Pwyllgor yr Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau - Y Bumed Senedd
Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee - Fifth Senedd29/11/2018
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|David J. Rowlands AM|
|Dawn Bowden AM||Yn dirprwyo|
|Joyce Watson AM|
|Mohammad Asghar AM|
|Rhun ap Iorwerth AM||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Bethan Jenkins|
|Substitute for Bethan Jenkins|
|Russell George AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Vikki Howells AM|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Alexia Course||Cyfarwyddwr Gweithrediadau Rheilffyrdd, Trafnidiaeth Cymru|
|Director of Rail Operations, Transport for Wales|
|Dr Liana Cipcigan||Cyd-Gyfarwyddwr Canolfan Rhagoriaeth Cerbydau Trydan, Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|Co-Director Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence, Cardiff University|
|Dr Neil Lewis||Rheolwr, Ynni Sir Gâr|
|Manager, Carmarthenshire Energy|
|James Price||Prif Weithredwr, Trafnidiaeth Cymru|
|Chief Executive, Transport for Wales|
|Shea Buckland-Jones||Swyddog Project Adfywio Cymru, Sefydliad Materion Cymreig|
|Re-Energising Wales Project Co-ordinator, Institute of Welsh Affairs|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Abigail Phillips||Ail Glerc|
|Amy Knox||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Robert Lloyd-Williams||Dirprwy Glerc|
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.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:33.
The meeting began at 09:33.
Croeso, pawb, i'r Pwyllgor yr Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau.
Welcome, everyone, to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.
I'd like to welcome Members to committee this morning. We go to item 1. We have apologies this morning from Hefin David, Bethan Sayed and Lee Waters, and Vikki Howells will be joining us for the second session. We have two substitutes this morning, Rhun ap Iorwerth and Dawn Bowden.
Are there any declarations of interest? No.
In that case, I move to item 2, and I'd like to welcome this morning James Price, the chief executive of Transport for Wales, and Alexia Course, director of rail operations for Transport for Wales. This is in regard to our Transport for Wales rail franchise and metro scrutiny. I'd like to welcome you both to committee this morning. Can I ask the first question? What's your assessment of how Transport for Wales have seen the first six weeks of the franchise progress? What's your assessment? How's it going?
So, if we can break that down into two parts, I think, the contractual transfer from one organisation to another, along with the associated ticket sales, regulatory approvals, and, frankly, all the stuff that, if it wasn't handled properly, could have gone catastrophically wrong, and then the subsequent operation of the service—so, in terms of the first half, I think our assessment would be that it went as well as it could have done. There were no significant failures or issues. The things that I was particularly worried about, like receiving regulatory approvals on time, ticket machines working, back-office payment processes, systems, working, all worked very smoothly. If we then look at how the service has performed, for the first few weeks the service performed at published performance levels much higher than the previous operator, despite the fact that we had significant storms on the first couple of days of operation. It's only been in the last two weeks—and I'm sure we'll get on to talk about that in a minute—that we've seen some more significant service issues. So, on balance, in terms of the big risks that we were worried about, which we had mitigations in place to deal with, we didn't need to implement any of those mitigations and the service transfer went to plan.
I think Members will have questions about all sorts of areas of the franchise, but I think, to start with, perhaps we should deal with the current service disruption. What's your message to passengers in regard to the service disruption that we've seen over the last couple of weeks?
So, the headline message has been communicated quite effectively, which is that the service that we have been running is not the service that we intend to run or want to run. From a customer perspective, why that has happened is irrelevant; what's relevant is that it has happened and how we're going to fix it and how quickly we're going to fix it. So, that is why we proactively, when we knew there was going to be an issue, wanted to say to customers, 'This is not what the service is going to be like in the future. This is not what you can expect from us. We are going to put you at the centre of everything that we do' and we just wanted to be transparent about that.
You've cited adverse weather conditions for the service disruption. How is that compared to adverse weather when Arriva Trains Wales were running the service? How does that compare?
So, if you look at the data—and I don't want this to be a series of excuses from me, because I find it very frustrating actually, moving into the rail industry, that the room is always full of excuses rather than what we're going to do about them, but the data does show that, since 2015, we've seen a significant step-up of adverse weather events, both in duration and severity, every year since then. Exactly why that is, we don't know. Climate change has certainly got something to do with it. But this year's storms were worse in both the number and intensity than the previous years' storms, and we can share some of that data with you if you'd like.
So, if we look—[Interruption.] I was going to say, if we look at storm Emma earlier this year, how does that adverse weather condition compare to the current disruption, versus Arriva Trains Wales's service?
It's probably worth adding that there was no one cause that's effecting all of this. We've done a load of work looking at driver techniques; they haven't changed significantly. The supply chain for all our wheel sets is the same supply chain as we had previously. There haven't been any fundamental changes in the fleet or the timetable, but what has changed is—. And, actually, Network Rail have increased their spend on vegetation clearance as well this year, on the basis of a backdrop of quite a sizeable amount of underinvestment in previous years. But that's all positive and going in the right direction. So, what we've done is that we've commissioned an independent specialist to come in and do a full assessment of all the root causes around autumn and adhesion and the wheel-rail interface for the lines and routes across all of Wales. They've started this week, already. We're also mounting some forward-facing cameras onto some of our units so that we can start to assess what's happening when the units are out there on the network, and we're going to get that report back in the next week to 10 days as well. So, there are things that we're doing to investigate. We'll do a full autumn review as well into the issues, and that's in the short term. Obviously, there are longer term mitigations we're going to put in place as well.
Can I ask: did you inherit a service, or did you inherit a fleet, of poorly maintained trains?
So, I think this is quite a difficult question to properly engage with. The comments I made previously in the press about the quality of the rolling stock and the maintenance regime—what I said is that Arriva were maintaining the fleet to the minimum necessary standards to hit the quality thresholds in the contract that they had and the safety standards that were necessary by regulation. I still believe that to be the case. So, there's quite an interesting metric, which Alexia can talk to in more detail, which measures the intervals between unexpected failures within a service. So, if you normalise the Wales fleet and compare it to the best-in-class fleet in the UK of a similar age and structure, you will see that, under Arriva's operation, the units were roughly twice as unreliable as the best in class. But running at that twice-as-unreliable level still allowed them to hit all of the quality thresholds in the contract that they had and sign off on demobilisation in terms of what was necessary for commercial and regulatory purposes.
Could Arriva Trains Wales have done anything more to have helped for a smoother transfer that would have led to less service disruption than we're currently seeing?
Again, I think that's a really difficult question. I am almost certain that if the previous operator had a contract that ran for three or four years longer than the one that they did have, they would've done things like fit wheel-slip protection and engaged in other proactive maintenance activities. Could that have been done? Yes. Would it have made any commercial incentive at all for them, as an organisation that was walking out the door, to do that? Absolutely no.
So, why has Transport for Wales not been able to maintain the same level of performance?
I think there are two facts in this. Actually, let's take a step back and look at the public performance measure, which is the measure of performance that Arriva was measured on. I think Arriva's PPM target was 87—
Eighty eight. This morning, PPM is running at 91, and pretty much, apart from last week, we've been running way above what Arriva was running. If you want an example of why some of the Arriva targets in the contract—sorry, it's probably unfair to call them Arriva targets; some of the targets in the original Strategic Rail Authority contract—were meaningless, I think that's a really good example. So, the service that people are experiencing now is outperforming the metrics in the previous contract.
Okay. I'll let other Members dive into that, but, from a passenger perspective, they'll probably not understand how—
No, and that is exactly the point I'm making. So, in terms of why we've got the problem that we've currently got, and actually if we looked at the service we've got today—and this is probably slightly frustrating for the public as well—the service we've got today is coming back up to a normal service. We've nearly got 100 trains out in service. We need 103 to run a full service.
