, that's the element that is probably less certain.

I think, if it's okay, I would add that I still believe it would be desirable to think about having a smaller number of budgets that are for TfW, because the large number of funding streams still makes it very complex to package things together. And, obviously, I would say I'm looking for the most administratively simple way of doing that, because it allows us to focus more on delivery, rather than the wiring at the back. I think, if you were to talk to Welsh Government officials, they would agree with that sentiment. 

It's striking that balance, isn't it, between accountability and experience.

Oh, absolutely, and anything that I'm arguing for would not be about taking accountability away, because—

No, I wasn't suggesting that. No, but it's always a tussle, isn't it, to find that.

I totally agree. 

Okay. Clearly, there are financial pressures. I don't know if you want to tell us anything about this current financial year or the outlook for next year, or is that too early for you to—

No, I'm happy to do so. So, for this financial year, the pressures have been largely covered in the media, and the pressures that we are facing are right across the business, as you would expect, but they have been predominantly driven by pressures that are very difficult to control in the rail business. I think an important piece of information that I would like to put on the record, and I'm happy to be challenged on it, is that our cost base in running the rail business, which is what Jan does on a day-to-day basis, is actually slightly lower than the KeolisAmey forecast cost base. The reason I'm bringing that out is because it would be very easy and I would almost expect people to believe that the public sector, as a result of the way it tends to do things and of the policies it will have, would be more expensive than the private sector. That is demonstrably not the case, and I think the team who delivered that should be proud of themselves for doing that, and we will continue to strive to achieve that relatively low cost base while still achieving a lot of the quality ways of doing things that the public sector expects. The gap has come from a lack of revenue growth, not lack of revenue. So, I was quite keen to point this out in a lot of the media interviews that I did—that we've actually seen quite strong revenue growth this year. Our numbers are above what they were pre COVID. What we have lost is three years of expected high growth, and that equates roughly to the £100 million figure that we are short of, and, obviously, if you roll that forward, whilst we will recover, I don't imagine that we will recover overnight.

09:40

Can I just ask whether there are any clear differences you're picking up between what's happening with passenger numbers in Wales and what's happening over the border, or in Scotland or wherever? Is there something significantly different in Wales that's happening in terms of recovery of passenger numbers?

So, there was something significantly different; right now, probably not. I'll explain those comments. So, when I said there was, our demand bounced back quicker than it did in England. England has subsequently caught up, whilst, for the largest part of the financial year we're currently in, we have plateaued, really, in terms of growth. We saw significant growth the year before and we have seen some growth in the first three quarters of this year, but it was beginning to feel like it was plateauing, whilst England and Scotland, if you like, were beginning to catch up—in fact, have caught up.

It's too early to put too much weight on what I'm about to say, however, in the last period and a half, the railway—there will be good reasons, but it's very frustrating—works in different time zones than everyone else, so we have four-week periods. So, in the last six weeks, growth would seem to have taken off again. It's not anecdotal because we have figures to demonstrate this. Our revenue is quite significantly up on the period before. So, that's all good. It does bring with it a whole series of other challenges, of course. So, I use our network every day, if I'm honest. Most days, I will be on the core Valleys lines; I won't be on the Wales and cross-border network, albeit I do use that frequently as well. The last two days on CVL, we've left people behind at Llandaff, coming down from the Valleys—not very many people, but we've left them behind—which is reminiscent of pre-COVID times.

So, demand is there, which is good, because we're about to be putting on significant extra capacity on the metro. Is that a reason, given the reasonably wide answer?

Yes, sure. I know we're going to drill down into some of these issues around growth and other things in a moment. Can I just come back to the corporate—

Yes, of course.

—stuff and the corporate performance, because your paper says that the corporate performance scorecard isn't publicly available at present whilst you work to benchmark those key performance indicators? Given that that broadly reflects what you told us 18 months ago, actually, I'm just wondering, really, what's preventing publication of corporate performance data now?

So, I'm personally a little bit embarrassed by that, if I'm honest, because I do specifically remember—I don't remember whether it was in this room, but it may well have been—making the point that we were very close to being able to publish our corporate KPIs.

Just to give you a bit of a flavour, corporate KPIs, as opposed to rail KPIs, were, at that point, going to look at our performance as a business. So, we were going to be looking at things like how efficient we were in the use of our finance systems, how efficient we were in the use of our buildings, how efficient we were at administration—that type of thing. And the reason for that particular focus was (a) it's a reasonable thing to be interested in, I think, and (b) at the time, the Welsh Government civil service was very interested in seeing if TfW could pilot an approach for all public sector bodies to do that.

We actually got quite a long way with that, and we were very close to being able to publish something. The civil service interest waned in that activity, for some reasonable reasons, I think, the main one being that there weren't any benchmarks to compare our performance to. So, the question was is there any point in us spending a lot of time putting together a set of figures that they can't be compared to.

I would still say those things are really important, and probably the whole of the public sector should have them, so people can scrutinise the general management effectiveness of the public sector. But as a result of that, the focus was changed, and the focus was moved onto multimodal delivery KPIs. What do I mean by that? You see the KPIs we have on rail. With the growing remit, the view was it was more important to have similar KPIs for all modes of activity that we were delivering, and, indeed, wherever possible, to try and have the same KPI that went across different modes.

It was also at that point that it was said that this was for the board of TfW to take forward rather than to be driven by requirements from the civil service. And I'm not pointing fingers when I'm describing this—I'm just trying to describe what happened. So, the board have done that. We have created a set of KPIs that are now being used for internal scrutiny. They are also being used in scrutiny sessions with the civil service on our performance, and we intend to publish the first set of that data for the final quarter of this year. There will be some gaps in it, because we're still getting data sets and we're still checking the statistical validity of some of them. And because it will be the first quarter that they're being used, you won't have trends to look at, but as we go forward you absolutely will.

09:45

Because I was going to ask, what baseline are you using, then? Or is it just a case of getting started?

For most of them, it's a case of getting started, and that will be the baseline. And they will be reasonable things to challenge us against. So—

Could you give us examples, and maybe an outline of how you are performing against some of those?

Yes, absolutely, and I'll probably bring in Heather to provide some extra flavour on this in a second. We have metrics for things that most people might think are uninteresting but are really important. So, safety is a very important one for us across everything we do. Another one that we have actually consistently used, so we could see whether we could provide any back data on this—it's one we use internally a lot—is performance against business plan milestones. So, we break our business plan down into a series of deliverables, which have milestones within them, if that makes sense. And we always measure our performance against that. Heather's probably almost got the figures off the top of her head on that one, so she can come in in a minute. On bus, we will be measuring things like customer satisfaction and the level of on-time-ness. On all modes, we're measuring the number of people who are using the service, and we're trying to measure carbon efficiency as well. There are a whole host of other ones. The intention is that they are key, and they do not go across tens of pages, but there are quite a few, given the remit that we have. Heather, do you want to add anything?

Taking the example that James talked about regarding the milestones for the business plan, I'll give some statistics. We have 370 milestones within the business plan for this financial year, of which, as of the end of quarter 2, we had delivered 92. That's okay, because a lot of them are backended, so they're work in progress to be delivered within the year. Three of them have been pushed into next financial year and six have been cancelled or amalgamated into others, with the agreement of the Welsh Government. We review those and report them on a quarterly basis, shared with the Welsh Government, and we have a performance board, which is a joint performance board that's been created by the Welsh Government, that we review on each quarter. We've now carried out two of those performance board reviews, with actions that come out of that, and we'll obviously continue that for Q3 and Q4. And for Q4, as James said, we'll be reporting and publishing the Q4 data that will then enable that trended information to go into the new financial year, which we'll, naturally, then, on a quarterly basis, publish.

09:50

You've been very successful in preventing any industrial stoppages on the rail service in Wales, and that's been notable compared with other players in the rail service. I just wondered how successful you are in managing sickness absence, because that clearly impacts on your ability to deliver timely services.

I'll bring Jan in on the detail of this, but it is obviously something that we're very keen to manage. And it's not a case of monitoring; it is a case of managing, isn't it? Typically—in my experience, anyway—sickness looks after itself in a society that has healthy, functioning people in it. All you need to do is be a business that is fair, where people want to come to work and don't want to take the mickey. That's the first point. And I think, largely, we achieve that. And then, obviously, you then need a system and a set of processes and a support network for people who are genuinely sick, either in the medium term or in the long term. Because it's those numbers of people that can catch you out, or you can end up with a large number of people on your books who basically can't do anything, particularly in an operational business. And it's also important that we manage—I know I've said it once, but I'll say it gain—those things fairly, and we don't turn into a business where we're unfairly cracking the whip on people. But Jan, do you want to talk about that in the context of rail, particularly for operational staff?

