|Hefin David AM|
|Helen Mary Jones AM|
|Joyce Watson AM|
|Mohammad Asghar AM|
|Russell George AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Vikki Howells AM|
|Chris Pearce||Pennaeth Gweithrediadau a Chyflawni, Network Rail, Cymru a'r Gororau|
|Head of Operations Delivery, Network Rail, Wales and Borders|
|James Price||Prif Weithredwr Trafnidiaeth Cymru|
|Chief Executive Officer, Transport for Wales|
|Lee Jones||Cadeirydd KeolisAmey Wales Cymru|
|Chair, KeolisAmey Wales Cymru|
|Scott Waddington||Cadeirydd Trafnidiaeth Cymru|
|Chair, Transport for Wales|
|Lara Date||Ail Glerc|
|Robert Lloyd-Williams||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Papurau i'w nodi||2. Paper(s) to note|
|3. Craffu ar Wasanaethau Rheilffyrdd Cymru a'r Gororau||3. Scrutiny of Wales and Borders Rail Services|
|4. Craffu’n gyffredinol ar Drafnidiaeth Cymru||4. General scrutiny of Transport for Wales|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitem 6 y cyfarfod||5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public from item 6|
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 9:37.
The meeting began at 9:37.
Croeso, bawb, i'r Pwyllgor Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau.
Welcome, everyone, to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.
I welcome Members to committee this morning. I move to item 1 and we have no apologies this morning. I would like to thank Bethan Sayed who, after a change in Plaid, has moved off our committee, so just thank Bethan for her time on committee and wish her best as she moves on to other things in her life at the moment. And also to welcome Helen Mary Jones to committee as well. It's a pleasure to have you joining us at EIS. If there are any declarations of interest, please do say so now.
In that case, I move to item 2, and we have only one paper to note, and that's a letter from the Welsh Government to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which just needs to be noted. Thank you.
In that case, we move to item 3, and this is in regard to scrutiny of Wales and borders rail services, so I would like to warmly welcome back witnesses this morning, and perhaps you could introduce yourself and ask your colleagues to introduce themselves as well, James.
Okay. James Price, chief exec of Transport for Wales.
Good morning. Chris Pearce. I'm head of operations delivery for Network Rail in Wales.
Good morning. I'm Lee Jones. I'm the chair of KeolisAmey Wales Cymru.
Lovely, thank you. And I'll just ask Members to note that we have got a change of witness according to our papers as well, so we welcome Chris Pearce here. Thank you. Thank you for being with us this morning. I suppose the first very general questions to start with, and if I can ask about—. We're all aware of the significant disruption that took place in autumn 2018, and you've clearly provided us with a lot of evidence about your preparations for 2019. I wonder if you can perhaps just outline how effective you think your preparations for this autumn were, and perhaps compare that to the 2018 situation.
Okay. So, I'll start on this but, if it's okay, draw in probably both other witnesses as well. So, at a headline level, the performance this autumn compared to last was clearly much improved in terms of the impact of autumn conditions on the trains. And I think the reason that was much improved was much better planning and much more joined-up working between all parties involved, including investing in wheel-slip protection, but also investing in vegetation clearance and different ways of track treating.
So, if you look at some of the real headlines there, the 150 class of train, which last year was most heavily hit, in terms of numbers, by wheel flats—and those are the trains that are used widely right across the whole of the Wales and borders network—not one of those trains came out of service this year after being fitted with wheel-slide protection for wheel-slide related issues. So, at a headline level, despite some of the other things that were going on, I think autumn performance was markedly and significantly improved over last year and, potentially, we performed very well compared to the rest of the UK in that regard.
Can I just ask about the trains taken out of commission as a result of autumn disruption in 2019 compared to 2018?
Yes. So, I think the biggest headline, I guess, on that would be that there was a 57 per cent reduction in the number of trains that were taken out of service as a result of wheel flats this autumn, in comparison to last autumn, which is a significant difference. So, that was 170 last year, 76 this year.
And how has that affected the ability to deliver services differently this year?
So, autumn performance was actually—. Well, autumn performance—. Depending on which way you cut it, autumn performance was much better than last year. In some measures, if you look on annual performance, it won't look much better than last year, and that's because last year there were lots of pre-cancellations. Pre-cancellations don't, unfortunately, fall within the typical metrics that you compare railway performance with. So, that means, if a service is cancelled before the day it runs, it's taken out of the metrics. If you allow for that to come back in, the performance and availability and timetable running this autumn, compared to last autumn, was much improved. But it'd probably be helpful for me to bring Network Rail and the operator in as well, I think, if that's okay with you.
Yes, absolutely. I think, as James has said, a combined effort between ourselves and Network Rail—the big improvement certainly was fitting the 150s with wheel-slide protection. In numbers, yes—James has already said it—we were taking trains out because they'd got wheel flats, which is the problem you get if they do slide; it was down from 170 last year to 70. And that enables us to get an average fleet of 108 trains during autumn out, rather than under 199, on average, last year, so that's a significant improvement, and delay minutes were less than half of what they were last autumn—attributed to wheel-slip problems. So, that was all good work.
I'm sure Chris will say some stuff about the vegetation clearance. But what I would say is that was really helpful in hitting the priority spots that we wanted to be hit during autumn. And, looking forward, I think, for this year, again, we are already looking at where we want vegetation clearance. We will have, certainly, less trains that don't have wheel-slide protection going forward, with some different fleets coming in. So, the proportion of trains that still don't have wheel-slide protection, because it is physically impossible to fit those types of trains with wheel-slide protection—. We're also looking at some proactive stuff. So, as well as people going out and looking at sites, we're putting some monitoring equipment on trains, some monitoring equipment track side, that would show where the conditions are arising—so, not only looking back and saying, 'We've done better'; we still need to do better still and let's look forward and see how we can prevent it for this autumn.
I'd just like to add to that, if I may.
Yes, if you could just be brief, because we've got some specific questions to go through, but I want to give you an opportunity.
What I was going to add to that was that we very much treated it as a system approach. Rather than just tackling the causes of the difficult conditions that we know happen during the autumn, we looked at the symptoms as well. So, on the back of the vegetation and, clearly, the bold decision about 150 wheel-slip protection fitment, we had 12 response teams out there proactively inspecting and treating lines where we saw problems about to happen. So, I think that system approach really helped to give us the best possible chance of dealing with the issues that we knew were going to come.
Thank you. James, I noticed there was an article yesterday that Transport Focus had undertaken a survey, which showed that customer satisfaction with journeys was 79 per cent in 2019 and 82 per cent in 2018. You've obviously got some analysis or thoughts on why that result showed up in that particular way.
I guess the first thing I would say is we're clearly not happy to see that. That's not what we want to see. We want to see people having a better time and a better service. We want to be encouraging modal shift away from the car on to more sustainable forms of travel. So, for us, that result was a disappointment. In some ways, it's easy to understand the result, particularly if you look at the time of year when it was taken, when we were experiencing some performance issues, certainly more than we are now.