We would've hit probably higher than that, only there was a fatality yesterday in north Wales, so that's affected a unit, taken that out of service. We've had a unit hit by a tree this morning due to the storm, which we need to assess. But we're managing it, and, as I say, the trajectory is to bring it back in the next few days to the—
So, you're saying that normal service would, as you would see it—the service that should run—take place in the next few days. Is that what you're saying?
We're saying within the next few days to the next week—it depends on how storm Diana affects us. We've put quite a lot of mitigations in place to do that. Based on our current trajectory for bringing the fleet availability back to where it was before, it should be within the next few days to a week, but obviously that does depend on what happens in the next few days.
It's probably worth just also trying to answer the question, what we were trying to achieve before this wheel-flat issue occurred. So, in the week running up to the week before last, we were having conversations about trying to get 110 units out by Christmas, which would be a significant uplift in capacity for people. Now, this is over and above what we envisaged in the original contract, but what we're trying to do is provide more capacity for passengers. The key thing we were trying to do is get more reliable trains out in service. What no-one expected to happen—and this is why we're really trying to understand what has happened—is the number of wheel flats to occur on that particular weekend, when I think we had nearly 20 units suddenly come out of service over the Saturday and Sunday.
Okay. I've got 10 more questions in my head now, but I haven't got time to ask them.
There are a number of Members who want to ask questions on this. I'll come to Rhun ap Iorwerth to start.
Firstly, I'd like to congratulate you for actually saying, 'We apologise', because it's always useful. I think it stands in stark contrast to Ministers, who have gone into excuses and defensive mode. But we'll park that there.
Was there a failure to monitor just how bad things were, and what the likely effects of minimal maintenance were going to be for the handover?
I think that's a really fair question, and a question that we've been asking ourselves in terms of checking our processes. I don't think there was a failure in what anyone did, so I would include, in terms of what they were allowed to do against the current legislative environment—. So, I think Arriva did what they were required to under the legislation. I think KeolisAmey did what they were allowed to do under the legislation, and we did everything we were allowed to under the Department for Transport rulebook for a franchise handover. Do all of those things equal enough? I don't think they probably do. But, under a privatised rail model, we had very limited access to the Arriva fleet, very limited access to Arriva staff, and we went over and above I think what we were probably technically allowed to do in terms of trying to understand the quality. Some additional parts were ordered. Some additional work was done. Not all of the work that was promised was done, but that promised work was over and above the minimum necessary from a contractual perspective from the previous operator.
But perhaps the rulebook might need to be changed for—
Absolutely, and now we've got this devolved, it can be.
So, the rulebook currently, as it stands, leaves the door open for people taking over franchises to inherit—
I think so, yes.
It's also worth adding as well that the previous operator still had to run a safe operation as well. They allowed access, but it had to be in a controlled fashion, because they still had a business to run, they had a service to deliver. So, we had to balance our fact finding with the fact that they needed to also have access and run their operation.
I think I know what the answer to this would be, because you're saying that Arriva did what they had to as a minimum: is there scope in any way to pursue Arriva for something that they did that has left you with the situation that you have?
So, and this is not from any malice at all, I was quite interested in that all the way through the process, and we've had lots of people looking at it. We did actually—and I think we can talk about this now, but we talked about it at the time—put the previous operator in breach for a short period of time, but it wasn't actually for the quality of the rolling stock. They went into breach around some IT issues and some data issues that could have caused us significant handover problems. Actually, as a result of putting them into breach, they fixed the issue very quickly.
If the quality requirements in the previous contract had been stronger in terms of what had to be delivered at the back end of the franchise, then we could have done something, but they weren't, and any commercial organisation will, in the main, particularly if they're leaving something behind, get out in a safe but at-the-least-cost way.
We could go on for hours on this one, but in your opening comments and what you referred to there, you had real concerns about the IT system, the transfer ticketing, your regulation and all that. Did you perhaps not think enough about the trains in that handover period?
So, I think we did. I'll ask Alexia to talk about—
We absolutely did. So, we followed the DfT model for mobilisation of all franchises, and that involves—. In effect, there were close to 100 legal agreements that we had to complete between ourselves and KeolisAmey, and with Arriva Trains Wales. So, a lot of them were tripartite as part of the handover. That included everything from IT and payroll and the TUPE of staff, which all went through successfully, all the way through to all the rolling stock agreements, the supply chain, the parts—everything had to have its own form of legal agreement in place. And that was the big challenge. Part of the DfT framework for doing that is called 'conditions precedent'. So, there are certain checks and balances that any incoming operator has to comply with, including safety case, before they can be granted the licence to operate.
But did you go around kicking the wheels, checking that what you were inheriting was okay?
We did. We did in the run-up to go live. So, in the run-up to 14 October, we agreed with Arriva access days that KeolisAmey team could go in and could start assessing the depots and talk to the staff. We talked to the supply chain as well to get all the information out of that, and that's—
It was too late by then, though, perhaps, wasn't it?
I think, arguably, it is too late by then, but equally we did more than was legally allowed for in terms of getting access, and we pushed further. So, one of the things we were doing every week was to have the outgoing managing director in a room with the incoming equivalent—
—and ourselves, where we were pushing and testing on all these issues. So, if I had to be critical about that process, and I think this comes back to my original comment about the rail industry in general, I think the rail industry in general has got so used to—and this is not being rude about individuals—not delivering on expectations that it's kind of ready to take criticism rather than avoid the criticism by sorting it out. So, I think both of those individuals probably could have been more robust in what they were doing and challenged each other a bit more.
I'll say one last blunt thing, because you're used to people saying blunt things about you: people might think, 'Listen, they're the same people,'—you were a director in Welsh Government—'if they couldn't keep an eye on what Arriva were doing and if they didn't know what they were going to be inheriting, why should we trust them to run the trains now?'
So, again, I think that's a very fair point. The key fact in that, though, is that Transport for Wales were not running the previous contract. The staff team in Welsh Government that were was very small, but the reason the staff team in Welsh Government was very small was that the levers in the contract were almost non-existent. So long as the previous operator hit PPM, which we were already exceeding, even when everyone says the quality of the service isn't very good in the last week, then frankly it wasn't a very difficult job to manage that. But that's why the contract that we have now—and in fact, it's more than a contract, because it's a way of working, and hopefully we'll get on to talk about that—is completely different from what we had before.
Just before I come to Dawn, one question from me: did Arriva prevent you in any way from assessing the rolling stock, in terms of maintenance, in any way at all, or were they helpful in that process?
I am not aware that we had any—. Okay. So, there was no formal push-back. There was concern about access to staff and access to trains and assets, and that concern would have also come from Network Rail, not just us.
And what was that concern?
The concern was, in the initial phases, that access wasn't, perhaps, as free as it should have been and that we had to go down a legislative route to get that. I have to say, after we had that initial kind of bust-up about it, access became much freer.
But there was a bust-up about that.
Probably four or five weeks out, yes.
Okay. Dawn Bowden.
Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to follow up on the points that Rhun was making earlier and, in particular, about the rolling stock. And I think, to be fair, I probably ought to say at the outset, I think there was a huge raising of expectation about what was going to happen when the franchise transferred, which was probably unfair on you. Now, I don't know who was responsible for that, and whether that was something more to do with Welsh Government's selling of the changeover, but certainly people who have contacted me have said, 'We thought this was going to improve.' And I've had to say to them, 'Look, this is a long-term programme'. But I think there was an issue about raising expectation about what would happen on day 1. But I'll put that to one side for the moment.
In terms of the rolling stock, and I hear what you say about the difficulties that you had of access and so on, but we've heard, I think, that you had to take 37 trains out of service.