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 09:52:32

I'll focus in on the front-line grades—conductors, drivers, technicians, shunters, those sorts of people that affect service delivery. Before COVID started, the average was around about 4 per cent. During COVID, of course, it went completely through the roof, as it did in many industries. Post COVID, it has settled down again but at a slightly higher level. Our target this year, for instance, is 5 per cent for those front-line grades. There are some four-week periods where that is met and there are some where it is not met. So, we have a really big focus on welfare procedures. Because the list of drivers, conductors and other staff who are not at work includes those who are involved in traumatic events—so that's suicides, near misses at level crossings and so on. So, we put a lot of effort into making sure that we're supporting those staff who have experienced those events and get them back to work as quickly as possible, because we think that's best for them and for their families as well. And for those who have been sick for many months, we have quite a mature process involving our doctors and our occupational health service staff, to see whether we can accommodate them in another role or whether it's time to leave the business. So, there's some focus on that as well. We do compare ourselves with other train companies, because there is some benchmark that goes on nationally, and we are around about mid table—slightly better than mid table—in terms of current rates of sickness across those grade groups.

Is there a reason why the sickness rate across the industry seems to be so much poorer than pre COVID?

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 09:54:17

It's slightly poorer. There are many theories as to why that is. I don't think there are a lot of cases of long COVID that are hanging over into this post-COVID period—at least that's not what our figures are showing us. Our objective now is to use all the mechanisms that we have in place to create a good place to work, a good environment without industrial relations problems, and that in itself, I think, will help get sickness back towards the 4 per cent that we want to see again.

Good morning. I want to talk about growth and development; I'm sure you want to talk about growth and development too. Over the last 12 months, could you give details of any key additional responsibilities and how you've managed to both fund and absorb them?

09:55

Over the last 12 months, whilst the number of team members we have has grown quite significantly, the majority of that has been linked to rail, and linked to the step up in timetables, which is about to happen in December this year and then into next year, and linked to the delivery of the south Wales metro. Of the 500-ish additional staff that we've seen over the last 12 months, around 430 to 450 of those will have been either operational, which is by far the majority, or some infrastructure planning roles to support that rail business. The other areas will have been around PTI Cymru, which was a transfer of staff from PTI Cymru into the TfW business, and then a small number—and I think we only needed a small number, to be clear—on beginning to prepare for bus franchising and delivering the TrawsCymru services.

The reason why we haven't seen a massive increase in numbers as our remit has grown on, if you like, the TfW corporate and planning side, as we've moved further and further outside of rail and into other modes, is because, recognising and having been told that we were going to be asked to do different things, we set ourselves up as a business about 18 months ago to be able to take more activity without simply having every activity requiring another job. We've described that in slightly grandiose language as, initially, our target operating model, and then our current operating model. And that was simply about saying that we are one of the only parts of the UK where the transport authority is also the rail operator. That allows us to do things that other people can't. So, for example, when we need to do network planning, or when we need to do timetable planning, we have an existing network planning team, we have an existing timetable team. You can carry on—we have an existing engineering team, we have an existing driver training team, et cetera, et cetera.

What we are doing and have been doing, wherever possible, is to create teams that are delivering across all modes. That has allowed greater efficiency and economies of scale. I think there's still something to go at, but it won't go on forever, and that has meant that we've been able to take on more activities without necessarily having to consistently have more people. And I think it's right that we challenge ourselves in that way, because every other part of the public sector is being challenged in that way. The board, however, is very focused, as am I, and as is the executive team, on ensuring that Transport for Wales is a professional organisation, has the right people with the right skills sets, and the right number of people to do the job. And the board would push back strongly on the Welsh Government if we were asked to do something that we weren't funded for or we didn't believe we could recruit people with the right skill sets for.

So, in terms of your new operating model—I'm assuming that's basically what you're talking about—

Yes, absolutely.

That's giving you the agility, which you've just explained. You've given a few examples of that; what has been the impact of it?

It depends which way we want to look at it. I think the impact to date has been that we are challenging ourselves more, and, hopefully, beginning to make interventions that are genuinely joined up and multimodal in nature, rather than non-joined-up, which maybe a typical transport operator would be. An example of that would be on some of the TrawsCymru services—that's long-distance bus services—where we have integrated the timetable and integrated the ticketing, such that you can buy a rail ticket on the rail system and have an end-to-end journey with one ticket. So, that's a small example of the type of thing that we have been doing.

As we're planning future bus networks in collaboration with local authorities and corporate joint committees, we are trying to plan them in such a way that you won't have different modes, i.e. particularly rail and bus, competing with each other, using public funding to compete with each other along the same routes, but rather and instead, to work out what is the most appropriate route for a particular journey type, and then use the money that is saved to punch further into the local community to allow more people to use services. 

To a certain extent, we have done this in a top-down way. So, my senior team was refocused and slightly restructured, and then we have brought different parts of the business together under that team. For example, Heather now has one finance team, but in that finance team, she has people who work in Jan's part of the business, which is actually a separate legal entity, albeit we own it, and in the owning part of the business. Those teams are on a journey of working together. They're on a journey of having one set of accounts, one finance system, such that we can start to take advantage of being one organisation.  

10:00

Yes, you've tempted me, because your answer was very interesting with the examples that you used. So, let's say that there's a hypothetical valley somewhere that just happens to have a railway going up and down the spine of it, but it's poorly served in the northern part of that valley by buses, and increasingly poorly served. So, as you go forward with a new operating model, as you described with that example, the focus would be getting people better served by bus to those communities, and getting them to the nodal point of rail, as opposed to duplicating services with bus up and down the valley at the same time. 

That is a live example of something that we are looking at now, absolutely. Obviously, the power to do that properly and fully will only come with bus franchising. 

But, yes, that is a real live example of the type of thing that we would be trying to do. And we would go further, if I might as well—and time will tell whether this is a wise thing to do; we think it is—but we are going further than somewhere like Transport for London on this. So, not only do we want to plan in a joined-up way, we want to deliver services in a joined-up way with joined-up teams. So, the first real example of that will be the Cardiff bus interchange when that opens. It won't operate, actually, as a separate Cardiff bus interchange; it will operate and be staffed by the same management team and the same staff as Cardiff Central next door. So, people will walk between the two. You'll have the same manager, most of the teams will be interchangeably used, et cetera, et cetera.  

Other things that we would like to do—but I won't state we will definitely do them because they are sensitive to our trade union partners for very good reasons, but we are having a series of positive conversations with them about it—would include in more rural areas, again, certainly once we have bus franchising, rather than being reliant on a bus operator two hours away from a rural rail station, when we have a problem—which, in the future, we will still have problems whatever we do, because a train might hit something on the line—one of the options we're looking at is that some of our station staff could hold public service vehicle licences, and would be able to access a local bus that would be maintained and insured for us by one of our franchise provider systems. Now, those types of things are done elsewhere in the world. Those types of things aren't done in the UK currently. 

Interesting. You're growing the workforce, and that's welcome right across Wales, but what would be equally welcome is equality and diversity within that workforce, and particularly not having any gender pay gaps within that workforce. So, I'd like to hear your comments on addressing those two things.

10:05

Equality and fairness are things that are genuinely really important to Transport for Wales. They are things that the board is very focused on, and they’re things that are personally very important to me, and I know they’re important to the rest of the executive team. Now, me saying that doesn’t mean anything, but actually I think having a group of people who genuinely believe in it is important if you really want to make a difference. And actually, when you walk around the business, in most places you go, it feels like most people care about this now. So, it’s not that we are battling a group of people who don’t care, or battling a group of people who don’t think it is an issue.

In terms of what we are doing about it, we are doing lots and lots of things to try and focus on equality. We use various different outreach groups to work into different communities. We’re members of various different external groups to help challenge ourselves about what our performance looks like in terms of both recruiting different groups, including obviously women, into the workplace, but as importantly, what happens when people are in the team—do they have equal access to promotion opportunities, et cetera, et cetera? Included in that are things like ex-offenders, where we’ve got quite a successful programme of working with ex-offenders. Our graduate programme is doing really well at attracting a really good gender balance, and our gender pay gap, which I will have to write to you on, has improved this year.

I think it would be wrong of me to claim that there is not a historical cultural issue, particularly in the business that we are now in, and the business we’re likely to get in, with bus, where it may be even worse, actually. So, I think the figures are slightly better in terms of female involvement in the bus industry than the rail industry, historically, but the practices are far worse. So, you will hear bus drivers tell you that they—excuse the poor use of English—have to go for a wee in a hedge, and that type of thing is not acceptable for anybody, but it’s certainly not acceptable for a female, and obviously that type of thing puts people off significantly.