I think if you dig into the detail of it, and this is not to defend the position, some of the changes are claimed to be non-statistically significant. So, it's quite difficult to read into the detail, which we're looking at now. And some of the strangest things for me are the areas where we thought we're doing best on are some of the areas where we've seen scores drop, and some of the areas where we thought we're doing poorly on we've seen the scores jump. So, to me, that probably indicates two things: No.1, something about the survey, but also No. 2, we need to think more carefully about what it actually feels like to be a customer on the network. Maybe some of the metrics we're currently using to assess our performance on a daily basis—because we do something like 600 surveys a year ourselves to try and get real-time information on this—maybe some of those aren't giving us the true information. So, we're going to look at it properly and talk to Transport Focus. But clearly we want to see that figure going up not going down.
Is there anything in terms of your preparations for this autumn of 2019 that was perhaps less effective than you had anticipated? Any actions that you've taken that weren't very successful?
So, I guess there was two, if we're going to be very honest and self-critical, which is I think what we want to do and the point of things. I would say there were two issues: one of which was a train-related issue, albeit it didn't seem to have a negative impact, but it could have done; and the other one was an infrastructure-related issue.
So, on the train-related issue, there were some delays to getting the wheel-slide protection fitted to the 150s. I think I talked about that in a committee before. On fitting wheel-slide protection to 150s, some safety-related issues were discovered, which then had to be rectified on all of the units the same as the 150s in the rest of the UK. So, that put us back I think by about six weeks, something like that, Lee? So, that was a disappointment, it could have had an impact but it didn't because none of the 150s had wheel-slide protection issues.
And then, on the Network Rail side, you had some issues with the railhead treatment train.
Yes, some people might be familiar with the large engineering trains that we use to blast the railhead with high-jet water. Whilst we did see some improvements in terms of our application of adhesion modifier, we did see some module failures of the components of the train, which we're looking to address for this autumn. But on the back of that, we did compensate for that by the response teams that we put out. So, wherever we saw those failures, we did manual treatment to try and make sure that we gave the infrastructure the best possible chance to deal with the conditions.
Okay, thank you. Right, Members have got some specific questions. I know we're very tight for time, so just keep that in mind as well. Vikki Howells.
Thank you. So, moving away from autumn issues now, I'd like to discuss the recent and current performance of Transport for Wales. To start off with, published data shows that TfW's performance here in Wales is worse year on year for each period between July and December 2019. Is it acceptable that, 12 months after the January 2019 inquiry into rail disruption, the committee is again scrutinising underperformance by Transport for Wales? When will things improve?
Okay, so for me personally, it's not acceptable, I guess. As I said earlier on the Transport Focus survey, we want to see things improve not get worse. So, this is not where we want to be at all. I'm also aware that I've come in front of the committee a couple of times hinting at or promising dawns that have either been false or have not lasted very long. So, I'm going to be quite wary about doing that again. I already double-check everything, and I'm triple-checking all of my facts now.
Having said all of that, I do believe we're in a position now where we have more rolling stock, for the first time ever, than we need. There are a lot more drivers on the network than there were before, more guards on the network than there were before. And since the beginning of January, since 4 January, performance on all metrics has improved, particularly on time within three minutes, passenger time lost and cancellations. Short formations continues to be a struggle, albeit that has improved marginally.
From my personal perspective and from a Transport for Wales corporate perspective, I want to see performance improve for a minimum of two months before I'm confident in saying that we've cracked it. There are still too many minor day-to-day service imperfections. So, whilst the average is improving, for someone whose train is cancelled and they can't get to work, that is no satisfaction and we're not providing any happiness by giving an average level of improvement.
Yes, exactly. That's exactly what I wanted to discuss in my second question, really. So, although we've got data that the number of trains arriving within three minutes of the scheduled time has improved from 76.1 per cent against a target of 77 per cent in the latest period, it is no consolation to my constituents when I quote figures like that at them when they've been facing the horrific rush-hour disruption that has hit the Aberdare line for the past eight weeks. Other lines have been affected, but I perceive the Aberdare line as being hit worse. Constituents say to me it's no use to them if the trains in the middle of the day are all arriving on time with four carriages when they're facing those cancellations at rush hour and the short formations as well.
So, how is Transport for Wales currently performing on those kinds of performance indicators: passenger time lost, cancellations and the short formations? You said there to us, James Price, that you've got now more rolling stock than you need, for the first time ever. If that's the case, why are we still seeing two carriages on the Valleys lines at rush hour, when the promise was four-carriage trains on all Valleys lines services from 15 December?
Okay, so I do want to bring Lee in on some of this, but before I get there, I think I just want to try and be really clear about what we're delivering, what we said we would deliver, and then where some of the gaps are.
So, we promised an uplift of between seven and eight additional four-car services in the peaks. So, that means that 71 per cent to 72 per cent of all trains ought to be four car in the peak. So, that was part of the 6,500 increase in capacity that was promised. We never reached the point of saying that we would run all four-car services. What we did say is anything that was in the new revised plan as four car, we would run as a four car.
In terms of how we've performed against that, the headline numbers look quite good, but the service experience clearly doesn't feel very good. So, we were looking at how many additional spaces have been put into the network since January and we think, over the Valleys lines network, it is significantly greater than the 6,500 that we quoted before—that's over the entire Valleys lines—probably by a factor of maybe three. But what that says to me, firstly, is any capacity that we put on fills up really quickly and, secondly, the big issue for people is non-consistency of service.
So, we've just strengthened our board by bringing on a guy called Vernon Everitt who's a managing director for Transport for London, and his mantra is we need to be boringly reliable, day in and day out. So, we've used a lot of narrative about exciting changes, and that's true, but now we need to be boringly reliable. So, people expect to get a service, and they get the service. And that's what we need to work at, really hard, day in, day out. Lee, do you want to—?
Yes. I absolutely sympathise with you. I use railways a lot around here and outside of Wales, and I know what it feels like when your train doesn't turn up or it doesn't turn up in the form that you wanted it to turn up. I think we have got to get that right, despite the statistics. The statistics might say it's pretty good, but actually, if it's your train that day and you can't get a seat or whatever, it's not pretty good. And, to try and experience that ourselves, we've actually got the CEO of Keolis now who's committed to travelling every week on our peak services in different places just to see what it is like and then try and measure that against the stats that are coming out. So, it isn't the right way.
We've had some additional trains, we've had a few problems with those additional trains. That is largely sorted now, so we're seeing that benefit in January, which will allow us to cascade more of the other units onto the Valleys lines in particular, which you're talking about. We also have some additional trains that are not in yet, which will come in over the next six weeks or so, class 153s, and that will be the same thing. That will enable us to cascade more. So, we will get a more robust service going forward. I'm with James, we can have a good January, but it's got to be consistent and it's got to be improving over the duration of the spring and the summer and the new timetable in May.