At what point did you know that you were going to have to do that? Did you know that prior to taking over the service, or was this something that you discovered? Is this part of the flat wheel thing?
So, there are two entirely separate issues, one of which is that the fleet as a whole has not been maintained quite as well as it could have been. It's safe, and they could hit their targets with it. That's one issue. We were fully—. Fully? We were mostly aware of that. I think it's a bit worse than we thought, actually, and some of the working practices we've been more surprised about, in terms of how people have been motivated to get things as good as they could have been, or not.
The wheel-flats thing did come out of left field on that weekend, and we've had independent experts in, as Alexia was saying. We've had experts in from SNCF and, as of today—and we can talk about this later—there are eight or nine reasons that might have caused it. There are a few that might be more likely than others, but the best experts in Europe cannot yet really assess exactly what went wrong. Obviously, it's really important that we know that so it doesn't happen again.
It's worth saying as well that those 36 units equate to 9 per cent of the overall fleet. But we've already brought that back significantly now since that initial weekend on 12 November.
Sure. So, to follow on from that, then, James, in particular, if you can't identify what has caused it, you can't put it right, basically. Is that what you're saying?
So, the easy answer to that—it's not about me, but I am not accepting the easy answer—the easy answer is 'We're going to fit wheel-slip protection to pretty much all the trains before next autumn.' Wheel-slip protection is like an anti-lock braking system, basically, so it prevents the wheels locking up. If the wheels don't lock up, they can't get wheel flats. It's not quite true. They can get a myriad of tiny little wheel flats, but it's within tolerance and you can carry on running the train.
Sorry to interrupt you, but does that mean that, when the new rolling stock comes, that it won't happen to the new rolling stock, because by then either you will have identified what it is that's causing it, and so you will build that into it, or you will have a solution to it?
Yes, but, actually, the rolling stock we have now for next year should be fitted with this as well. My concern would be that all we have done there, though, is put in some active safety measures, rather than dealing with the passive underlying cause of it. So, we want to find the underlying cause as well.
And that's why we've brought in this independent review to happen now at the moment.
The other thing to add as well is that in addition to do the wheel-slip protection that we're going to install before next autumn, we're also fitting vibration technology to the class 150s, the 175s and the 158s. So, those are all the class of fleet units that are being affected by the adhesion issues in autumn at the moment, because that vibration technology will help us understand what's going on between the wheels and the rails as well, so that we get data. At the moment, we're not really getting that data. So, that will help us as well for next autumn.
And, at the minute, we've got the fleet with the lowest level of wheel-slip protection in the UK.
I see. And so, presumably—well, I don't know—but is this a fault, a problem, that you hadn't been prepared for? So, is this is an additional cost that hadn't been anticipated?
So, we knew that there would be issues around wheel flats. There were last year, and there were the year before. Now, what's interesting is, previous to 2015, there had been a flat-line level of wheel flats every year. From 2015 onwards, it's doubled every year, and then this year it has just gone through the roof.
So, directly related to the weather conditions.
Well, it is related to the weather conditions, but we think there may be other factors at play as well. So, there have been, for example, innovations across the UK in the way that tracks are cleaned. Some of those innovations, which for the rest of the UK have been really positive, exactly correlate with it getting worse in Wales. And the difference is they've got wheel-slip protection, we haven't, so one of the suggestions is that a significant causal factor is something that has been good for the UK as a whole—because the UK as a whole has got modern technology—has been significantly negative for Wales.
In terms of the cost, that's all built into the contract, so we don't need to worry about that.
We may have a few other questions on service disruption as well. Oscar Asghar.
Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you, James. I'm listening very carefully. You mentioned in your earlier statement that the previous franchisee ran a couple of years more than the actual contract. There should be a transition period. You must be prepared for it. And the thing is, once the handover had taken place, there was disruption, there were late arrivals, there were dark carriages and overcrowding—all things. And the First Minister's statement was 'It won't happen overnight'—improvement I mean. So, that sort of statement makes people very uncomfortable. A £5 billion investment. That is serious money. So, how much rolling stock at the moment are you using, but they're actually not in action, in the workshop, and secondly, how quickly can you put things on the right track? Have you got any plans?
And what timescale do you have for that, because it is going beyond a joke?
Okay. There are a few questions there. James.
So, as of today—just picking some of those points off—we've got 97 or 98 units out. Some of them might get freed up later on the back of the investigation around the fatalities. So, we may go above 100. There's 127 in the full fleet, so we can do the sums around that. Arriva were operating on 103. My suggestion is that we need to be operating at around 110, at which point people will see a significant change. There was some Twitter comment talking about 'new name, same equipment', and, of course, right now, that is the case. So, we've got new rolling stock on order. New rolling stock will take two years to build at maximum capacity. So, the £5 billion is being spent, is being used effectively, I believe, but people won't see the benefit of that immediately.
But we are bringing in new fleets from next May as well. So, class 5, 769 units are coming in, which will help the Chester-Liverpool and Chester-Wrexham services from May of next year. We're also bringing in some class 230 units as well. So, passengers and customers will start to see a difference from the spring of next year, in terms of more services and more fleet that we're bringing in, and that is in advance of the brand new purpose-built fleet that we've already ordered as well.
So, you'll see a number of step changes.
Thank you. The thing is, Mr Price, while we are speaking, in the last few weeks, or few days, there are at least half a dozen large taxis parked outside Swansea railway station. Who's paying for it? Is it you or the franchisee? Because the train stops there and then they—. And how many other stations are using the same sorts of facilities?
So, in terms of the bus replacement—
They're taxis. I'm talking about taxis.
—and taxis, okay, and additional capacity, so, we're doing two things. Normally, in the rail industry, you will get a bus replacement. We've got bus additional capacity as well. So, if people can't get on a train because of shortformings, we've had buses to move people. The public purse is not paying any extra for any of that.
And you're saying that the taxis that are waiting, we are not paying.
I would need to know exactly why those taxis were. If they were there on order from us, that would not be at an additional cost to the public purse.
It's not an additional cost.
Okay. David Rowlands.
I just wanted to bear down a little bit on the business of the spare parts, particularly the train sets. You say that the problems you were having with slippage—and you really knew that that happens every autumn; you said that. Was is it the fact that you didn't have enough train sets ordered, or was it the fact that you just didn't have the capacity to fit them?
Okay. It's probably worth, just really quickly—and Alexia again can help me out on this—explaining how the wheel-set issue works. So, it's not unlike, actually, an HGV tyre certainly used to be. So, the first thing you can do is you can, in effect, retread the tyre. So, literally, with a lathe—anyone who's seen a lathe will know exactly what I mean by this—they will run the wheel circular again.
I think we saw that when we went down to Canton.
Okay. You can only do that though for so long because the steel rim gets reduced in size and there's tolerance on it, at which point you need to put a new steel rim on it, but the wheel set has to come off, it has to be sent away—actually, not very far, because Pullman have got capacity to do that in Cardiff—and they put a new one on. You can only do that so many times before you need an entire axle. So, the thing that we have struggled with actually is not, at the minute, new wheel sets or new axles, it's the capacity to turn the wheels on the train. So, in Canton, there is one lathe, which does both sides of the train at the same time, because, obviously, there's no differential or anything in the axle. But what we have done—and actually I've been quite impressed at how people responded to my challenge on this—is we have gone and got lathe space in a whole load of other locations, including Manchester, and the Manchester one is performing really well. So, we went from—
So, Manchester and Crewe, and we've also spoken with St Philip's Marsh in Bristol, and Taunton, to get extra capacity. And we're also bringing in a mobile wheel lathe as well, to help us with the capacity to turn the wheels. Because the one in Canton, it takes 24 hours to turn the wheels for one train, so the more we can do, the quicker. And that's helping us speed up our resilience in getting the fleet availability back to the levels that we need it at.