If I can probe further, I'm really pleased to hear you're committed to this, but larger organisations have—. There's been an awful lot of light shone, and rightly in my opinion, on some of the practices that have really seen some terrible situations for females in terms of sexual harassment in the workplace, and I'd be very interested to know about your workplace policies to ensure—. Because I launched just a few months ago a piece of work done with Welsh Women's Aid and the Wales Trades Union Congress, which is a model of best practice, and I'm sure you would have heard about it. But this is real time for people, and I'd be very interested to know how you're taking that—no pun intended—on board, and operating within those parameters. Because that in itself is a statement of intent, which would then in turn probably assist you as an organisation to attract a wider diverse workforce. 

Agreed. So, Heather, I'm going to bring you in in a minute, so just—

I've also got Huw and Jenny who wanted to come in as well, so—

Oh, I see. Did you want to make your point first, then, Jenny, and we can address them together?

Yes, I'm very pleased to see you're focusing on the number of female train drivers, because obviously, when you're talking to children, they think about people who drive trains or drive buses, and I wonder if you could speak not just about the success of that initiative that you're working with ASLEF on, but also how you increase ethnic minority representation in places like Cardiff, where we have a significant ethnic minority community.

10:10

Okay. So, I'll bring you in as well, Jan, if that's okay, on the driver training front. The only comment I wanted to add to what I've already said, before I hand over to Heather, was that I do not want anyone to sit here this morning and believe that I'm saying that I think we've got this all sorted, because I don't. Nor do I want anyone to think that I am 100 per cent convinced that we don't have some bad apples in the business, potentially doing things that they didn't ought to be doing, because I don't, and I'm actually very worried about that. There is no evidence that anyone can find of that for me, and believe me, I'm asking all the time. So, the horrific stuff that you've read about what it has been like to be an employee in—name the business, frankly: the Confederation of British Industry, the police, the fire service, it doesn't really matter; it matters hugely, but you can just reel off this huge list of companies. I imagine they all thought they were doing the right thing. I don't imagine that many of them got out of bed thinking, 'Let's make this a nasty place to work.' So, I'm worried that we're missing something, particularly in a business where we have lots and lots of opportunities for, I guess, small groups of people to be alone together, and those are the types of places where some of this bad behaviour could happen, and we are therefore very focused on that. I just wanted to add that we're not complacent—that was my point. Heather, do you want to—?

There's a series of activities that are taking place and, if it's okay, I can also add and provide the gender pay gap information as well.

I have a list here, so, apologies, I'm going to refer to it. We've created an equality, diversity and inclusion forum, which obviously supports both internal and external activities. We've also linked that with the accessibility and inclusion panel. And, of course, working with Welsh Government, we've also created or are supporting the women in transport Wales hub, and that hub particularly is helping to support the training and development for women from a professional perspective. In addition to that, we're developing an anti-racism action plan with Race Council Cymru, and the board and the executive are actually having some further training in December, and you've signed that plan in the past as well, and will continue to support.

In terms of the gender pay gap, there has been some progress that has been reported in the annual report, and it is split between the two entities. So, rail is now at 19.2 per cent, which has improved from the previous year from 21.2 per cent. And non-rail—because we are reporting them separately within our annual report—is now at 14 per cent and has reduced from 33.2 per cent from the previous year. We've stil got more to do, which is what James was talking about, but it is going in the right direction in terms of the gender pay gap. And there are a number of other initiatives that I haven't listed.

Maybe we can ask you to send us a note, because we have a number of areas that we wish to cover, and we're not a quarter of the way through yet and we're nearing halfway through our allocated time, I'm afraid. Huw, did you want to briefly come in on something and then we'll—?

Okay. We'll come to Delyth, then, if you want to make a brief point on this.

It's very brief, and possibly, if you could write to us with the answer to this. The point that you were making, James, about how, with front-line staff, there might be small groups of people together in an isolated way. Could you write to us, please, with information about what support and training is available to women who are in those situations, about the aggravation that they could get from passengers, particularly late at night?

And the wider points that you could have elaborated on, as well, would be useful. Okay. Thank you. Diolch, Delyth.

Yes. Thank you very much. To turn to another area, to talk about the new trains, I get the train down, normally from Abercynon, but sometimes I have to go to Ystrad Mynach and I'm always excited if I do have to go to Ystrad Mynach, because the new trains are beautiful and they're an absolute pleasure to be on. Normally, I'd be on the older trains. The Deputy Minister has said that there's a target of 95 per cent of journeys being on new trains by the end of 2024. Do you think that that's realistic, please?

Right. So, I'll take that one. Whilst I didn't see the briefing that he would have had, the Deputy Minister's comments, I am certain, will have come from officials, and they would have got that from us. That's not my answer, you'll be pleased to know, but it is important to recognise that that number would have come from us. I have double-checked the plausibility of that number, actually as soon as I saw it being quoted, because it felt, potentially, a little bit ambitious, given the length of time that COVID went on for and some of the difficulties we've had in having new trains delivered. However, actually, that number is still reasonably plausible and still achievable, so I think the number's actually fine. People might want to challenge me on that, but there's a whole host of reasons why that number is achievable, even if all of the Valleys new services aren't delivered by that time, because what we're talking about is the proportion of journeys or the proportion of people who are using new trains.

The trains that will not be on the Valleys lines services will be the trains that were going to be added in on the additional intermediate services, i.e. if you think, through Ponty, it's once every 10 minutes, at the minute, it would move that to once every five minutes. So, proportionately, yes, that's achievable—it's tight, it requires CAF to continue to deliver at the beat rate they are currently delivering at, which is slower than we would like them to, but is that about one every 11 to 12 days we're getting a new train off of them, but it's doable.

10:15

Thank you for that. Last week we received evidence from Railfuture, and they said that they didn't think that it was a reasonable target, or they didn't think that it was realistic because of the delays to electrifying the core Valleys lines, but it's gratifying to hear that you think that probably wouldn't be—

So, I can explain that.

I can absolutely explain that, and I read their evidence and I can understand why they said what they said. To a certain extent, this is all semantics, but the 95 per cent reference is either to the number of trains in the operational fleet, the number of services we are running, or the number of people who were using those services, and it's been used a little bit interchangeably for all of those three. I don't think the general public would see much difference between whichever of those measures you used. I think the Railfuture comment was referencing that we will not be able to run electric traction vehicles up the Rhymney line in line with the pre-COVID timetable, therefore there are some of the Valleys services that will not be running new trains. The point I'm making is that that sum was additional frequency. Until you put the additional frequency in, by definition, it's not in your baseline, therefore it can't be in your 95 per cent.

But as a matter of fact, and an important fact linked to that, though, by next summer—this is an aspirational target, we've not committed to it, because, to the extent I can, I'm trying to move away from big targets that we then fail. By next summer, we should have electric metro trains running on all Treherbert, Aberdare and Merthyr services. Now, that is why I'm making the point why I believe we'll deliver the 95 per cent point.

You just make me smile, involuntarily, hearing that. But just very briefly, if I can, Cadeirydd, that target, from what you're saying—I know that you're saying the target came originally from you, but, presumably, this wasn't something that you would have liked to have been published in that way.

It was a bid target from KeolisAmey.

Can I ask if that was unhelpful that that was put out in that way? Did it put you in a difficult situation?

We could debate—well, not debate, 'debate' is the wrong word. It's an interesting question whether the bid process for the franchise, and, arguably, all franchises, in the past, created an unhealthy set of expectations, particularly when you look what at most franchises then go on to achieve, which is about 70 per cent of what they said they were going to, particularly when we are trying to create a high level of trust with the public who use us. My preference would be, speaking personally, to be boring, really boringly reliable and 100 per cent trustworthy, rather than in a shiny suit offering people stuff and then explaining away why they don't get some of it. The good news, though, is that because we have tried I think really hard, and because I think we've got some really good people in the team who are going above and beyond, we will hit nearly all of the targets in that KeolisAmey bid. We're going to hit them between two and three years later than was predicted.

10:20

Thank you. I wonder if you could just tell us a bit more about the implications of your timetable review, which is December 2023. You've already spoken about the need to stop competition between bus and rail on the same route, but I wonder if you could just tell us a bit more about what it means for the passenger and how does it fit in with the 'Llwybr Newydd' strategy of the Welsh Government.

I'll bring Jan in in a little bit on this one, just as an intro. So, the comments that I made, I intended to make, but at the time I was surprised how much media traction they got, because I thought it was entirely reasonable that we ought to be looking at the services that we were running in the light of very different travel patterns that had emerged post pandemic, and, indeed, I am sure that at some point today, we will talk about one of the biggest issues we currently have, which is excess demand over what we can currently sensibly cope with on north Wales and Manchester services. So, in essence, we have a limited amount of rolling stock, we have a limited number of staff, and that would be, however much money the Welsh Government felt it wanted to invest in transport, limited by the infrastructure capabilities of the Network Rail track. So, what we set out to do was look if there were any, broadly speaking, either win-wins, or big wins, with some very minor losers on it. What we haven't particularly set out to do is to take significant services away from anyone, anyone of any number, who would have taken life choices around it. And people do, people take life choices around the railway—they decide where they're going to work, they decide where they're going to live, they decide where they're going to send their kids to school.