On the train crew, James mentioned we have train crew and conductors; we've recruited around 200 in the past 12 months or so, so that we don't get the issues with no driver available or no conductor available for the services. So, with both the fleet side, on maintenance, and on the operational side and the people who are on the train, driving and conducting the trains, we're trying to get that resource to the level that it deserves and then kick on from there.
Can I just dig down a little there in terms of staff availability? It certainly was an issue over the Christmas period, so could you tell us a bit more around that, around the staff availability, the rostering, the terms and conditions? What are the key issues there and how are you planning to address them?
Shall I start at a very high level, and then hand back to Lee, just in terms of the key facts and figures and what you're doing as an operator? So, at a high level, the Government in Wales has wanted to run the rail industry in partnership with trade unions, and we've done quite a lot around that, which also benefits passengers. So, keeping a second safety-critical person on board, et cetera, et cetera.
What we haven't managed to do yet, and this is not a criticism of anyone, is to reform some very old working practices that have been in the railway for a long period of time, and the biggest one of those is Sundays. Sundays are not part of the formal working week, not for all grades of staff within the railway. They are for some, but not for others. As a consequence of Sundays not being a formal part of the working week, it is partly voluntary as to whether people work them or not. Now, clearly, when we're moving towards a seven-day service, that provides the opportunity for difficulties.
That's not criticising anyone: people have got a right to have a weekend off. What we need to do, and what I'm putting pressure on the operator to do, is to quickly resolve these issues so that we have a reliable workforce alongside a reliable fleet position. And just to stress again, that is not criticising any individual or any workforce. People work within the system that they work within, but we think that needs to evolve.
Forgive me, Chair, for speaking on issues that are maybe things that the committee—. I'm new, so—. And I should probably declare an interest in that I have two members of staff who depend on your services to get to work, and they are almost always late, and we've had to renegotiate their working times to accommodate that.
Mr Price, you said something about needing to become boringly reliable, and I think we'd all say, 'Amen to that', but could you say something more specifically about how you're going to become boringly reliable? Because I have to say that, at the moment, particularly at rush hour, the services are boringly unreliable. The only thing that's predictable about the service is that it's not predictable.
I've heard some specifics from Mr Jones, but I'm interested to know why that hasn't happened before, and how confident you expect us as a committee to be that we're not going to be having these conversations again in six months' time. Because I'm new to this committee, but I'm not new to the issues that colleagues have been raising in the Chamber.
Sorry, I've jumped ahead, but the process I'm interested in is how you're going to get there. Because you seem to know what you need to do now, but it's about our confidence, I guess, in getting there.
At a high level, I think this was always going to be a difficult thing to do, and that is not to try and provide a whole heap of excuses. We have to PRM all of the trains, make them accessible. None of that work had started before this franchise. That means we've got 30 to 40 trains out at any one time. As a consequence of that, we've had to bring in additional rolling stock. That is meaning that some of the depots are congested. None of these things are excuses, they're just issues that we need to overcome.
In terms of what we are trying to do, the whole contract is set up around two things: exciting change for the future, and boring reliability in the today. It's the lack of boring reliability that is causing me the most frustration. So, in taking this role, I thought 80 per cent of my time was going to be about fixing the bigger issues that we will face in the future—transformation of the Valleys, £200 million of station improvements—and I've found that that bit, so far, is going a lot better than the day-to-day running of the services. But there are penalties in this. I'll touch on that later, maybe, Chair.
I'll bring Helen Mary back in after Hefin's addressed his questions later on as well, if that's okay.
Just one last question around the issue of compensation. I know that TfW has accepted the committee's recommendation that you should work with passenger groups to explore ways to provide additional compensation to passengers above your contractual entitlement where there's to be a disruption. I just wonder if you can give us some detail around how that is going to look. Because I've certainly got a very full postbag of constituents currently asking questions like: if they've already purchased a season ticket with you and, over the last couple of weeks, they've had to fork out extra on bus fares, taxi fares, to get to work when there have been cancellations; issues around people booking on different online apps and being unable to access compensation as a result; and probably most importantly as well, constituents who faced having some of their wages docked because of repeated lateness to work as a result of the trains. How are you looking to address those sorts of issues?
Again, I'll bring Lee in in a minute on some of that, but at the headline level in terms of engaging with customers about what they want, we have now set up the advisory architecture that we talked about in previous committees, and various different customer groups across Wales are all feeding into that. We will be talking to those groups—I think the first meeting is in a few weeks' time—about what type of things will work for customers; in the context of a situation where any money we take out of the budget that we've already got comes out of money for investing in the future, because we haven't got any other funds for that.
Having said that, for a lot of the issues you just talked about, where people have been unable to—which I wasn't fully aware of, actually—receive refunds that are due, they should write in to rail services, and if they want they can escalate it to me. Because, just because they've used a different app, that doesn't mean they're not entitled to delay repay, for example. In terms of delay repay, looking at the latest figures, there's about £1 million a quarter going out on delay repay.
And then in terms of what we've done over and above that for passengers, for the people who were most affected, certainly on Valleys, and arguably more widely on the network—if we exclude Heart of Wales, which we need to look at separately, and is really importantly—the fares changes that we made recently, where we reduced the fares by 10 per cent across parts of the north Wales coast and 10 per cent across the Heads of the Valleys, did target the people who had been most badly affected by some of the issues we faced.
Just one final question. I was a bit concerned there when you said there's no additional resource set aside for this kind of compensation. With the £2.3 million that the Minister announced as being fines for KeolisAmey's poor performance, which I believe is now up to £3.4 million, surely a slice of that should be coming back to passengers? Because another query I've been getting is: where is this money going? Are KeolisAmey maybe being fined and then the money's going straight back into investment in KeolisAmey? That's the basic question that constituents are asking me.
I guess that's a fair question. At the minute, the fines all come in; the fines do not, the way we work at the minute, work their way back into the Welsh Government. We have been reinvesting through the operator to try and make things better for passengers. So, examples of that would be paying for the class 37s that we've got in, ordering additional class 153s, and some further improvements. I think we can take away your point, though; absolutely, we take away your point. I hadn't considered that. It's a good point.
I'll also take away your point. If there are occasions where people are not getting the repay, then I'll take that away and understand whether that is working appropriately or not. I've not had it personally flagged to me that there's any issue with it, but if there is, then I'll take it away.
Can I just ask briefly as well, in regard to staff rostering times and staff hours, you mentioned about negotiations taking place, when is that likely to happen?
I will leave that to Lee to answer, if that's okay.
On the—? Sorry, can you repeat the question?
Yes, we are negotiating with the various unions, obviously, to change the rosters, et cetera, which would give us more flexibility around Sundays and around other issues.
We have a temporary agreement, a provisional agreement. We need to move on and get that to a better agreement going forward.
We have that interim agreement now, and we are progressing it as quickly as we possibly can, going forward now.