So, we've gone from bringing two or three trains back into use a day, to, on a really good day, seven or eight had been brought back into use every day, which is a significant proportion—well, it's six or seven per cent of the fleet being brought back in every day. That is why, if we see a significant reduction in the conditions that are causing this, the recovery can be really quite quick, which is what has happened so far this week.
That's why we're quite confident that we can get back to the 103 level that we need within the next one to two weeks.
Any further questions, David?
Yes, unless you want me to go on to the—
No, we'll come back to that. Joyce Watson on service disruption.
Just very briefly. I want to ask whether you're assured that, where trains are cancelled, you have alternative provision—whether that's buses, taxis, or anything. And I ask this question simply because there are no trains out of Milford Haven tomorrow after 7.20 a.m., and, having enquired about alternative provision, I was told there isn't any.
Okay. So, we may need—
So, that's pretty serious, because that means—
I would agree that needs to be looked into, and we shall take that away.
Well, pretty urgently, because that means those people can't go to work, to start with, and it's not good enough. I picked it up by chance, that fact, because I had an e-mail to tell me, in my role, that there are no trains after 7.20 a.m. There are only two trains tomorrow coming out of Milford Haven. And that doesn't fill me with any confidence about what's happening. But I did make a phone call yesterday, to check about alternative provision, because that wasn't up either, and I was told yesterday that there is no alternative.
Okay. So, that doesn't feel acceptable to me.
It's not acceptable.
If we're cancelling services, we should be running alternative provision.
So, we will urgently take that away and deal with that. So, if the question had been wider, 'Are we always running that?'—
I was coming to that.
I would hope that the answer is 'yes'. I have been personally looking, wherever I go, and feeding in information, taking videos of what I'm not liking the look of, and we've had some real changes occur just on the back of that, but the whole team is doing that. But I couldn't, hand on heart, personally say I have seen all of those things; we're relying on performance reports coming in.
Because we've actually got more—we've got some dedicated bus co-ordinators in our control centre, whose sole job it is to co-ordinate the bus replacement services where they're necessary, and also to make sure that there are co-ordinators at locations to help customers and to delay buses leaving. So, if people can't get on the train, and they can go to the bus, the bus is still there for them. So, we've made all those changes in the last week. But, on that particular point, we'll have to investigate that.
One of our team is up in the gallery there. I suspect he's already looking into this for you. If he's not, he will be now.
Well, I hope he is, and I hope that—
He's nodding. [Laughter.]
It's quite serious, because people need to get to work.
No, I quite agree—I quite agree.
Or they need to get to hospital appointments, or wherever else it is. So, if the information is inaccurate, it needs to be corrected; if it's accurate, the situation is to be corrected.
You're quite right, and I should say that I use the service personally every day, so I'm as frustrated as everybody else, and a little bit more because I know I am accountable for it.
On that issue of you being accountable, can we take evidence as a committee from KeolisAmey?
Can I answer that question by taking just one step back to start with in terms of the way we—?
You can, as long as you answer it in the end.
I will absolutely answer it. So, the step back I wanted to take is that we are desperately trying not to run this rail service in the way that we ran with Arriva before. We've taken evidence from rail operations that have got a mixture of public and private, certainly across Europe, and all the evidence says that you should try and create what we're describing as a one-team approach. That means that you're very clear what people are responsible for, that you don't people-mark and that the best people to do every task are the people who do that. There's performance management in the contract, but there's performance management outside the contract as well. So, there are key personnel clauses in the contract. So, in the same way as if they were employed by us, if someone repeatedly underperforms, they can be performance-managed out. I'm not saying that we're anywhere like that at the minute; we're impressed with the team that we've brought in.
So, I think my answer to that would be that I don't think it would be effective for you to separately be talking to KA and to be separately talking to us, because we're operating under one brand, as one team, with an integrated structure. So, what we should be able to do is have a KA employee sat alongside me, branded as TfW, because we are one team, if that makes sense.
So, are you, as the chief executive of Transport for Wales, accepting all responsibilities if there are, and continue to be, service failures?
So, ultimately, we have to be accountable for it, don't we? That's the point of setting up Transport for Wales. I don't think anyone would be very impressed with me if I came along and blamed another part of the same organisation for service failure. But what is really important is that that accountability within the organisation is felt there. They shouldn't feel that they can abdicate responsibility to me, and that's why we've got things like key personnel clauses in the contract. So, we will performance-manage through the contract. If we're worried that individuals are badly performing, we will deal with that, but, ultimately, as the service operator—in the same way as Transport for London ultimately, as a service operator, is accountable—then, yes, we have to be.
And what are the incentives and penalties in the contract that you talked about in terms of service disruption?
So, there are significant penalties and they massively change from early next year. So, I've kind of, I guess, lampooned the public performance measure a bit, but I think it should be. If the service that we're running is significantly outperforming the performance requirements of the previous franchise, I think everyone would agree that that was a strange performance metric. So, we're not using those metrics in the future. We're moving from this public performance measure to the main measure, but there's a whole series of subsidiary ones, which Alexia will talk to, around passenger time lost.
Passenger time lost measures in a real-time way at pretty much every station, not just end to end, the amount of passengers you have on a journey multiplied by the time that they have lost as a result of the service not running to time. So, that is a significantly enhanced target. We'll be one of the few people in the UK doing this—certainly a very early adopter of this. And the actual challenge in that—because I'm sure that someone will point this out to you—that we need to watch out for is, because we're looking at the number of people affected, times the time lost, what we need to avoid is lowly used trains being cancelled or negatively affected to keep that passenger time lost fact up, and we've built those things into the contract to be able to do that.
And that's why we have a range of other incentive measures as well. So, some of the other things: short formations that customers are experiencing at the moment—that is a penalty incentive in the contract and the operator will feel that pain and will be penalised for that; ticketless travel; service quality; delay minutes—that still applies, so that's an industry delay-minute incentive mechanism anyway. Also, cancellations and missed station stops—that's a new measure that we've put in to the contract. And, actually, we've also got three customer satisfaction measures now in the new contract. So, previously, under Arriva, there was one; we've now got three.
Right. I'm going to suggest that we write to you on that, because I've got more questions on that and we haven't got time. But, before I come to Joyce Watson, I just require a brief answer to this: if we aren't able to have KeolisAmey come before us, just for the record, are you able to confirm that you, as the chief executive, take full responsibility for any issues to do with Transport for Wales, including any service failures?
Ultimately, yes, and I have been.
Okay, thank you. And you have, yes. Joyce Watson.
I want to move us on now and discuss procurement process and the contract, and you've started on that. We're particularly wanting to look at the directly not-for-profit model and how that's going to run, and how that's reflected in the contract, and which services fall under that arrangement on the not-for-profit basis?
Okay. So, the Cabinet Secretary in a recent statement listed a whole series of potential service areas, which, from memory, would have included things like catering, cleaning, ticket sales, marketing, car park—a whole host. We are very clear about the Welsh Government's policy intent in this area, and the first service that we are intending to bring in under that mechanism, if you like, is at-seat catering. So, we need to do a bit more work, we need to do a full business case as part of good governance, but the full intent is to bring, as the first service that were talking about, the first existing service—new services will come on board and be not-for-profit straight away, but the first existing service that we will change is at-seat catering. We've said we will absolutely, as a backstop—which is probably the wrong term to use—do it within within two years—[Laughter.] Sorry—
Don't use that word. [Laughter.]
Yes, it's the wrong word—
It's not allowed at this meeting. [Laughter.]