So, we've gone through that exercise, and we have come up with a potential bundle of changes that would allow us to move more people at the time when more people want to travel without impacting significantly on people. There are some minor negative impacts, as there would always be in any change, and those changes are currently working their way through the system, and the Welsh Government will soon be considering for which, if any of them, they will, if you like, sponsor us, but then going to have a consultation with the general public about it. Because we couldn't just implement them; we would have to go through a proper consultation process, and we would want to go through that consultation process.

Jan, can you give any further—without giving away any anything it would be inappropriate to—can you give any flavour of anything that is real in that?

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 10:24:05

Yes, there's not a lot to add, James. This is an exercise that we've done in the sort of post-COVID era to make sure that we are deploying our rolling stock resources and our train crew resources to match the sort of new patterns of demand that we've seen after COVID, rather than the patterns of demand that KeolisAmey used to construct their franchise bid right back in 2017. So, I think it's a sensible exercise.

We are at the moment coming towards the end of that exercise and engaging with Welsh Government officials, and the intention would be that any change in direction for services outside of the Valleys lines would take effect from the December 2024 timetable at the earliest. There is one exception to that, and that is on the Wrexham-Bidston line, where we've got some particular performance problems with the refurbished rolling stock that we're using on that line. And, of course, we have a commitment to increase the frequency from one train per hour to two trains per hour. So, on that line, we've worked very closely with the user association and other stakeholders from Growth Track 360, and we've come up with a different timetable proposition, which increases frequency to one train every 45 minutes, gives the new trains, the class 230 trains, on that line a better chance of keeping time, which has been a particular problem since we introduced them in April. And we have rushed that change through because of the urgency of it, so that we can implement that in about four weeks' time, at the December timetable change. So, that's an exception, the Wrexham-Bidston line, but all the other changes that are emerging from this process would be from December 2024 onwards. I have to say, the process has been done internally by our own timetabling team, because I wanted people that understood the market and had skin in the game to be in charge of this process, rather than paying expensive consultants to come and do it as an external exercise. 

10:25

Sorry. You mentioned keeping time; I'm failing miserably in that respect when it comes to managing this meeting. So, could I just ask Members for brief, sharp questions and likewise in terms of responses, otherwise we'll be woefully short in covering so many areas that we wish to cover? Okay. Thank you.

Related to this, when we talked to stakeholders last week, they said that they thought because you were new operators you hadn't realised that new trains will always have teething problems and that you thought the minute they came out of the factory, you'd be able to put them on the line. Could you just speak to that issue?

Can I just answer that very quickly, and Jan might want to jump in? So, I don't think that is because we are new operators, because we have picked up the KeolisAmey bid, in effect, and we are doing our best to run it. I think it's a well-known fact that new trains don't perform very well. It's a bit odd. If you get a new car, you would expect it to perform very well and then fall apart towards the end of its life. Typically, what happens is that trains get better and better until they get scrapped. 

It's really very odd. The Pacers were truly amazing at the end of their life in terms of reliability—not much else, but in terms of reliability. Jan's team, actually, have worked really hard again to try to make the KeolisAmey truth be true, and the CAF units that we have brought in, which are to all intents and purposes the same as the units that are on Northern Trains and—where else? West Midlands Trains, isn't it?

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 10:27:41

Yes.

They are performing two to three times better than those units as a result of proper preparation. 

Okay. Thank you for that. I think we probably haven't got time to go further into that. I want to pick up, though, the comments you made when you appeared before the Welsh Affairs Committee in July about whether or not you have confidence in Network Rail. Obviously, huge in this is how you manage the north Wales and Manchester services, because they're responsible for maintaining the lines and the signalling, and you're just getting all the grief for the services. Could you just speak about how you're going to resolve that, given the very limited budgets?

Yes. So, to be fair, the comments that I made were not intended to say that I didn't have confidence in Network Rail. The local Network Rail team is actually very focused and is working incredibly well with Jan at the minute. There's a whole lot more to go at, and I'm not happy with where we are, but the teams are working genuinely incredibly well together. I would say it's the best I've ever seen it, in terms of people's attitude and behaviour. And that's over 20 years. So, that's really good to see. 

My comments were around some infrastructure constraints that need to be dealt with in order for us to run some future timetables. And those are mainly linked to track speed improvements, to signalling changes and to making level crossings safer in order to allow more trains to run through them at greater speed. Now, the constructive work continues, but unless that work is funded, Network Rail won't be able to deliver those enhancements in time for us to uplift the timetables. What I was referencing is the risk that that doesn't happen. And, indeed, I think in a couple of instances, the risk that that doesn't happen has continued to rise. What we have done is to try to mitigate that by taking those risks into the timetabling exercise that Jan just described, such that the timetables that we could bring forward for 2024 will be deliverable. But all the time, we do have to bear in mind that the Welsh Government funds the services, the UK Government fund the infrastructure the services run on, and whilst, at operational level, the relationships are good, a mismatch exists in terms of getting the two funding streams to align, and that was what I was referencing.

10:30

I think that's obviously relevant when you're talking to the Welsh Affairs Committee, because Network Rail's budget, would you agree, is simply insufficient for the struggling infrastructure that we have in this country.

If I might, just 30 seconds: we are trying to encourage people out of the private car, the railway and indeed the bus industry's view in the UK of what a good service looks like is woefully inadequate, and whilst our ambitions are higher than the UK average, our ambitions, I believe, need to improve as well. So, what do I mean by that? The rail industry would typically say a service that runs 95 per cent of trains on time without cancellations is really good. I think I've probably said this in a committee before, but if you had a car that, five times out of 100, it didn't start, you'd say this is not a very good car, and we want our services to be better than that.

The biggest, most expensive constraint on that is infrastructure, and that's the difference between us and somewhere like Japan, or us and maybe the best lines in Germany. It's a misnomer to say all German lines are good, because they're not. But infrastructure funding is really important. For Network Rail in next control period, the funding is reducing. Our increased reliability of our new fleet will just about compensate for that reduction in reliability of the network, if that makes sense, so the passengers shouldn't see a reduction in quality of service, but if Network Rail's service didn't deteriorate, or in fact increased, the passenger would see a massively improved reliability curve. That was the point of our investment, and I would continue to argue for that.

Can you just explain how the £125 million extra funding that the Welsh Government has put into TfW, which, obviously, is taken away from other budgets—? How do you justify that, given that we obviously already provide lots of money for rail? 

I don't want to in any way downplay that question, because I think it's hugely important and it's a hugely important matter of public discourse. In the interest of time, though, some of that question I answered earlier. So, I'd reference what I said earlier around the fact that this was lost revenue as a result of lost growth during COVID. And so in terms of— 

So how are you going to increase commercial revenue?

We need to drive revenue growth, which is mainly going to come through ticket sales. We'll do lots of other stuff as well—so, car parking, retail opportunities, advertising, sponsorship, et cetera, et cetera—but the truth is that the vast majority of our income, even if we get very, very successful on that, will come from ticket sales, because that's our core business, that's what you would expect. What we need to do on that is deliver the plans that we have in front of us and then work very closely with the Welsh Government to drive the modal shift. Because another word for modal shift is market share, and the genuinely really positive thing that I think we could all look forward to—and this is very unusual in a public service—is that the more people that use our public services in public transport from now, probably for the next five years, (1) modal shift will happen, (2) climate change figures will get better, and (3) the subsidy cost to the taxpayer will go down. That's very unusual, isn't it? The more people that benefit from our service, the less it will cost us. So, we need to drive that usage. We need to get that additional capacity on that starts in the next calendar year in a big way in order to allow people to use it to drive that revenue up.

Thank you for that. We'll now pause and take a short five-minute break and we'll reconvene ready to start at 10:40. Diolch yn fawr. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:35 a 10:42. 

The meeting adjourned between 10:35 and 10:42.

10:40
3. Craffu blynyddol ar Drafnidiaeth Cymru
3. Annual scrutiny of Transport for Wales

Croeso’n ôl i'r pwyllgor. Dŷn ni'n parhau’n â’n craffu ar Trafnidiaeth Cymru, ac mi awn ni'n syth at Delyth Jewell.

Welcome back to the committee meeting. We are continuing with our scrutiny work of Transport for Wales, and we'll go straight to Delyth Jewell.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Could you please set out what steps you're taking to improve information that's available for passengers when there are delays, and also complaint handling? And I would praise your staff online who deal with this, because they sometimes have to deal with people being very rude, and they're always very polite back. So, I would praise them for that.

I'm very happy to talk about what we're doing in that space. Obviously, the first thing we want to do is to minimise the need for dealing with unexpected delays or cancellations. But whatever we do, and even if we had 100 per cent reliable infrastructure with a 100 per cent reliable fleet, our trains, unfortunately, would hit things on the line and, therefore, we will always end up with disruption.