From an authority perspective, we'll be pushing the operator really strongly on that. We don't want it left.
Obviously, it is in our interest to get it done as quickly as possible. But we'd be hoping now that—
Would you expect, if there was a meeting next year at the same time, to have those negotiations completed by then?
I would expect, this year, to get it sorted, certainly. Hopefully, in the first half of this year.
Thank you very much. Members and witnesses, we're really stretched for time, so if you could be pointed in your questions and pointed in your answers as well, I'd appreciate that. Oscar Asghar.
Thank you very much, Chair, and good morning to you both. Could you please tell us how subsidy payments to TfW Rail are calculated, how much is paid annually, and will TfW commit to publishing subsidy payments as well as the detail of the penalties? You mentioned earlier to Vikki's question that £2.3 million, so is it going to be reinvested in rail without simply handing it back to the operator?
So, I'll try and take those one by one, and we may need to write to the committee, because I'm not reading off a briefing now, this is coming from my head, but it'll be about right. The forecast annual payment including any bonus payments—based on current performance, there won't be very many. Bonus payments to date have been about £40,000 against penalties to date of about 3.4. About 0.3 of that 3.4 is related to short forms, the rest of it is related to passenger time lost.
Yes. Sorry. £3.4 million penalties, £40,000 bonus payments. Roll it forward, though, and we expect the pro-rata penalties to begin to reduce, as PTL reduces and the performance increases, as we've talked about. We expect the figure for the next full financial year to be circa £176 million revenue, plus about £12 million capital. Now, that's for running the services, but it's also to deliver the enhancements that we're looking at. So, the beginning of the station improvement fund, bringing some of the new rolling stock on.
Just very quickly, I just want to be clear about this, because the last time the Minister was in the committee he said that the penalties for KeolisAmey were £2.3 million. You've just said now they're up to £3.4 million.
That's as a result of those figures being cumulative. So, every month they will change, and the figures I have just quoted take us to the end of this month. The previous figure quoted would have been the last auditable figure at that time.
If those figures need to be adjusted, just drop us a note after the meeting.
Thank you very much, Chair. How much compensation has been paid to passengers since the start of the franchise, please?
I'll hand off to Lee. I think we've covered it already.
It's about £1 million a quarter, so my guess is it'll be somewhere between £4 million and £6 million. We can probably try and get a figure in writing.
We can go away and check it, yes.
Just a final one, Chair, thank you very much. How is Network Rail penalised where the service disruption is the result of factors within its control? Will Network Rail compensate TfW Rail for both penalties incurred or passenger compensation paid where it is responsible?
I'll hand straight over to Network Rail for this, but just a point from my perspective: if we could move away from this compensation culture, more money could be spent on the passenger. There are teams of people doing attribution about whose fault different things were, and then money's moving around the system. It would be much better for the administration of that money all to go back to the passenger. But, Chris.
So, it's an established process. Effectively, if it's an infrastructure issue, Network Rail will compensate the operators for the impact that that's caused. If it's a fleet or a train company issue, then we'll get compensated. That's well established.
What we've seen are some examples during the autumn where we've reinvested some of that money back into services, so the response teams that we've talked about for autumn were deployed on the back of some of that money that was mainly penalties. So, it's an established process. We don't pay passengers directly ourselves; it's via the train companies. But where we do get an income from that, we do look to reinvest that a lot of the time.
I was quite struck by something you said earlier; you said, for the first time, we've got more rolling than we need. That's not the experience of passengers who are on short-form services. Can you explain what that means?
Again, I want to answer really quickly, but bring Lee in. So, if we look at the number of units available on a daily basis compared to how many we need, typically we will be three or four above. Getting those trains where they need to be and allowing for breakdowns is always a different matter, of course. One of the big issues that the operator seems to be facing at the minute, and we're scrutinising and working with quite heavily, is getting trains off of Canton on time in the morning. So, quite a lot of the issues that we've faced in the last few weeks have been about not getting trains off of the Canton depot at exactly the right time and in exactly the right formations.
So, I'll hand on to Lee.
I'll come to that in a minute, but the statistics are: every day, we need about 114 trains to run the full service. Most days, we end up with 117 or 118. So, yes, we have got three or four that are spare.
Yes, it's still tight. We have had some problems around Canton. We had some problems around Canton yesterday morning, as I suspect most people were aware of, where the trains were formed in the wrong direction because there were some complications with possessions that were going on at the same time. During this month, we've also been hit—. We stable trains at the other end of the Valleys as well, because most of the passengers come down the Valleys in the morning.
Yes, in Rhymney and in Treherbert. Treherbert was a problem for us this month as well; we trapped some trains up in Treherbert. But, taking out those specific disruptions, then, yes, we are running every day with a few trains spare. Now, that's a good thing, because it enables us to do some additional maintenance and it enables us to complete the things that we've talked about with PRM modifications and all of that sort of stuff. So, it's not that they're standing there fully fit and maybe not having anything done to them, they are probably in the depot having some enhancement work done on them and some improvement work done on them.
The committee's been to the depot and they've seen the work that goes on there. Basically, there are a lot of staff holding the service together with sellotape and elastic bands at the moment, it looks like. It's a lot more complicated than that, but it looks very difficult.
We've got to understand, these trains are 30 up to 60 years old. Some of the 37s are 60 years old.
Yes, and with that in mind I wrote last November to Chris Heaton-Harris, who is the UK Minister for transport, to ask for a dispensation to run the Pacers, because of course they'd be illegal after January, but the dispensation was awarded. How much longer do we need these Pacers on the line?
Our initial proposal is to run them till July. If we do have some more additional trains coming, and there are more additional trains coming, and some of those trains are already in Canton, waiting to be approved so that we can get them into service, then that would be our aspiration: to lose the Pacers in July. If we were in a position where, perhaps, we weren't able to supply the capacity that people deserve, then we would look, perhaps, to expand that a little bit longer, but—
Yes, we would. Yes.
We're about to start those conversations with the UK Government. Lee and I are in broad agreement on this, the only difference is that I'm saying, 'Let's plan for the absolute worst. So, let's assume everything goes wrong: what do we need to do then?' and then, we will only be in a good position. So. we need to start those conversations. We don't want to use Pacers beyond that, but I want to be in a position where, if we have to, we can, just for a period of a small number of months.
And my plan has to be that we get the best service and the best trains in service.
Yes, but I think, for the moment, we're not there; we're reliant on what we've got. I was on the Caerphilly line, the Rhymney-to-Cardiff line, on Wednesday last week, and the local hauled service—I think that's class 37—
It is, yes.
—in front broke down. It's a fairly unreliable train, in many ways. How long before we can actually have, not new trains, but those more reliable older trains on the track?
On the 37s, we are looking at—. In the next two to three months, we would hope to replace them, but—
On the Valleys lines, the 37s. But, if we need to hold on to them, then we will hold on to them.