But my personal intention is that we do that within one year of the start of the franchise. I've spoken to a number of staff in that area. I know they're really keen to join us, and I kind of feel personally responsible in a different way, which we were just talking about, to deliver on what we said for them. Beyond that, there's a host of other things we're looking at. Probably, car parking would be the next area that would come into that. So, we'll do that initially with new car parks and then increasingly with existing car parking. And then other areas were looking at are around integrated ticketing and back-office technology.
Okay, thanks for that. The Cabinet Secretary has made it clear that the operator and delivery partner doesn't expect to pay any dividends to the shareholder for the first five years and that they would then reinvest all those profits—any profits. Could there be any circumstances at all where a dividend could be or might be paid during that period? And how will the profits be invested, and is that investment additional to that £5 billion that's already been committed?
Okay. So, what we've tried to do—and time will tell whether we've got the balance exactly right—is to take on board the committee's findings, but also work within the ethos of moving towards a not-for-profit entity. And those two things, to a certain extent, pull in different directions. So, the committee's findings were around ensuring that the operator was properly incentivised, whereas a pure concession wouldn't incentivise the operator. So, bearing in mind that what we've got is a mixture of elements of incentivisation and franchise, and elements of concession, really—in the first five years, I think the position is that the operator doesn't expect to make any money. It will expect to break even, but it does not expect to make any money. We expect, based on a middle-case assumption, that the operator might make around 2 per cent profit over the lifetime of the franchise. So long as they don't consistently lose and go into revenue protection, all of the investments in that £5 billion will be made. If the profit goes above between 5 and 6 per cent, depending on how you measure it, the additional profit comes back into the system to be reinvested in the network at the discretion of Welsh Government and Transport for Wales. Those moneys would be over and above what's in the £5 billion figure.
Okay, that's fine. Thank you.
We've got about three or four other areas we want to cover in 10 minutes or so, so just bear that in mind. We've probably got about three minutes for each section.
Sorry, I'll try and be quicker as well.
No, that's fine. Thank you. I've got Oscar waiting and then David and then Dawn. Oscar Asghar.
Thank you very much. Mr Price, my question is just regarding the investment in stations and how the rail franchise and metro will address the needs of disabled people, including how the £200 million investment in station modernisation will be planned and prioritised. What will it deliver in Wales?
Okay. At a high level, it will deliver a significant change. So, in the last 15 years, we think the value of investment in stations was in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, we're now going to spend £200 million, so that is vastly different. In terms of disability access and groups, we want there to be a step change in the way that people experience the service, and in the way, really importantly, we engage with people. Alexia will talk to some of what we're doing in terms of groups et cetera on that.
We've already started engaging with accessibility groups around our station investment programme. Of the just shy of £200 million that we're spending on the stations, £15 million is solely focused on accessibility improvements. That will include things like improved signage, better cycle storage as well for passengers, and customer information screens is another big area. We're also investing in new community rail partnerships from next year onwards and we're going to have 30 community ambassadors who will be field-based all around the network to engage with all the local groups, including accessibility groups. So, there's a lot we want to do in that space, a lot around community engagement that we want to do, and absolutely bringing in accessibility groups into that mix. There is a lot of focus on Welsh language as well and improving that. There's lots more we need to do, absolutely. We've started, but there's a lot more still to do. But we're really keen that we engage with all accessibility groups and other forms of community engagement groups as well, so that we're responding to the needs of the local community.
All right. Professor Barry also mentioned that in the new contract around the metro area you will need a couple more stations—three or four more stations. Are you involved with the relevant authorities to make sure that disabled facilities are already available in those areas?
On metro and the whole core Valleys lines transformation, obviously it's a big programme of work. We're engaging with the local authorities on that and have been for many months already. That continues and that will include all their accessibility requirements as well. The metro transformation programme does include building some additional stations and we're at the design and discovery stage for that programme at the moment, and very much on target with all the milestone commitments that we've made and we've published on that.
In your decision-making process, do you involve disabled people to come and give you some information, you know, some—
We will be doing consultation groups with disabled—
You'll be consulting—[Inaudible.] Thank you very much.
Thank you. David Rowlands.
Very quickly—let's put the last few weeks down to freak situations et cetera, but there have been ongoing problems particularly with overcrowding on trains. My wife took a train from Cwmbran to Cardiff just two weeks ago and stood all the way to Cardiff and stood all the way back. There were only two carriages on that train. Clearly, there should have been four. So, what's the short term—you're not going to be able to put new stock on, we understand that, but what are your plans to mitigate that now, over the short term?
Okay. So, even with 90 per cent availability of the full fleet, we've still got capacity problems, which is why we're doing these changes in the future and ordering new rolling stock. If we can achieve 90 per cent availability, though, people will see a better service than Arriva ever delivered, even with the existing rolling stock, which is what we are trying to achieve. It's never been acheived before, but that's what we're trying to achieve. Over and above that, what we are looking at—and it's still too early to give any firm commitments around this, and this is over and above anything that was in the contract—we're looking to see if we can bring in some additional rolling stock. It probably won't be new—well, it certainly won't be new, it might be quite old, but additional rolling stock for nine or 10 months next year to just provide a bit of a boost—
So, you might be able to lease those in, then. Is that what—
Yes, and as my—
We're talking to other operators around the industry and other rolling-stock manufacturers to see what else is out there that is compatible with our network that we could bring in on a short-term basis just to try and help the capacity and the overcrowding whilst we are building the new fleet.
And, just to be clear, there is nothing available right now, but there might be from February or March next year. And if we can bring something in, even if it's only for six or nine months, to make things better for passengers, that's what we'll do.
Given the difficulties of actually obtaining rolling stock, even brand-new rolling stock, and the period that it might take for you to actually be able to secure those, how confident are you that—? We've been told by the Cabinet Minister that 95 per cent of journeys will be made on new trains by 2023. Are you confident you're going to deliver on that?
I'm confident that our plans are robust to do that and, therefore, I would be confident we can deliver, but we will be relying on the supply chain to deliver that for us—two of the biggest companies in the supply chain; so, that's Stadler and CAF. These people build trains for a living all around the world. But we will have to manage them really tightly and, I think, crucially, particularly for the Stadler fleet, because it will be going onto some different infrastructure, we will have to have a proper period of testing before it comes on to try and avoid some of the issues that First had when they introduced the new service recently.
Okay. Now, some of those new rolling stock will actually be tri-modal, won't it? It's pretty unproven technology. What happens if it doesn't particularly work well enough? What fallback would you have?
So, I think that's, again, a fair question. So, what I would say, though, is Stadler—one of the biggest manufacturers in the world—is putting its name and its service guarantee behind it. So, they're not only providing the trains—the contract says they have to work and they have to operate to a certain reliability level. Whilst it's true to say that putting those three power supplies together would be—. It's not necessarily a first, but it was pretty much a first. All of the supplied units individually have been used and are proven. So, I would say we're not cutting edge, but we are trying to push the boundary.
And, again, we've tried to end up in a place that is between kind of two places. So, we've had advice from people saying we should be cutting edge—we should have hydrogen-powered trains. We've had advice from other people saying we should stick with diesel. Diesel is a big emitter of nitrogen oxide and of carbon dioxide, as everyone will be aware. So, that's not acceptable. Taking a risk with hydrogen, I think, would be probably brave and unacceptable at this point as well. What we've tried to do is pitch it in the middle, and we will have to manage those risks out before we get there. My view is, as long as we are fully aware of what the risks are, and we're prepared for it and we look ahead and don't wait for it to fail, we'll be okay.
Just a couple of quick questions, Chair, if I might. Can you just give us some detail on the progress to date and future progress on the electrification of the Valleys lines?