Because of the nature of the tracks over most parts of the UK nowadays, particularly in Wales, we have large sections of single track running. Therefore, when things happen, they evolve quite quickly into significant disruption, because you're not just impacting the train that hits something, or that gets caught somewhere, or that breaks down, you're impacting everything that's behind it, and it takes hours, sometimes, to unwind that. So, having better information is really important.

It's also really stubbornly difficult to deal with. I think we went through a period where we found it particularly difficult to deal with, and that was when we were both dealing with infrastructure-linked disruption and had a shortage of rolling stock. The way that the railway, broadly speaking, works is it will have a plan, a very, very detailed plan, and if that plan can operate effectively, without interruption, the system works amazingly—everything's where it's meant to be, everyone knows where it is, and everything is fine. All information is perfect.

That then starts to fall apart if you have not enough rolling stock. Whilst it is falling apart, the people in the control room—controllers who have to try and piece back together 1,000 services a day in a new way—find that very difficult, whilst at the same time communicating to the general public through systems that are quite old-fashioned and quite difficult to get real-time information.

So, that's the backdrop, and that's where we've been. The two big things we have done—and then I will ask Jan just to give a bit more information, because Jan deals with this on a day-to-day basis—is firstly we have addressed the problem around lack of numbers of rolling stock, and I'm sure we'll talk about that later. Secondly, we have put our Twitter and comms teams into our control centres. That's a new thing for us. It took quite a lot of working through with the relevant teams, because the control centre is a controlled environment. It is a highly safety-critical environment. Therefore, putting 'people who just talk to the public' in there—I'm not personally downplaying that—is quite a radically different thing to do. But we have done that, and it is paying dividends.

The other thing we've been doing is to introduce a whole lot of new control staff and really encouraging, wherever possible, a customer-centric view of what you do in a situation where things are falling apart, so we want to focus on getting the customer where they need to be, rather than getting the train where it needs to be, but there are trade-offs, as Jan I'm sure will cover.

10:45
Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 10:46:26

I can add a tiny bit of flavour. Good real-time information on the railway is all about the quality of your control rooms. Since we last spoke to you, we've opened a brand-new control room at Taff's Well for the Valleys lines services. That's all part of our Valleys lines investment. What you've got there, for the first time in our network, is a situation where the signalling control people, the traffic control people for the network, the traffic control people for the trains, the electrical control people, because obviously we've got the overhead wires up there now, and the information and CCTV controllers all sit in one room, all within shouting distance of each other. That means we can make very, very quick decisions, and we can get information out through both staff channels and customer channels really, really quickly. That's going to be incredibly important in the Valleys going forward, because the frequency of trains is going to be such that thinking time is going to be shorter than it is today, when you need to recover a service after a disruption. What that's done is created a bit of space in our main control centre at Cardiff, which is a joint control centre with Network Rail, for the social media people to come into the control centre. That's having real dividends already in that, quite often, believe it or not, the first time a control centre will be aware of a problem is when a customer Tweets it and the social media team pick it up. So, it's actually upping our game in terms of what we do at Cardiff on the mainline services outside the Valleys.

Does the Taff's Well centre—? When you say it covers the Valleys lines, does that include the Maesteg line?

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 10:48:05

No, it doesn't.

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 10:48:09

I suppose at the moment the whole structure of it around signalling control and electrical control is based on the investment in the core Valleys lines. There is no reason why, in the more distant future, these areas of control couldn't be reconfigured.

I don't want to be parochial, Chair, but the same could apply to other single-track rail lines as well. We have a systematic problem on the Maesteg line with people being dumped at Tondu. I have it regularly. I had to carry out a meeting in a well-known fast food takeaway with my headphones on because it happened to me. For other people, it happens more regularly. So, that's great for the Valleys lines, and I see the importance. What about the other lines—not just the Maesteg line but the other lines where there are one-hour or two-hour frequency trains?

I will want to bring Jan in on this, but you make a very good point. The Valleys lines are important for a different reason. At one level, the Valleys lines are less important, because you've got a service—. Even at the worst point of the day, you'll have a service 20 minutes later, and at the best point, you'll have one five minutes later. But in the future, and this is important for people to understand, because of the frequency of those services and because of the constrained budget that led to the design of those services, if things go wrong and are not corrected very quickly from an engineering perspective, you will end up with 20 trains in the wrong place on the network. The network will literally fall apart, and we will have 100,000 people we can't move very quickly. It will be akin to the underground going down in London, which is why that control centre is really important, and why we react within 10 seconds of something going wrong, with our decision of what we're going to do. On the rest of the network, it's all about not creating the issues that you've just talked about and really having a focus—

10:50

How do you that and how do you avoid—? Sorry, I don't want to cut across, but I personally travel, and my constituents do, and there's no replacement services. So, you're dumped. And I had a situation here—. Sorry, but it's annoying, because it's been a perennial problem, and you have elderly people on a winter's evening, mums with toddlers being dumped on a platform. At least if they were dumped in Bridgend—and you can apply this to other parts of the network—then they have an alternative to get to a central node of transport. They could look for something else. But they're dumped in Tondu. Tondu's a lovely place, but it doesn't have any bus stops next to it. 

Jan, can you—?

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 10:51:07

Obviously, we need to make improvements to that entire group of services, which is formed of the Maesteg branch, the services that go to Cheltenham and Gloucester and the services that go to Ebbw Vale. There are investments in the network at Ebbw Vale, as Members will know, to increase the train service frequency there. The master plan is that, eventually, our brand new Stadler class 231 trains will work all three of those services on the Ebbw Vale branch, the Maesteg branch and the Cheltenham branch. A lot of the problems that we do experience on the Maesteg line are rolling stock related. We've got the older trains generally working the branch at the moment. So, as we bring the new trains in, that situation should improve. 

In terms of train crew, the drivers and conductors that work the Maesteg line all belong to our Cardiff main depot. That has got a full complement of staff now. There are a few minor pressures around the traction training that's going on for the new trains, which is taking some staff away. But, generally speaking, we're at full staffing level for that branch, and the problems will be rolling stock related or network related. But I can certainly review again, with our controllers, the service plans they put in place on that branch. 

On that point, and more generally across the network, could you talk us through, please, what criteria you follow when you decide which services to cancel, particularly if we're talking about situations that Huw has mentioned, where you'd be terminating short of a destination? And—sorry, I'm aware of time—could you talk us through the criteria, similarly, for rail replacement services? But, with both of those, so with both cancellations and the criteria for rail replacement, are they different during winter months, so that people who might be left more vulnerable aren't left in the dark, in places where it might be more difficult for them to get to other modes of transport?

I could answer that, but I think I'll give it straight to Jan, because he will probably give a more detailed answer. 

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 10:53:10

If you were to talk to one of our controllers, who's actually in the thick of it and making these decisions, their answer would be that they try and minimise delays and the impact of cancellations to as many customers as possible, both in the here and now and going forward, because, often, these delays can compound and get worse as the day progresses if you don't take steps to alter the service to get back to the timetable. 

Having said that, the controller will also tell you that they take into account the frequency of service, in exactly the way James mentioned—there are more frequent services on some lines than others—and they'll take into account other things that they have to take into account, like the fitness of the rolling stock, safety issues and so on. We do have replacement buses available from our myriad of contractors, and, given enough notice, we'll try and mobilise replacement buses, especially if customers are going to have to wait an hour or more for the next service. 

Thank you. And is it different during the winter months, because of it getting dark early and people being left, perhaps, in stations, like Huw had mentioned, where there aren't any other ways of people getting home?

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 10:54:19

Well, we will try and avoid that situation at all times of year. I don't think the plan is any different in the winter, to be honest with you. And I think if you were to talk to our controllers, I don't think they'd make that differentiation. But what they will try and do—Tondu is an example of where this doesn't happen—is make sure that, if we are forced to terminate a train, and we have to run a replacement bus or something like that instead of that train, that we do so at a station that's got staff. So, Bridgend would be a more natural choice, because there are ticket offices and platform staff at Bridgend. 

Thank you for that. I'm aware of time, so I won't go into that—

We'll take away that challenge, though—the winter/summer challenge. 

I'd be grateful. Thank you very much. Particularly because of areas where you might be able to map out where there isn't good street lighting and things like that. Thank you very much for that. 

Finally from me, on the delay repay scheme, could you talk through what effect that has, in terms of cancellations, on your budget, please? I think that your data has shown that you've paid, if these figures are correct, between October 2022 and September 2023, £1,848,488 in compensation. 

10:55

That sounds about right. Again, this is one that you could have debates around, I guess. Delay repay is something that Governments of the UK were very keen on, certainly when private sector contractors were running the service, because it was an attempt to try to penalise operators for poor performance. Typically, a proportion of those figures would come out of profits that otherwise would be taken out of the business. So, I guess that's the first point.