Okay, but you can't give us a precise picture as to when we'll have replacement older trains on the lines. You're saying two to three months, but it's still a 'Hopefully two to three months.'
That's specifically around the 37s.
Yes. I'll have a go at that. The reason why we are not being specific is I've told everyone not to be specific, because we're reliant on class 769s, and the class 769s delivery date has gone back and back and back. Whilst we're getting more confidence from the supply chain that they're deliverable, I don't think it's fair to customers and it's not fair to you to be quoting figures that we don't fully believe ourselves. So we've got a range of delivery times, which is why Lee was giving a range of dates, really.
I understand the difficulties regarding the practicalities that the situation presents to you, but when will we have a clearer picture? When will we be offered a clearer picture?
I think we will have a clearer picture—and it's mainly affecting the Rhymney line, this issue, actually, because class 37s are only used on the Rhymney line—next month and then a very clear picture in March.
So driver training should start, against our plan, in March for the class 769s.
Because the problems are with health and safety and technical issues with the trains. It's not that the trains can't be run, it's the fact that they've got to through a series of technical processes.
They've got to go through technical approvals, yes, which they have to, obviously, pass.
And we do have some of those trains in Canton at the moment and they are undergoing those tests and the work on it. As James said, in the middle of March, we start driver training on it.
Right, okay. So you've got the trains, they're ready to go, subject to—
We've got three of them; there are others in the pipeline.
Okay. That's helpful to know. Can I ask Transport for Wales: did Cardiff Council talk to you about the proposed congestion charge?
We're in discussion with Cardiff about a whole range of things, mainly metro related and on-street running—
Okay. I'll just take that as a 'No' then, for now.
Can I move on to the issue of new rolling stock? It seems that—. There was a freedom of information request last year that said that the projection for, I think it did actually mention the Rhymney-to-Cardiff line specifically, would be fewer seats in 2023 when the new trains come on board than are currently supposed to be on the track right now. Can you address that concern and give me your predictions for the future of rolling stock, and then I'll come on to a question about how you're going to manage that suppressed amount?
I absolutely can. This is an issue that is only affecting the Rhymney line, again, but I think it's an issue that we need to look at more widely. When the franchise was let, we were quite ambitious in terms of the number of people we thought would use the service in future. So, we've got a 65 per cent uplift in capacity in five years, which is really quite significant growth. However, having said that—this is the wider issue—with the climate change emergency, with things like a potential congestion charge, clearly, I think we have underestimated the potential growth. And those things weren't on the table at the time that that was awarded. So we need to think about ordering some new rolling stock now so that it can come on board in time.
In terms of the Rhymney-specific reason, the reason for those figures was that the Rhymney line has got enough—more than enough—rolling stock in the future for the demand that had been modelled at the time of the contract being awarded.
That demand may have changed, but the other thing that's changed is the rolling stock that we're going to put on the Rhymney line. We were planning to put the class 769s across the whole of the Valleys network—nine of them—as additional stock that would run, kind of randomly, across the whole of the Valleys line network. The current plan, and the plan that we will deploy, is to run them only on the Rhymney line. These trains are huge in comparison to what has been seen before. That means that the 30 to 40 per cent uplift in capacity that Rhymney would have seen will happen when the 769s come in. What we need to look at now is how we make sure that that grows when the new, new, rolling stock comes in as part of the metro. We've been remitted by Welsh Government to look at that right across the whole network, but we're particularly focusing on Rhymney right now, because it's one that will hit us earlier. But there will be solutions to it.
So what you're saying to me is that the FOI information is now out of date, in that you're making plans to expand beyond those.
Yes, absolutely. And I guess, as a positive, because there is one, the Rhymney line will see a massive uplift in capacity earlier than anywhere else, on the basis that the 769s are delivered.
Well, we come back to—. Over this year. Gradually over this year, from March onwards. That's the 769s.
So you're saying we'll see a massive uplift on the Rhymney line over the course of this year.
The 769s are huge in comparison with what's running on there now, yes, and they are all four-car.
Okay. And then, to be absolutely clear, and I know I'm repeating and going over ground, but when the new trains come on board, there won't be then a reduction from that basis.
So, we need to work—. On the basis of the order that went in, there is a risk that, I think, the number of seats drops by I think it's two or three compared to the 769s. We're working on that now to ensure that that doesn't happen.
Okay. So you've addressed those concerns and you are able to provide extra seats in the future.
Okay. That's helpful to know. Shall I go on to the risk management question as well?
We did ask you to prepare a risk management plan for unforeseen events in the future. We were pleased with the plan in terms of process. It identified who and what and when should be consulted, but it didn't actually give any practical detail. Can you provide us with some practical examples of how that risk management plan has worked and will work?
Is this on the introduction of new rolling stock particularly?
It was the new and cascaded fleet introduction. We presented it, as a committee, to ask you to—
Okay. I'll bring Lee in on that, if that's okay.
The example I'll give I think highlights the good and the bad out of something like that. So, the example I would give is around the class 170 introduction. We inherited some stock from Anglia and, under our risk management plan, we sent a team to Anglia to have a look at what we were getting. That, obviously, has a risk that goes with it, because what you're getting might not be what you think you're getting, and that actually did highlight that there were some modifications, et cetera, that they needed on the units when they came to us.
The advantage was that we knew it a little bit in advance, therefore we could prepare for it, and we probably got the 170s into service quicker than we would have done if we had not got that plan. I guess it's worked, but it has not necessarily worked in our favour in some ways. We'll do that with all the other cascaded stuff that we've got and, obviously, with the new fleets as well. I think we've got a bit of an advantage, at least with half the new fleets, with one of them being on our doorstep, so we can be very close to that and look at the risk management for bringing in that fleet in future.
Thank you. Helen Mary, have you got any supplementaries, and then we'll come on to your questions?
Yes. You said, Mr Price, that you expect to be doing more of the exciting new stuff, so let's come on to some of that and give you something, perhaps, more enjoyable to talk about. So, to discuss the metro and where we are with the metro, and you've mentioned it briefly, we understand that the design work for the metro began in February last year. Can you give us an update on progress and a timeline for the remaining stages?
Yes. The final design is all but completed. It's technically locked down, but we're just going through and doing some final checks—
Can you tell me what needs to be done and when it will be completed?
What needs to be done is we now need to build it, fundamentally. In order to start building it, we need to take the asset from Network Rail and from the UK Government. You will be aware that that has slipped from the timeline that we had wanted to achieve. It hasn't slipped beyond the timeline that's allowed for in the contracts, but based on what I said earlier—always plan for the worst—we planned for the earliest possible date within the contracts and, as predicted, it's slipped.