Yes. So, the type of electrification that we're using, we're calling smart electrification. It is smart in the sense of we've adapted the design such that we don't have to power the wires through structures or over structures; that would be particularly difficult or costly to do.
I.e. learning lessons from the Great Western main line electrification programme.
I see. Okay.
So, there are three stages to the progress, I guess, at a very high level. The first stage is high-level design and discovery, and that's the stage that we're in now. So, that's when we take a concept design and turn it into something with a lot more detail, whilst doing ground-condition checks and various other things. That will run up to the point of asset transfer. After asset transfer, we will then go into an even more, but much more rapid, detailed design phase at the same time as beginning to deliver the project, and the project will be delivered, in the main, between the end of 2019 and probably the end of 2020, beginning of 2021. So, it's quite a compressed—lots of planning and then quite a compressed period of infrastructure works.
And what's your assessment of the risk around the asset transfer?
So, we talked about this this morning, actually. So, the asset—. Actually, sorry, the asset transfer, I think the risk—as long as Governments do what they promised to do, I think the risk is very low. It's just a technical process between two Governments. I don't think people—. As long as people say they will do what they said they were going to do, I don't think there's an issue around that.
And, at the moment, we've got commitments from UK Government, from Welsh Government, from Her Majesty's Treasury as well, around all of that, and we're on programme. So, the date for the asset transfer is next September, September 2019, and we're on programme for that.
Okay, that's great. You've obviously said that the future programme is going to be hugely disruptive; you can't put in a new system with the scale that we're proposing here without that. What have you thought about in terms of how you're going to communicate this, what kind of replacements you're going to be offering the public during these works, and so on? You've clearly had a thought about that, so what are your—? What are your—?
So, I think the first thing is, I've seen the comments around it being hugely disruptive and I suspect it will be significantly disruptive. I'm not sure, actually, I would use the word, at this stage, 'hugely'. Some of the bids that were compliant bids that we had were for design solutions that definitely would have been hugely disruptive—so, they would've seen sections of track close for six months, with bus replacement services. So, you've seen what we had with two weeks of relatively poor service, but, actually, still running 80 per cent of what was being run before—imagine nothing for six months. But that is what happens, sometimes, with this level of upgrade.
Where we have the design now, it's mainly looking at weekend closures and overnight closures. So, is there a chance that we might need more than that? Yes. Is there a chance that some of that would overrun? Yes. So, I would still say it could be significantly disruptive. But what we would always attempt to do is to properly communicate the end benefit, communicate why we're doing it, communicate early what the issues are and, importantly, if we're putting bus replacement services on, I think, No. 1, I would do a better job than we've done in the last couple of weeks and learn our lessons, just because, whilst we've done everything that the rail industry normally does, I don't think it's good enough. But the bus replacement service should go above and beyond the service that it replaced. So, the comms team is exploring this in detail, but we do have quite a bit of time to work up exactly what it is, in concert with what the design looks like.
But there'll be advance planning of that.
Yes. Yes, significant.
So, people knowing that they're going to have significantly increased journey times because of bus replacements—they're going to know that well in advance.
Well in advance.
And we will minimise that. The important thing with this design is that it does allow for us to minimise it, whereas some of the other designs didn't.
Okay. Okay. My final question, Chair, is just to ask whether you can update us on the role of Transport for Wales and the operator and development partner on the development and delivery of the south-east Wales metro. Any progress there at the moment?
So, can you just—? Sorry.
Yes, progress on the—. So, we're looking at the role of Transport for Wales and the ODP on the development and delivery of the north-east Wales metro.
North-east Wales; sorry, I thought you said 'south-east'. So, the north-east Wales metro—
Sorry. North-east Wales. Did I say 'south-east'? I do apologise.
I don't know. [Laughter.]
Your brain's fried now.
Yes. The north-east Wales metro is kind of at the stage the south-east Wales metro was probably four years ago, I would say. So, if you remember, back then, there was a lot of policy work going on, but there was also phase 1 infrastructure works going on—quite a lot of bus lane work, Radyr station was upgraded, various other things. At that point, the Welsh Government was in the policy lead—not Transport for Wales, in fact, Transport for Wales didn't even exist—around the policy for south-east Wales metro. So, where we are with north-east Wales metro is Welsh Government is in the policy lead, but we are supporting. We are delivering a series of interventions that are kind of analogous to the early interventions on the south-east Wales metro. We're building a north-east Wales transport planning model, such that the policy can be developed on an evidence base, which I think is really important. And, as part of the procurement, the rail services team will be able to provide expertise to feed into that at the appropriate time, but we've got six or seven different schemes that we're actively looking at in that part of the country as part of that project for the Welsh Government.
Some of those are at Shotton, looking at an interchange station there; Deeside is another one—Deeside Parkway—also looking at Shrewsbury and Wrexham General. So, we're looking at some bespoke schemes along the line, also up to the Wrexham-Bidston line as well, but they are feeding into the wider Welsh Government policy piece at the minute.
Chair, if I might, could I just mention two other things just really briefly—
They'll have to be, yes.
The first is that I'm aware that there have been some concerns around visibility or transparency of data from Transport for Wales, and I just wanted to put on record that that is not our intention to have anyone worrying about that at all and it is our intention to be as open and transparent as we possibly can. There's actually a whole load of stuff that's gone on the website before this meeting—it should have gone on before that, but it has gone on, if people have a look. I expect to continue to be challenged on that, but I just want to say that it is our intent, genuinely our intent, to be as open as we possibly can be.
The second issue just for the committee to consider is if, either as a group or as individuals, you want to do a visit to Canton and talk to some of the team about some of the issues we talked about today, we'd be really happy to arrange and facilitate that.
Well, we appreciate that. We visited the Canton site last year, but—
I know you've been there before, but I just thought you might want to talk to some of the people about some of the issues we've been—
I think the committee would probably be warm to that invitation, so thank you for that. I just want to ask you one other question as well. The committee's received some calls about additional services above those that are planned for the metro and also suggestions that service increases are unfairly spread across Wales. How would you respond to that?
So, I think it's really difficult to answer those. Those two questions kind of pull in opposite directions. So, the 'unfairly distributed' comment, I think is largely some of the rail groups, who, from their perspective, are legitimately saying that south-east Wales is getting a lot of service improvements as part of the metro. I guess if you deliver a metro that has got between four services and 18 services an hour, we are going to deliver a step change, and that's just the way it is. The calls to say we should do even more in the metro will actually, ironically, lead to even more being spent in south-east Wales. So, they do kind of pull in opposite directions. I think the answer I would give is that the south-east Wales metro has been a long time in the making, it's been called for by city deal, by various different business groups, and that's just one project. That doesn't mean that you couldn't have other similar projects in other parts of Wales in the future.
And we are—. It's probably worth mentioning as well that we are increasing service provision all across Wales and the borders as well, which is very—. So, the Cambrian line, Heart of Wales line, the north Wales coast—they are all getting more services over the life of the franchise as well.
And 65 per cent increased capacity and a £200 million investment in stations.
Just one comment: I think calling it 'south-east Wales' is a bit of a misnomer, actually, because really it's much more centred on Cardiff than it is in south-east Wales, which is Newport and that sort of area, because we're getting not a great deal out of this metro.
So, again, I think the policy intent is that the full metro area receives four services in an hour. What we have got is a particular phasing of the metro, with us taking over assets from Network Rail that allow us to progress that bit quicker than some of the others, but it would be good to talk about that in a future session. I understand your point.
Yes, fair enough.
We appreciate your time this morning, and please review the Record of Proceedings. If there's something that you feel you want to add additional to what you've said or clarify then please do so. We appreciate that you're busy at this particular time as well, so we appreciate your time in committee this morning.