You could make a reasonably compelling argument—well, in fact, a completely compelling argument—that that incentive doesn't work with us. However, there's also something about being fair to the customer as well. The alternative view, which is not in conflict with the first one, is, obviously, if people aren't getting what they paid for, they ought to get a proportion of that back. Most of the UK is moving towards some form of manual or automated delay repay. We are at the more, I guess, generous end of that, and 15 minutes is the time that we have.

It's probably a policy conversation that we should take away and have with the Welsh Government about what the right balance is. Of course, as we run better services, that figure will go down anyway. And then maybe what we end up with is basically a passenger charter that includes that, and the fact that we have that drives more people to use the service, drives modal shift, drives down subsidy and, in the round, is the right thing to do. We should consider that again.

The reason it was raised last week in evidence—. You know, the question was asked, 'Why 15 minutes?' What's the science behind that? It feels a bit finger-in-the-air.

There's no science. It was felt to be something that would encourage people to use the service more and something that would keep a contractor on their toes better.

Thank you. I want to look at the three metros. First of all, we heard last week, from the stakeholders, that the north Wales and south Wales metros are largely just a concept, and I wonder if you'd just like to comment briefly on that.

I'll bring Geoff in to talk about some of the metro stuff—so you might want to comment on that in a second, Geoff—only because Geoff is more involved in it than I am. I'm not certain I would agree that it's simply a concept, depending upon your definition of what a concept is. What I would say—and I have always said this when asked this question—is that those schemes are five years behind the core Valleys lines in south-east Wales. There was a time when CVL was just a concept, which would've been about 10 years ago. There then was a time where we had a reasonably detailed plan, before we started to implement it, which was about five years ago, which is probably where we are on some of these other things. Then you go into the implementation piece. 

For me, the question—. I know I can't pose my own question, but the bigger challenge of your question is are those schemes going to get funded and where might that funding come from, and how do we make it a priority. Because we can develop all the schemes in the world, but if we can't get them funded, they won't happen. CVL wasn't funded at the beginning, so these things happen. But the political dialogue and the relative political importance that is given to these things, on an ongoing basis, is important as to how many of them happen and how quickly they happen. Geoff, do you want to say anything to the concept point?

I think 'concept' is doing a bit of a disservice—they are development programmes. I guess you've got to start somewhere, and we've started our thinking. In each of the regions now, we've got a vision of what we're seeking to achieve, which has been developed with the stakeholders—local authorities, the Department for Transport, Network Rail, other stakeholders too, Welsh Government. And we've got more buy-in than ever, I think, in terms of what the vision is in each of the regions. Alongside that, that has then allowed people to secure funding. So, we've seen levelling-up funding, we've seen union connectivity review funding, success out of that. I guess the other thing that takes it beyond concept in the here and now is that, whilst we're recognising we're developing, we're also testing things out in different regions too. For example, in Eryri, we've done the Sherpa service—the rationalisation of the bus service there—to great success, working with partners in a collaborative way. In west Wales, we've done the T1 service, linking in with the rail service—so, timetables, information in the same way, a better quality bus service, et cetera, et cetera. So, there are practical reasons why it's beyond concept, and I think there's a virtuous circle now, or a snowballing effect to that, actually, because we've got something we can grow out from it.

11:00

Thank you. I'll just to come back to the south Wales metro and the £306 million shortfall in what it's estimated to now cost. We can't do much about inflation, COVID and Brexit in this room—that's 70 per cent plus—so, just focusing on the 29 per cent that's down to the infrastructure constraints, I read that there are a lot of utilities requiring major diversions to get this spine of the south Wales metro operating. This is the key to the whole of the south Wales metro, these four lines, two of which need to be used for regional services. So, could you just explain what they are?

Yes, I can certainly talk to that. The infrastructure issues linked to non-rail infrastructure are all of the three main services, actually. They don't include broadband, if anyone's interested in that, and I guess that's because broadband has only gone in relatively recently, hence it can't be somewhere that's a surprise. So, on the Rhymney line, all of the information that was available from the planning sources at National Grid suggested that there was enough power in the Rhymney valley to power the depot. So, that's the first constraint: there isn't. So, we have had to run our own private supply to Rhymney, in essence from Cardiff, because there's not enough power in Rhymney, and National Grid I think was about 15 years away from being able to do that. We know that's a constraint more generally, but that's a real constraint that caught up with one of our projects—

Perhaps we can have correspondence on the detail of that.

Okay. On the other services, particularly water and gas, gas is the more difficult, but water also has an impact. And what was discovered in the construction of the scheme is that the main gas line and the main water line, from many, many years ago, run up under the track bed of quite a lot of the core Valleys lines. The owners didn't know that, it wasn't on the map. The historic reason for doing that would have been clear, for what it's worth, for someone who spent the first part of their career digging holes in the ground and laying pipes. If you're going to dig one hole, you might as well put everything in it, and if you own the railway, you might as well put it under that as to pay to put it somewhere else. So, this would have been when it was all, in effect, nationalised. So, it's not an unsensible set of things to do. Unfortunately, modern design standards and the way that all of those industries are now regulated means that, as soon as you come to make a change, they can't stay there. You'll be pleased to know that the public purse in Wales is not picking up the cost for moving those lines. Interestingly, that is a regulatory requirement on—. I've forgotten what they're called, but the people who own the gas pipe. There's a—

11:05

Okay. This is important, but I think we could cover this in—

So, we're not paying for that. What has happened, though, is that as a result of having to move, I think it's 25 miles of line into the middle of the road all over the Valleys, that has slowed down our project significantly. And because of the large number of people that we have working on that project, every day that the project is slowed down by costs an additional £1 million, broadly speaking. So, things like this are really, really unhelpful for the project, and that is the cost. We've not paid for the roadwork cost; that's picked up elsewhere in the system. It's simply delays to our scheme.

Okay. I just want to take us back to the spine of the south Wales metro, which is these four lines that run east from Cardiff.

Everything through Cardiff Queen Street, yes. 

So, given the restraints on Network Rail's budgets, this is what I ask them every time I meet them, along with Transport for Wales: is there any light at the end of this particular tunnel?

I think we might be talking at cross purposes. You're talking about the south Wales main line now, I think, aren't you, across to the east? 

But the south Wales main line—. Those four lines are the spine of the south Wales metro. 

Okay. So, two different things. So, thank you, Geoff. So, the spine of the south Wales metro is owned and operated by us. So, Network Rail funding is not relevant for that. The four lines on the main line—so, from Cardiff towards Bristol or Newport—obviously, that's Network Rail infrastructure, and the budget question from a UK Government perspective is highly relevant for that, yes.

Okay. But this is what people who represent Newport and Blaenau Gwent, and all that, they're desperate for these lines to enable people to commute into Cardiff or out to wherever, using rail services, so—

What I would say on that is we have made very good progress in terms of working out what services could be run, how to upgrade the infrastructure to allow that to happen, where you would put stations and how much they would cost. What hasn't happened yet is anyone seriously offering to put their hand in their pocket to pay for it. So, as always with these schemes, the funding to develop the scheme has been relatively easy to get, because that's a small amount of money. The difficult bit comes now, which is where do we get the funding from to build it, how do we get that political consensus, et cetera, et cetera. And that's the next stage of the conversation, really. I would say that that is for the UK Government to fund because it's UK Government infrastructure. 

Okay. And there's nothing likely to be announced in a couple of hours' time, so we're just waiting for the next Government. Is that right?

I guess that would be one version of events.

We're going to have to move on, I'm afraid, because time is against us. Can I ask about the impact of plans for a major event stabling line at Llanwern being cancelled, and what effect that has or how you're trying to improve planning for major events, one of which happened in Cardiff last night with the football? I was informed that there would be six train services from north Wales prior to the match, consisting of a minimum of three carriages. I saw on social media one packed train with only two carriages, so I don't know, but why do you always get it wrong on these major events?

Okay. That's a very fair question. Do we want to start with that last piece and then come—? 

In which case, I'll hand that straight to Jan because it only happened yesterday. Jan has got the detail; I don't.

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 11:09:07

Yes, we were short of carriages across the network yesterday. The root cause of this is actually a very temporary one, and that is we talked earlier about all our class 197 trains coming out of the factory at Newport and coming onto the line, but this week we've had a particular problem with the trains that have developed wheel problems. We're not quite sure why they have developed wheel problems. We think it could be to do with the low adhesion conditions that you get at this time of year. It could be to do with driver familiarity because, obviously, drivers are driving these trains in low adhesion conditions for the first time, even the ones that were trained some time ago, and the wheel slide protection system on the train and the sanding system on the train works in a very different way to the previous trains. 