It's slipped because of a whole host of reasons. I think the biggest reason is that no-one has ever done this before on the scale that we are trying to do this, and there was so—
That's probably a fair point. The amount of detail in various different bits of legislation that UK Government didn't necessarily realise was there, and even Network Rail have discovered things that you didn't know were there—. We have had to go through a whole series of regulatory approvals that the regulator didn't know were required, simply because the legislation for rail—and I guess this is another wider point—some of it is 70 and 80 years old, and it's never been looked at. There are pieces in there about employment legislation that talk about partners of workers, who, in this instance, would have been female, basically being the property of the worker, and this is still on the books. So we're having to work through that type of thing, and we really didn't think a lot of this stuff still existed.
On the basis that we're taking staff across, we're taking safety systems across—. I'm trying to be fair to everyone involved, because I think everyone involved, and that's UK Government, Welsh Government, Network Rail, KeolisAmey, Transport for Wales, the Office of Rail and Road in the UK have worked really hard on it, but there were some mitigating circumstances, probably to be expected, which is why we started at the beginning and we gave ourselves enough time. I still think it's deliverable and we could trigger by the end of this week, but it requires everyone, in all organisations, to behave reasonably and not to try—. There's an element of negotiation in this because everyone can try to better their position—
I don't think so, no. We need to make sure that that doesn't happen, until the end of the week, and then we will trigger the transfer. The transfer will happen by the end of March, work will begin and that will be both enjoyable and a massive challenge. We have someone called Richard Parry-Jones, who has just done some work for us looking at integration risks. Richard used to be chief technology officer for Ford worldwide and chair of Network Rail. He told me two things, one of which was positive, one of which was scary. The positive piece was that, in some ways, what we are doing in terms of systems is as complex as Crossrail. In my head, I was painting what we were doing as quite simple. So that's the negative, or the challenge. The positive was that, despite there being a number of issues we need to close off, the team is really strong and we've got enough time to close it off.
Okay. So, if you're hoping that it will get there by March—there's a lot of hope going on in this meeting, Chair, which worries me a bit—
Well, we plan.
You plan. So, originally it would have been September, so that's a six-month delay—
So it's a six-month delay. Absolutely.
And you've explained why. Are there any other implications to this delay, or risks? Is the EU funding that was going to contribute to the scheme at risk—
There are some risks. I don't think the EU funding necessarily is one of them. The biggest risk is that we have eaten up some of our time constraint. The positive on that is we've spent more time and a bit more money, actually, designing, so we should have designed out some of the issues that we would have faced with an earlier start. We don't believe the EU funding is at risk with the timelines, but we are now more tight on the programme than I wanted us to be.
Just to build on what James has said there, we have been working on this project, basically, since June, when we signed it, because obviously we took the infrastructure side of it before we got the train-operating side, so we've been doing some discovery. We actually have done some real work, now. We've started on the depot in Taffs Well, so the demolition is taking place there. You can see that for yourself if you look out of the train window. A bit further up the valley at the Treforest estate, we've established our project office for the work on the Valleys. And in simple terms, we're not behind with anything at the moment as far as design is concerned and delivery is concerned. And the work then progresses from the Merthyr and Treherbert side of the Valleys to the Rhymney side. So, we start on the Merthyr side and we complete on the Rhymney side. And there's nothing, at the moment, that I see as a risk to that programme. It's a top priority for the three of us at this table to get this transfer done by the end of March.
That's encouraging, thank you. If I can just turn to regulatory matters, Network Rail currently reports on its expenditure through regulatory financial statements. How will Transport for Wales report on its expenditure on the infrastructure works and ongoing operation and maintenance to ensure that we continue that level of transparency?
I guess there are two parts to this answer. The first part is that we want to be—and I hope we are demonstrating this—completely transparent with committee; you need to have that proven to yourselves to believe it, but that's what we want to do. So, I would welcome a dialogue on exactly what you would want to see as part of that. Trying to replicate what Network Rail does might be a starter for 10, but we might be able to do it a bit better, because Network Rail are constrained in a way that maybe we won't be. But we are also, with Welsh Government, talking to the Office of Rail and Road about potentially being regulated in the same way post control period 6—and CP6 runs out in 2024.
So, post 2024, we may end up being regulated in a very similar way. So, that's why I said that there are two parts to those conversations—up to 2024 and then beyond.
I want to look into the future. We've spent a lot of time looking back, so let's start moving forward to an overview of the improvement planned for this year. What can we expect to be delivered? Do you have any idea when that might happen? And are there any contractual commitments that might be still at risk?
There's quite a lot of work going on this year. We may need to write to you on that, actually, because off the top of my head, I will be struggling. But headlines within this will be the start of some of the station improvement work, and some of the new rolling stock being delivered, so class 230s should be in service. From a Transport for Wales perspective more generally, Bow Street, which we looked at the other day, will be ready to serve the customer from the end of the year. And some further improvements around ticketing and customer service. I don't know, Lee, whether you've got any.
I can give you a sort of top 10 I've got written in front of me, I guess: James has already said more class 769s; mark 4s that go on the north-to-south route, which are a better coach than we've currently got on there; fleet refurbishment, which has started, but obviously continues in 2020; we'll see the D230 stock come on the Wrexham-Bidston line; Ken tweeted the other day about station cleaning, so that continues; and smart ticketing, which you mentioned. The other things we're looking at are various things on the Welsh language commitment. So, we've got some innovative things that we're trialling at Porthmadog, which is something we call—[Inaudible.] It's like Alexa on Amazon and it actually is an Amazon product. Signposting: making that better. And I guess the one that everybody's looking forward to is that we're going to get some mock-ups of the new trains coming to us, so you will have the ability to have a look and feel what a new train is going to be like.
Okay, that saves me asking about the Welsh Language Commissioner, because you've already highlighted that you recognise that there's a need to do some work on it. And you said—did you say that you're currently trialling it in Porthmadog?
Yes, we are.
Because I'm in Porthmadog on Friday and Saturday, so I can have a look.
But I want to move on now to Network Rail. We were promised—and then disappointed, as usual—by the Westminster Government that we'd have electrification all the way down to Swansea, and just to be clear, this is out of our hands; it's not devolved. So, we were then told by the then Secretary of State for Transport that there would be a development of additional options to improve journeys for passengers in Wales. Well, I cover mid and west Wales, so this is important for the people I represent. So, are you able to tell us what the current status of any work or major enhancement projects are, and is anything currently in development?
Absolutely. When the former Secretary of State for Transport announced the cancellation of electrification between Cardiff and Swansea, the department asked Network Rail to produce some outline strategic business cases for a number of potential enhancements, and those included, for example, the relief line upgrade between the Severn Tunnel and Cardiff; journey time improvements between Swansea and Cardiff and in north Wales and the Wrexham and Bidston lines as well; as well as the proposal for a west Wales parkway station on the Swansea district line. And that work was completed in terms of the outline strategic business case in 2019. As you'd expect, the business cases for those vary, and we're now working with stakeholders—the Department for Transport, Welsh Government and other stakeholders—on what the next steps are for those. And what we'll be doing is, where those business cases are less strong and less obvious, we'll be looking to see how we can develop those business cases as part of the regional transport plans to see what options we have to give a better service to passengers.