The committee has got great expectations for the rail franchise, so we'll be keeping a very close eye on the coming weeks and months ahead because, as a committee, we want to see Transport for Wales deliver on the Government's expectations, really. But, this is an exciting time as well, but we do want to ensure that you, as Transport for Wales, are minimising the disruptions.
I understand that, and we welcome the scrutiny; I think it's helpful.
Okay. We appreciate that. We're grateful. Thank you very much. We'll take a 10-minute break. Thanks for your time this morning.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:40 ac 10:54.
The meeting adjourned between 10:40 and 10:54.
Welcome back to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee. We move to item 3, and this is in regard to our policy approach to electric vehicle charging in Wales, and this is our first evidence session of two. And I'd like to welcome our panel of experts this morning, and I'd be very grateful if you could introduce yourselves just for the public record, going from my left.
Hello there. I'm Dr Neil Lewis, formerly of Robert Owen Community Banking Fund, now, I work for Carmarthenshire Energy Ltd, and we have a full-time charge point co-ordinator, EV charge point co-ordinator.
I'm Liana Cipcigan, and I am a reader in Cardiff School of Engineering, and I am also co-director of the electric vehicle centre of excellence, and co-leader of the sustainable transport cross-cutting theme in the School of Engineering, and also, a leading member of the future transport research network, also at Cardiff University.
Hi. I'm Shea Buckland-Jones, Re-Energising Wales project co-ordinator at the Institute of Welsh Affairs. Re-Engerising Wales is all about how we maximise renewable energy by 2035.
Lovely. Thank you ever so much for your time this morning to committee. So, what are the main barriers to adopting EV in Wales?
If you don't mind me starting, I've owned an electric car for six years now, and when I was working up in Newtown, I was back and forth from Carmarthen to Newtown, and obviously, the evolution of the technology has been quite rapid, if you pardon the pun. Over the last six years, we've gone from a car with a 14 kWh battery, and next year, we'll have one with a 64 kWh battery. So, the range has gone from 60 miles to 300 miles in the course of the last five years. However, the lack of charging infrastructure has been a major source of stress and strain, and it seems to me that if there were more charge points visible within the communities of mid and west Wales, and probably north Wales, just the same, then more people would have the confidence to purchase electric vehicles. Let's be clear straight away that electric vehicles are far superior to internal combustion engines. They're more energy efficient; there's no tailpipe emissions. They deliver what they're meant to do, really. So, unless you've driven one, you won't realise the opportunity that Wales is missing out on at the moment.
I'll ask the rest of the panel and remind you of the question: what are the barriers?
I think, to pick up on some of Neil's points, I'd highlight three in particular. First, the higher cost of electric vehicles currently. I think, generally speaking, in terms of the relative lack of prosperity in Wales, and the high upfront cost, until those costs reduce, or until there's a kind of second-hand market, that's certainly a current barrier. I think, relating to Neil's point about the sparsity of charging points, 2017 figures show Wales had about 3.4 per cent of the UK's charging points. That relates to Scotland's 17 per cent share. And I think some of the local authorities in Wales have missed out on some of that UK Government funding to drive some of that, so that's a particular issue. And the elephant in the room, to some extent, the third point is our grid, our electricity grid in Wales. So, those of us working within the energy sector, and others, will realise that we've got limitations in terms of our transmission and distribution grids, and the capacity of the grids to be able to handle demand, whether it's from renewable energy projects, whether it's decarbonising transport through connection to electric vehicles, or whether it's decarbonising heat in our homes.
Also, I would like to say something along the same lines. Basically, we have, according to Zap-Map, only 500 charging points, and only 35 rapid chargers. So, basically, it is important to have these rapid chargers because it is difficult to travel from south Wales to north Wales. And, also, according to a table that was published as an outcome for the 'Electric vehicles: driving the transition' inquiry for the UK Parliament—there is a table there with publicly funded charging points, and Wales only has 31, at the bottom of this table. So, it is also the message that is sent by Wales in terms of this charging infrastructure and the lack of charging infrastructure.
So, do you think the Welsh Government should introduce a strategy to develop a plan for that infrastructure?
Yes, and also, to give a signal and to give the right signal to the drivers, because you are probably aware of the BBC Wales news inquiry regarding the Welsh Government fleet, based on the freedom of information request. In a 72-car fleet, they are are all diesel, and there was not even one electric car.
And if I ask the other two witnesses as well. If you agree that there should be a strategy, what should be the main features of that strategy?
I worry in terms of strategy, because we are so far behind Scotland. Let's just use Scotland as an example. Scotland has spent £25 million on the infrastructure already. We've spent nothing as far as I'm aware. And we need to inject more urgency. We need to make a step change. We have to accept that climate change is in the news on a daily basis, air quality. Mount Stuart Primary School in the bay already has illegal air quality—150 per cent of the legal limit. Strategies are all well and good, but if it means another two-year delay in adopting what we need to adopt, I'm concerned about that.
So, you're thinking there shouldn't be a strategy.
No, no, by all means adopt a strategy, but let's start installing charge points.
You know, that's the first thing.
So, you want an urgent strategy.
Well, we want urgency in installing. The rest is up to yourselves.
Okay, up to the Government, yes. In our work, we want to make recommendations to Government, so we want to find out from you what you think we should be recommending to Government.
I understand, but I read the low-carbon vehicle report from four years ago, and there were 17 recommendations in there, and not one has been implemented, and that's a concern to me. So, I don't want this to go on for another 12 months, make 17 recommendations and then sit here in three years' time and none have been implemented.
I think we share your concerns, which is why we're doing this piece of work, absolutely. Shea, how do you feel about what should be the main features of—well, call it what you want, a strategy, whatever? What should Government be doing?
In terms of current Welsh Government plans, they're developing a transport strategy at the moment, so that's kind of in train and they've had a couple of public consultations on that. So, I think the role of electric vehicles needs to be seen as part of a—. Obviously, there are urgent things, which Neil referred to in terms of just getting on with some of it, but I think it needs to be seen as part of a wider strategy. So, something that's integrated with a wider transport system.
I think one of the points we tried to get across or emphasise in our written response was that, generally speaking, in terms of Wales and our drive for decarbonisation, electric vehicles will play a big role in that, but they need to be seen as part of a wider system that effectively looks at the sustainable transport hierarchy and really thinks about what are our place-based solutions to driving and decarbonising transport in Wales. So, what might happen in urban areas might be different to what's happening in rural areas. In cities, for example, you might want more of a focus on sustainable modes of transport—so, active travel, walking, cycling and making sure that there's effective public transport in place and all those types of things.
And then really thinking about, when you get to that hierarchy and think about the types of priorities we should have in, whether it's an electric vehicle national strategy or electric vehicles being part of a wider transport strategy, for me, it's thinking about the strategic road network, thinking about the need to connect Wales and just get on with it in that sense, and really having a plan, where, at the moment, the £2 million was very much a kind of, 'Here's £2 million; install a couple of charge points.' But there's not much co-ordination alongside that in thinking about where it is best to focus immediate action. I think some of that is thinking about strategic road networks and then thinking about the kind of interconnection with Wales and the rest of the UK, so that we're connected in terms of our roads and in terms of our economy. And if you've got people travelling through parts of the UK into Wales, you've got to make sure that people have access to those services, otherwise it's going to be detrimental to our economy.
And in terms of reducing our emissions from transport, do you think that EV is going to make a significant difference to that in Wales?
I think it can, yes. I think that, particularly, we see it in our project as an overall solution, mostly for rural areas. Obviously, it will play a role to some extent across urban areas as well, but the focus from our point of view, in urban areas, needs to be a focus on the sustainable transport hierarchy. So, really focusing on, as I said, more sustainable modes of transport.