Anyway, the result of all of this is that a number of trains have had to go into the depots for repair, and so we didn’t have as many carriages available to us on those north-south flows yesterday as we should have had, and we’re very sorry about that.

11:10

But it's tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, isn't it? You're always very sorry. Surely, if you know there's a major event, you plan some sort of contingency. I know events happen and things go wrong sometimes, but they seem to be going wrong all of the time when there's a major event, particularly the north-south connections.

If I can just come in here, not with a defence, but just to potentially open up a wider inquiry for you, one of my personal biggest frustrations is the way that we plan public transport, we are right on the edge of what’s deliverable all the time, and my biggest concern for the future—and the fact that it’s a concern is a good thing, because we’re starting to think about how we address it—is that the KeolisAmey bid was no different from any other part of the UK rail system, which has things right up against it. So, immediately something goes wrong, you don’t have enough rolling stock. Now, the truth of the matter is that I don’t know what the proportion is—and I’m not trying to be argumentative here, either—but a reasonably high proportion of events will go ahead without a problem. The other truth of the matter is that a reasonably high proportion of events will have a problem, and that’s not because they’re an event, that’s because we are up against it, as it were. Our availability ratios are arguably too high to achieve every day, and if we go back to the earlier comment I made, that we are trying to run a service that will compete with the private car, I think we need more resilience in the system than we currently have, and that is something we are looking at.

I think, to be fair to Jan, a lot of the issues we have had over the last two years will shake themselves out. So, this problem will be less extreme, but there would still be a case where you could have a very bad leaf-fall season, or Network Rail would have failed to take the right number of trees out, and we would hit six or seven trees over a week, and then for the next two weeks we wouldn’t have enough rolling stock. Now, my working assumption is that that is not the service that we want in the future. We don’t want a service where, say, three or four weeks of the year we’re running a sub-optimal service, and we’re doing that every year. But there is a very real cost in terms of having more availability of rolling stock to soak that up, or more availability to deal with major events. I genuinely think that’s a really important point of public debate and priority in how we use our funding. I’m not putting a value judgment on where we ought to be, but personally, I strongly believe we need more resilience and greater ability to do better on significant event days, and football particularly, we have not had enough focus on that. We focus heavily on rugby, we focus heavily on major cultural events, and our performance has improved significantly on both of those. We have not traditionally focused on football, but that is something that we will be doing, and we are going to meet with the football association.

I'm surprised at that because I and other Members here have raised this regularly with Ministers and the First Minister, who've assured us that they would convey to you the need to make sure that you're on it.

Yes, we're aware of it. I'm talking about where we've been in the past. We have certainly improved the situation with football. I'm just trying to be honest and say that, at the minute, our performance on football events is not as good as it is on rugby, and we want to do something about that.

Okay. And I was informed as well that there would be a special service after the match back to Wrexham from Cardiff. Would that have been the 22:05, which was the last train that was advertised?

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 11:14:19

Yes.

Yes. Because to get from the Cardiff City Stadium for a match that doesn't finish, or you don't get out of the stadium until about a 9.45 p.m., 9.50 p.m., to expect people to get to Cardiff Central for 10.05 p.m., I think, is frankly ridiculous.

Jan, do you want to take this again? We held it, didn't we?

It was delayed, yes, but it was advertised as five past 10, so most people decided it wasn't viable. 

Jan Chaudhry-Van Der Velde 11:14:43

We carried I think it was about 40 football supporters back towards Wrexham and Chester. We will look to run later trains if we possibly can. This is a constraint mainly around planned engineering work cycles on the network, because of course the train doesn't get to Chester until about 1 o'clock in the morning, but we can work very closely with Network Rail to see if those can be adjusted for special events.

11:15

It's in the future again, isn't it? You knew that these games were happening two years ago, very nearly. It just feels that we're in a circle of denial here.

So, I can fully understand why you're saying that. With respect, I would argue that we're not in a circle of denial. What I would say—

But you're telling me exactly what I've been told in years gone by.

Well, I think we are moving to a different cultural position. So, we've picked up a railway that says, 'We run what the timetable says and it doesn't matter what impact that has on anybody.' I joked before we came in here this morning that the railway was built for humans; humans weren't built for the railway. So, the railway needs to work around what humans want and not the other way around. Now, I know that that's a bizarre thing to say, but sometimes, working in the system, it feels like people believe that humans should just fit in with how the railway works. But because that's the cultural backdrop to this, two years ago, no-one in KeolisAmey would have even remotely thought about changing the time of a service to fit in with a football match. Because, culturally, that's simply not what was done; they would run to the timetable and they would get paid for doing it. All of those people now work for us and we're going on a journey of trying to be different. So, I genuinely take your point. I think it's a fair challenge, but I don't think we're in denial; I think what we're trying to do is break out of a very locked-in cycle, which doesn't allow properly for us to deliver what the public wants and we need to get there. And you should carry on challenging us.

And you will; I know you will.

And let's hope that we're not in the same place in another 12 months, but we'll have to wait and see. Okay. We do need to move on, but I just want to ask you what your view is on the UK Government's promise of a £1 billion investment to electrify the north Wales main line, because some people, such as Professor Stuart Cole, has told us that that's nowhere near enough. What's your take on that sort of—? I'm not sure it's a promise; it's a suggestion, maybe.

Well, I suspect that it's not enough, but it would be almost as inappropriate for me to tell you that it's not enough as it would be to say that £1 billion is enough, because no-one's done the work to know. So, it's a sort of—. 

It's a figure. The challenge, of course, with all of these things is that, in my personal opinion, you'll be five years off doing anything with that figure, and five years is a long time in politics, as we all know, so how do we land something that's sensible at the end of all of that?

I was just going to say that we're working with Network Rail to fully understand what could be delivered for that and actually meet both Governments' aspirations.

I don't have that at the moment, but we can come back to you on that.

Okay. If you could, we'd appreciate it, yes. Thank you. Right. Apologies. Can I just ask about the corporate joint committees as well, and the work that you're doing with them? Because, again, it was suggested that the metros exist, but we can't see them, very often. It's very much the case for corporate joint committees, I believe. Maybe you could tell us about how you're working with them, or what you're actually working with, because they don't exist as entities as yet. And, maybe, how the regional transport plans align with the metro programmes and all of that space, really.

Very happy to do that. And I'll also try and wrap in what we're trying to do on bus franchising as well.

Okay, but it's integrally linked, so, I'll touch on that—

Okay, go on then, yes. Let's move seamlessly from one to the other.

I am much more confident than I've been in previous sessions when I've been asked on this that there is a reasonable-to-very coherent plan emerging on how all of this will work together. So, in the past, I think it is true to say that there has been criticism of Transport for Wales from some local authorities—some of that very valid, some of it less valid. And particularly thinking about bus franchising and planning for bus franchising, on the basis that planning for bus franchising is an integral part of regional transport planning—that's why it's important to look at it together—there was a real question as to why TfW were even involved. Now, depending on where you intellectually sat on that debate, I either had people saying to me, 'James, how on earth could you run an integrated transport system if Transport for Wales weren't involved in it?' or people were saying, 'Transport for Wales can't run a train service, so just stick to your own knitting and let someone else deal with buses.' Of course, for me, intellectually, that fails to understand how you could then have one ticket, an integrated network, et cetera, et cetera.

The good news is that the relationship on all of that has grown up massively over the last 12 months, and I'm including myself in that description, I'm not pointing at others, to be really clear. We are having a series of really good, grown-up, sometimes robust, but always respectful conversations with all local authorities and CJCs in Wales about how we're going to work together. Broadly speaking, what we are going to do is to evolve how we work with local authorities. In the past, our regional transport planning was based around and branded metro, and, therefore, was reasonably heavily rail, but not entirely. We're evolving that to be regional transport planning teams that will support individual local authorities and corporate joint committees in preparation of their regional transport plans. All the metro work will be reversed into that. In addition to that, the bus plans for future franchising, which is obviously what will move the vast majority of people in most metro areas, will be an integral part of that as well. The same team from Transport for Wales will lead all of that, and we've recently appointed Lee Robinson, who some of you will know, who will lead all of that planning exercise on an all-Wales basis to include bus franchising.

In addition to that, we have recently seen the appointment of the chair of the local government association, who's currently Andrew Morgan, to our board as a contributory observer. That's just to get around fiduciary duty issues, because we deliver for local authorities, but, to all intents and purposes, he's a member of our board, he's able to bring the local government voice into the centre of everything that we are doing, and also able to hold us to account. I think that has brought a whole great lump of strategic clarity that we didn't have before.

11:20

The obvious question, then, is—. All that is good, it's good to hear, but there will be challenges, and one of those will be the expertise and staff to deliver that within TfW, but more generally across Wales. You're going to have to start designing a completely new network, or completely new join-up of the network, I suppose, to be fair, that satisfies the public. Are you happy that you're able to do that—I don't want you to repeat what you've just said about the partnership, but—the actual delivery and the structure that will be put in place to deliver it?