I guess, on a slightly separate note, it's worth noting that Network Rail's settlement in CP6, which is this five-year control period that James referenced, we have a settlement of £2 billion to invest in Wales's railway infrastructure, and there are some significant interventions that we're making there that will improve the rail infrastructure. For example, the Barmouth viaduct replacement, which is a significant scheme in north Wales, we've got £27 million specifically to look at climate impact on the railway to make it more resilient. And you might be familiar with some of the other interventions that we're making, such as the Crumlin river bridge replacement, and we're also looking at things like interventions in places like Blackbridge, which I know some of you will be familiar with in terms of what happens when that receives heavy rainfall and tidal surges, and that can impact heavily on passengers.
So, there's a significant amount of investment, both in terms of concrete plans, but also those developments that I outlined at the beginning there that we're working with stakeholders on now in terms of the next phases.
So, just so that I've got this right: £2 billion investment over the next five years; have you any idea what that compares with nationally in terms of our share?
I'd have to check that and write back to you. What I do know is that it's double, pretty much, what we had over the previous five years.
Can I just add to this, because we may be marginally talking at cross purposes? The £2 billion that you're quoting is for running and improving the existing assets. The question of that investment is about enhancements. So, they're two slightly different things.
Those cases that I first outlined, particularly the journey time improvements, are the business cases for enhancing passenger journeys, both in terms of journey time and speed, et cetera. The other thing that we're doing is enhancing the way that we operate, maintain and renew the infrastructure that currently exists.
Okay. I'm still not clear. We've got £2 billion to look after what we've already got, basically, and maybe upgrade it because it needs that—all things do when they're used. We've got some investment in Barmouth, but that's part of the same: improving what we've got. Have we got any money for—? Are you saying—did I hear you right? The business cases for new enhanced delivery—or the failure of—what we were promised: electrification to Swansea—. The things that would happen instead of that, additional options to that, maybe aren't actually—there is no money for any of that, like there was supposed to be something happening in Swansea, for example. I remember discussions around that. So, I just want to be clear—and I'm not clear—that we've got any new money for any new system change.
So, what we've been to look at are those proposed schemes—to develop the business cases for them. And what we're doing now is working with stakeholders to outline what those business cases look like for their next stages, and that's really good news for Wales, because some of those make a clear case for investing further and progressing those schemes, then, beyond just the early development into tangible schemes. And we're ready to do that in terms of moving on to the next stages once the funding becomes available for them.
So, you've got no commitment. They're all still on paper. Is that right?
Money has been spent on them in terms of development at this stage, so we're clear about what the outputs are and what it will cost.
Okay, thank you. We've run over time on this session, but we'll have a 10-minute break. James, if that's okay—it's for your benefit as well—because you're back with us in 10 minutes, and you're back with us with Scott Waddington, the chair of Transport for Wales. So, a 10-minute break, and we'll be back for the second session.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:40 a 10:53.
The meeting adjourned between 10:40 and 10:53.
Welcome back. I move to item 4 with regard to general scrutiny of Transport for Wales. I'd like to welcome back James Price, who was with us for the last session, and also Scott Waddington, who's chair of Transport for Wales. Thank you for being with us as well.
If I can start with the first question: £15 million was allocated in the Welsh Government's budget for 2020-21 to deliver Transport for Wales's current functions, can I ask if you are satisfied that this budget is sufficient?
Just in terms of the budget for 2020-21, it is sufficient to do the activities that we are currently doing today in relation to the rail services budget. In terms of the future activities that Welsh Government may wish to put in the remit letter, it may not be sufficient. But we are discussing that with the Welsh Government now, and I don't have concerns that we won't reach an agreement around what's necessary.
Okay, that's clear. And in terms of those additional activities that you mentioned, I know the Minister told committee recently that there's the ambition for active travel, aviation and bus all to be considered to be transferred to Transport for Wales. Which aspects of these activities are being considered, and why?
In the main, all of those activities.
The strategic road network.
The areas of those activities that are being considered are the areas that Welsh Government, as a civil service or through into the trunk road agents, do themselves currently. An area that is a bit different to that is on active travel, where there's an immediate conclusion that Welsh Government's activities in active travel are not necessarily as effective as they could be at the minute, and that's because it's a new area of activity. So there's a wish for us to bring more capacity in terms of helping local authorities to plan and helping local authorities to deliver in that area. In terms of the other activities, the first wave of any transfer would see the activities transferred to us as they are, with us then working more strategically with Welsh Government in the future to evolve them into something different for the future.
I think what I would add is that also we've got a FIT programme in place. That's all around the future integrated transport. There's a FIT board that Welsh Government have, who meet regularly to review the transfer processes and make sure that can happen safely, and someone from Transport for Wales also sits on that board. What that is ensuring is that, both from a Welsh Government point of view and a Transport for Wales board point of view, everyone is satisfied that the transfer of these functions that James has outlined can be done safely and effectively.
Future integrated transport programme.
Okay. Thank you. Mr Waddington, if I could ask you as well: the Minister has said that Transport for Wales must be satisfied that it is ready to assume these extra responsibilities, and I wonder what process the board is following to reach these decisions.
We've put a steering group in place to fully review all of that, along with some associated resource, and obviously working with regard to the FIT programme. The board has continued to receive regular feedback in terms of what the steering group is observing, and we expect to have some decision papers from February to review and then it'll be the board that will sign it off. So it's an area that the board is fully aware of. If we'd been having this discussion six or nine months ago, I think I'd have been more cautious about whether we were ready, but now I think, as a board—and, as a reminder, around the board table from a non-executive point of view, we do have a range of people with different backgrounds and experiences to feed into this—we do feel that will be ready.
Thank you. Your operating framework commits to reviewing the effectiveness of the board, and you've touched on this a little bit in your responses to the Chair. I think Mr Price, when he came before the committee before, said that there would be a formal review in either December last year or this January. Can you give us an update on that? Has that happened and will there be changes as a result of it?
Our first board effectiveness review is live at the moment. The timing has really been driven by the fact that I wanted, as chair, to have completed my first year in role, which I just have. Also Vernon Everitt, who was mentioned earlier, who is our latest board member, we just really wanted to give him enough time to be able to input effectively in terms of giving good feedback for us. We expect to review the outcome of that at our February board, next month, and then any actions that come out of that for areas of improvement we'll then take forward. As a board, we are committed to the UK corporate governance code in terms of reviewing ourselves every year and then having an independent review every three years.
So that would be the point at which you'd then be able to let us know what specific changes might need to be made to enable you as a board to take on the extra responsibilities.
Thank you. Can I ask a very specific question about gender balance on the board? We know that gender-balanced boards tend to be more effective. I probably should know this, Chair, so my apologies, but what does that look like now and are those some issues that you might touch on in the review?