But I think that integrating transport modes is really important. So, in terms of our modelling in the Swansea bay city region, we modelled a whole city region to 2035 in looking at how we meet climate change targets, and certainly within that region, with a mix of urban and rural areas, electric vehicles played a significant role alongside the other, kind of more sustainable forms of transport.
Okay. Oscar Asghar.
Thank you very much indeed, and thank you to the panel. My question is that Welsh Government is funding £2 million pounds for this allocation; is it sufficient for the ambition that they have to
'create a publicly accessible national network of rapid charging points by 2020'?
Or do you think there should be some potential for private investors to come into it and plug the gap?
I don't think the £2 million is sufficient, but it's a good start. It's a great deal more than we've invested so far. And when you look at a map of Wales, if I have to visit my family in Anglesey from Carmarthen, it would only take six venues. If you put pairs of rapid chargers and a fast charger for comfort in about six different venues around north and mid Wales, you've already unlocked the north-to-south routes. So, people can be comforted if they buy an electric car that they can carry out their business as normal.
So, I think the £2 million will go a long way, as long as it's spent, as I say, fairly urgently. And then the need for further investment, it may be that the private sector will pile in then, but at the moment, everyone's keeping out—you know, there's no private investment and there's no Government investment. So, I think the Government needs to go first, and then allow the private sector to come in, or even the community to come in.
What do you feel about the UK Government? They are already putting in these funding schemes for electric vehicles—home charging, workplace charging and on-street residential charging points, and they have been a success. So, are there any changes you would like to suggest to improve their scheme?
I think at a national level, we have definitely the right signals. There is the primary legislation and now the secondary legislation that they are trying to pass—the Bill that was proposed for unifying the payment for charging. Regarding the £2 million, it is a very good start. It is important to attract investors to Wales, because this is the main problem.
I would like to give you two examples that maybe you are not thinking of; there is, for example, Carlisle. Carlisle now is installing a £25 million large battery and it will be a hub for charging more than 100 electric vehicles. This is a private investment, the second in the country after Southampton, and this is also to help the tourist area that is there. So, this is a private investment. Dundee is making a lot of effort. There is now a very advanced project to have charging points with photovoltaics and also with stationary batteries, second-life batteries, there. This is a fantastic development in these small cities. They attract investors, and not only investors; in this case they are creating publicity for the area to attract even more investors.
Thank you. You mentioned earlier, Liana, that you need a signal from the Government on this issue. What type of—? There is the Welsh Government and the central Government in London. So, is there any way of integrating together and make sure that Wales gets the benefit out of it?
Yes, at least to follow the same example that there is from central Government. I've worked for 10 years in this field, and there was no such progress on electric vehicles' uptake, but since the big announcement for the 2040 agenda, basically, there has been such a boom that it is incredible. I can't understand it. All car manufacturers now are making big announcements, and there was not in the past. I am surprised that the political agenda now is a big driver for this technological advance.
In Wales after Brexit, I hope, and after the Severn bridge, there may be a greater influx of motor vehicles and everything—electric cars and the potential—and don't forget that Wales has all the valleys and the mountains—there's not a straight route, anyway, for more than a few miles. So, there may be different points you'll need to arrange for the public to come to and facilitate the answer for electric points. So, have you done feasibility work on that level?
Speaking for myself, when I first got an electric car, the National Trust were putting charge points in, and it's very comforting to know that you have those charge points if you need them, and also the fact that you're not the only person who thinks that electric cars are the future. If Welsh Government can demonstrate to the public that they believe in electric cars as well, then that would give the support. Because the evidence shows that 95 per cent of re-charging happens at home or at work. So, the charge points aren't actually that essential for most people's day-to-day use. What they do do is send out a message that this is happening and it's happening quite quickly.
It's very lucky for us that electric cars do solve a lot of the major difficult issues that we face. They do contribute to climate change action. They do contribute to air quality. They can contribute to transport poverty through community car clubs, because they're very cheap to run. We've put a 10kW PV installation on the village hall, with a 5kWh battery and a car charging point. So, basically, the people in the village can charge their cars for free. You don't get that in petrol stations, do you—free use of a petrol station?
So, there are huge opportunities, there really are, and the reason is—. You can tell by my frustration that I've been saying this for six years now. Maybe I was a bit ahead of my time, but the time was two years ago, and we still haven't acted on it. So, now is our opportunity to get cracking with it, really.
Why do you think we haven't acted on it sooner?
I'm not too sure. I think, when I first got my car in January 2013, it was a bit early, looking back. It was okay for urban transport. And they were very expensive. My little car was far too expensive, really. But now the technology is there. My Nissan Leaf will do 150 miles, so I can go up to Oswestry from Carmarthen. The technology has arrived, it's cheaper to run, it's cheaper to own, everything's in its place; the only thing that isn't there is infrastructure.
It's cheaper to own? Didn't someone say that the cost of it—?
I do 16,000 miles a year, and I lease it for £280 a year, and I've got no petrol costs and they don't break down. There are no moving parts.
It's cheaper for you.
Yes, it is. All the calculations show it is cheaper. Sorry, Shea.
No, I guess, obviously, it depends on time and the market, and so on, but certainly from the feedback I've had, it depends on where you're purchasing it—is it second-hand, and all those types of characteristics. But certainly, if you can get rid of that upfront costs—I know that Scotland has done a lot of interest-free loans, for example, to drive some of that. But, in terms of the running costs, obviously, in an ideal world, we've got a lot of natural resources, we've got a lot of renewable energy potential and if we could use some of that at a local level to just power some of it, then obviously everyone's a winner to some extent.
The only point I was going to make in terms of, I guess, co-ordination with the UK Government is I think we sometimes, in strategy terms, seem to wait for others to do something and then sometimes lag behind in developing a strategy. Obviously, Scotland is usually an example, particularly on their renewables agenda, looking at some of their development around ChargePlace Scotland. I don't know if we'll come on to that, but in terms of the way they've driven that: Scottish Government set up a scheme providing grants to local authorities to install charge points, and then those hosts, whether it's the local authority or someone connected, actually maintain the scheme. So, they've got a clear plan and they've got one system. They've got a focus on strategic road networks and destination points, and so on, and they've made it holistic, so people can access one service. It's really easy to sign up. You put in your basic details; you've got a card system. And I think some of the problem in Wales at the moment is that, without that strategy, it's very sporadic. So you might see a private charging point popping up there, a private charging point popping up there, so it's that inequality side of it, and they might not necessarily pop up in the areas where we need them the most, currently.
Yes, I understand that, absolutely. David Rowlands.
The fact is it's going on, really, with the Scottish model, quite frankly. Is this something that we should adopt in Wales? Is it that robust, that good, that if we just took it and just placed it in Wales, do you think that would do?
I don't know enough of the detail that I'd need to say, but I would imagine, judging by their track record, if we could replicate only 10 per cent of that, we'd be doing very well. I'm sure they have the right idea on it. It seems to be working. Dundee, for example: I've just written a report for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and there's a link to the Dundee hubs. They've got three hubs, each with 16 fast and rapid charge points. Their multistorey car parks have got 70 charge points in each one. All their taxis are now electric—I say 'all', but a vast proportion of their taxis are electric. So there's something going on in Scotland. You could argue that there's more charge points in Dundee than in the whole of Wales.
So how did they manage to get the taxis to change? They must have subsidised that in some way.
It's a bit like in Swansea at the moment. There's a councillor, Andrea Lewis, who is an enthusiast, on the cabinet. So she's leading the charge. Swansea have now got 40 electric vehicles in their fleet. It's 5 per cent of their fleet, and they've done the change very effectively with their staff. And in Dundee, there was an enthusiastic taxi owner who embraced electric cars quite early and he inspired—
Right. Were they subsidised to change there?