So, I'm going to give a—. I've probably given too honest answers throughout the whole day, but I'll give a completely honest answer, which is 'yes' and 'no.' So, the 'yes' part of that answer is: do I think we are, basically, technically competent to do a good job of that set of activities? The answer is, absolutely, 'yes'. Do I think that we yet have the set of cultural behaviours, beliefs and ways of working, necessarily, to truly embrace a multimodal world that doesn't yet exist? No. Are we absolutely challenging ourselves for how we make the jump from today to the future? Yes. The board are really focused on that. I know that Welsh Ministers are also very focused on that. They're using the term 'Transport for Wales 2.0', a bit like a software upgrade. How do we think and act differently? That is beyond having the basic skill sets. So, I think we've got the basic skills sets, we've got transport modellers, we've got transport planners, we've got timetable experts. It's about reimagining what might be possible.

Actually, just to go back to the previous challenge around football, I think that is a really good example of that, because the non-challenge version of that would be, 'Well, the infrastructure's closed beyond that time, so, therefore, we can't do anything about it. Move on, what's the next point?' We don't want people thinking about that—sorry, like that—we want people to say, 'The services we run should move the maximum number of people to maximise modal shift, to maximise social and economic benefit, and it is our job to challenge everything that we do to allow that to happen.' So, there's a whole cultural-change piece that we need to bring in within our own organisation, and with partners, because partners will have those same basic—. I was going to say 'wrong belief systems', but they're not wrong, they're embedded historical belief systems, and we need to break that and imagine something different for the future.

11:25

Just focusing on today's problems, in the meantime, and how well you're going to be able to work with corporate joint committees to maintain bus services when we know that the post-COVID funding is coming to an end, and we've already seen bus services just completely wiped out overnight in places like Neath Port Talbot, where people are saying, 'I can't get to work any longer.' So, how are we going to address that, given the ambition we have to get people using public transport a lot more?

So, that's obviously a very difficult set of challenges, and the long-term solution lies in bus franchising, but we're not there yet, and we are trying to make the best out of an imperfect situation at the minute, where we have a largely market-led bus delivery system in Wales, where private operators choose what to run, what not to run, and they can register routes and deregister routes as they see fit.

However, the Deputy Minister has led on an approach pulling together local authorities, Transport for Wales and bus operators. He started doing this probably nine months ago, recognising the issues we were facing and trying to force a set of conversations for operators to disclose what they were planning to do, because they don't have to disclose that to us, to try and force them to do that, and I would say most are disclosing their future plans, and then for local authorities to be able to work with those operators and with their own teams, with support from us, to look at where it's possible to plug gaps, where the private sector is going to withdraw, with public sector provision.

Now, all of that is working relatively well, I would say, but we are operating despite a system and in a very imperfect world, because we can't instruct people what to do until we have franchising. But I would say that all local authorities and local authority officers are definitely doing their best. Most bus operators are playing ball in this space. Most of them probably because they want to, some of them because they recognise that, in the future, their business will be via franchising and nothing else. And I guess a headline question is: how much money can all parts of the public sector afford to put in to help things going until we get to franchising?

Yes, I'll be really quick. Can you just give us an update on integrated fares and ticketing, that dream we have of, at some point, we wake up one morning and it's all pulled together? How far off are we? Can you give us some sort of timeline in your head?

I can, yes. So, what you have just described, as in the end state, is our ambition. It won't ever happen overnight; it will happen in a series of gradual changes and evolutions. I guess that the three areas that I would point to where we've made significant progress over and above the ones I've already talked about—so, I've talked about the Traws integration piece; that's actually quite minor in terms of the number of people who are using it. We have just finished what we call the 'go live pilots' of 'tap in, tap out' in south Wales, where we have run a scheme that goes from Newport through, I think, to Maesteg, if I am—[Interruption.] Pontyclun, is it? Okay. That may not have been that visible, because we had I think about 150 people, members of the general public, who were using the system to make sure it works. I could talk to you for ages as to why that's really complicated, but I won't. But it is complicated because we are taking control of people's credit cards and, therefore, we need to be very heavily regulated on what we do with the information, and how we make sure that people are paying the minimum fare is really important. The good news is that all of that worked, so now we can take that to the next step. The next step will be the whole of the Valleys area, in a—not an open trial, but going to 'tap in, tap out'.

We have a scheme up and running in north Wales, where all the bus operators are now 'tap in, tap out', including with an overarching ticket that caps the price. But, as of yet, we haven't linked that in with the rail network. Again, I don't think that's really possible until we get to franchising.

And then, in south-east Wales, we've got a similar bus scheme that we are running with 'tap in, tap out' as well. When we get bus franchising, that will be when we can join it all up and do something that's really class-leading, I think.

11:30

So, can I just ask—sorry, we've run out of time, Chair—

—if bus franchising is one of the key milestones in being able to do that, are you, together with Welsh Government and other partners, gearing up for, basically, the months, the year, after that it’ll be in place, or are we talking about starting a piece of work?

No. So, we’re working on it already in detail in terms of what it would look like. One of the key questions—and, again, sensible public policy debates, I think—will be: how quickly after franchising comes in, does all of Wales see everything franchised? So, no-one who has gone down this route has done everything overnight and I think, looking at our experience in rail, where, arguably, we were over-ambitious, I wouldn’t want to do that. But, equally, a very safe approach doesn’t have enough ambition in it. So, the question will be: how quickly does all of Wales get to franchising after the legislation is passed in early 2025? And it can happen quite quick, sorry, is the answer—it can happen quite quick.

Okay, but it seems clear, from what you're saying, that it won't be a big-bang approach. This will be—

No, it will need to be phased, yes.

Phased, okay. Okay. And it could be regionally phased as well. 

Absolutely, yes.

Right, okay. Just one final question. I declare an interest here; I think all of us declare an interest—we're all members of the Senedd cross-party group on active travel. We carried out an expert review panel on the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. We came to the conclusion that it has not realised its full potential. I think the Welsh Government is accepting, not only the overall conclusion we came to, but the detailed analysis that we've done as well. Now, on that basis, what is TfW's take on that? What can it do to address some of the issues within that as well? 

And just linked to that as well, we talked about resources earlier on. TfW is growing; it's redeploying its expertise as well, but it's growing. There's an argument that it's drawn off what little expertise there already was within other partners, particularly local authorities. So, what are you doing to help create that wider knowledge now in CJCs, local authorities, regional transport scrums? 

Yes, absolutely. By definition, that is a very big question—

No, it's a really good and really important question. I'm just thinking: how do I answer it quickly, given the time? 

I could do so, if you want.

I'll bring you in in a second. Active travel is really important and we share your analysis that we have not delivered the—. We—. Wales has not delivered the benefits that perhaps we could have done. I guess the good news is that we are building some really good schemes now and local government is coming forward with schemes at a pace and at a quality that we've not seen before. So, that bodes better for the future.

In Transport for Wales, working with CJCs, we will make sure that those are better integrated into transport planning and into transport networks, which will also help. For me, the piece that we have always struggled to deal with is the behavioural-change piece and the encouraging-people-to-use-said-infrastructure piece. And that's because that's operating expenditure rather than capital expenditure, but that is something that I believe we need to address. There is a document that's being worked up in response to all of that, being led by the the Welsh Government, but Geoff and the team are involved in that. Geoff, do you want to—?

11:35

Yes. Okay. So, the active travel delivery plan, which was a recommendation from that group, that is just about there, and I think Welsh Government are about to publish it. I think that'll answer many of the wider questions. Just picking up on a few things, the first one is a real challenge, I think, around monitoring and evaluation. We've still got a little way to go in terms of getting that agreed, but we've got some plans in place to get that over the line in terms of some pragmatic measures that allow us to demonstrate the improvements that we need to see.

On skills and development, yes, absolutely there's a challenge out there across a relatively new profession, or professional interest, in terms of active travel. So, we absolutely take your criticism. We're working with partners as best we can on that, but there is a shortfall in the skills out there. What are we doing on that? We are supporting training and development for local authority officers through our active travel fund. We've started that, we're doing more on that. We're creating a design hub, in terms of being able to support, and that requires some resource in its own right, but will help in terms of best practice et cetera, and some of the challenges for local authorities. We've most recently been doing some work with the professional institutions in Wales around what skills are needed for the sort of challenges that we see in the Wales transport strategy and how some skills might be able to be realigned. So, that's an early work in progress, but we don't discount the challenge that you've mentioned at all. 

And the last thing, I guess, that I want to raise in this place is that we are now actively engaged as an organisation, and me personally, with the active travel board. And, indeed, only last Friday, we had a scrutiny session there about our active travel with them. So, we're supporting that. So, I hope that gives you some confidence of the direction we're taking.