We are exactly 50:50 between male and female.
In fact, we've just moved to that. We were, I think, one female more than male. So, we are exactly 50:50.
That's helpful. Your remit letter requires that a five-year corporate plan up to 2024 should be published in late 2019. That hasn't been done yet. Can you explain to us why not and when you expect it to be ready?
We've been developing our corporate plan, but we wanted to make sure that it took into account the FIT programme that we've just been talking about, because it would be silly to go too far with that. So, the board and the executive team have had several workshops working this through. I think, given the relatively young age that the organisation is, it is important that this one will form a foundation for us moving forward. We've held, as I say, a number of workshops and we've also had some external experts and stakeholders present to us to inform our thinking. We looked at the draft plan at our December board where everyone was able to input some thoughts to it. Welsh Government officials have also looked through it.
So, the plan in terms of delivery would be springtime, which will coincide then with, hopefully, the FIT being clear and also the start of our new financial year, and fitting in with the budget that we've already touched on.
I'm a little bit of a sceptical creature, and springtime can mean anything from early March to late May. Can you pin it down a little bit more, or perhaps you can write to the Chair?
Not to give you the absolute specific but to give you a guidance, I'd be disappointed if we aren't in place for the beginning of the financial year, which is April.
That's helpful and, in a sense, this may not be a question for you, it may be more of a question for Welsh Government, but are you satisfied that the way that you're incorporated as a wholly owned, not-for-profit company is the best structure for you to be able to deliver? Witnesses have suggested in the past to the committee that it might be more appropriate for it to be a Government agency, rather than a separate company, or some other statutory arrangement. I don't know if you want to comment on that because, in a sense, that's more of a question for the Government than it is for yourselves.
Shall I comment on it? Briefly, at the minute, I think I would still argue that we're in the right form for a number of reasons, and if I can just comment on the agency point as well. So, why do I think we're in the right form at the minute? I think we're in the right form at the minute because we're a new organisation. We haven't yet built up trust with those people who will hold us to account or with the public, and to put us on a statutory footing, which would imply giving us powers beyond what we currently have, I think might be going a step too far. We might like it, but I think it would be going a step too far, and I'm not sure that the public or the political system would wear it at the minute.
In terms of a Government agency, for me, I think that would be a retrograde step because that would feel much more like the civil service. We have been given statutory body-like freedoms in how we deliver within the remit that we're given, which is making a real difference. When we have to iterate on various different rolling stock types, we can do that much quicker than Department for Transport and muck quicker than Network Rail, actually. So, for me, being able to have the freedom to operate in an operational world very flexibly within very strong governance from a board is important, and I think we would need to grow into any other role. And the key question in going into any other role is: how do we ensure political scrutiny in what is a relatively small country? We don't want to recreate quangos who think they know it all would be my view.
I was just going to add from a board point of view, we're very clear that in the position we are now we also have to meet the requirements of the Companies Act 2006. We're very clear about what our articles of association are, but, on the other hand, we recognise that we are a public body and all the rules that come with that the board is focused on. As James said, it's a good place to be with where the organisation is now from a governance point of view.
I was quite encouraged to hear you say, Mr Price, that you recognise that there's an issue of trust in the organisation. Can you just briefly—and it's a big question and I know we've got a lot to do—but can you briefly give us an idea about what—and Mr Waddington, you may have a view from the board—Transport for Wales needs to do to build that trust?
Okay. So, for me personally, and you may—this is all about perception—go away and laugh or cry about what I'm about to say, but for me personally, I've always tried to work in a way that if I say I'm going to do something, I will do it. And if you can build a reputation as an individual for doing that, that becomes very powerful in allowing you to do things that other people might not be able to do. My biggest frustration in Transport for Wales—linked to rail services, actually, today, not linked to other things we've done—has been that we've promised things that, in some instances, we haven't been able to deliver. And, for me, we need to consistently do what we say we were going to do and then call it out to people, at which point people start to believe you, and I think, for me, it's as simple as that. So, that's my ambition.
I'm going to discuss the structure, skills and staffing and whether you could give an overview of the current and planned future structure, and particularly below board level, which includes the number of departments, the split of responsibilities and approximate staffing levels in each.
So, in preference of brevity, I probably should write to you and point to some things. But, at a headline level, the structure that we've got today, I think, is working and can be made to continue to work without too many changes, even allowing for the FIT programme that we talked about earlier and activities coming from Welsh Government. So, we've designed the structure to be able to flex.
We are currently looking at how we might evolve to be based around three core blocks with a whole series of enablers. The three core blocks would be development and design; build; and then operate. And if you think about most of the things we do they will fall into those categories. So, what is the future of the rail service? That's development; building it will be the build part; and then operate it will be delivering. But key things that will support that will be customer service, communications, stakeholder engagement and then obvious things like safety, HR, finance. But we've got all those teams, it's just about how we don't replicate functions when we have more modes and how we don't create modal champions who fight against each other. What we want is integrated transport that's modal agnostic and that moves people effectively and in a carbon-free manner.
So, I think we've broadly got the right structure in place. The structure is on the website. We have taken feedback from the committee, and I've looked into it myself, and I think the committee is correct that, actually, if you dig into it, people like Transport for London have provided more information than perhaps we thought they had. We think we've matched that now. So, that is on the website and in the annual report are the pay scales linked to the structures that are on the website, including numbers of people. But very happy if the committee wants to write to us on specific questions around that to answer.
Well, you've obviously anticipated my next questions and answered them, which is always a good thing, if you had guessed. Really pleased to hear that. You gave the outline of the structure in terms of railway, and I'm assuming you did that as an example, rather than all of it, because the FIT—the future integrated transport—would require that read across all. So, considering that you're going to take on more functions—you've been asked to take them on—how are you planning to ensure that you have, therefore, sufficient staff to deliver those new functions?
Okay. So, I'll hand over to Scott in a minute on this, because there's a board governance issue around this, but, from my perspective, as an executive, we will not be recommending to the board that we take on any functions that we're not resourced to deliver. From the board's perspective, they won't allow us to do that, and actually I don't think Welsh Government is expecting us to do that either.
So, the core of the FIT programme, from a Welsh Government perspective, is trying to create an expert delivery body that is separate from a policy organisation that is doing what Government should do, and, at the minute, the Government—. And I always use the example about picking up dead badgers. It's probably a stupid example, but in the road environment, picking up dead badgers is where people can die, where corporate manslaughter charges can occur, which, therefore, by definition, takes senior management time. In Government, the Government wants to be focusing on strategic policy, removing climate change impacts, not focusing on the boring day-to-day reliable service issues. So, the whole FIT programme is about allowing Government to govern and set strategic direction, and then allowing us to get better than Government is about delivering day to day, and getting effectiveness and efficiency improvements by showing services across different modes on that. But I'm not worried about us not having enough resource to do that.
And this is something that the board is very focused on. As you say, there will be more responsibilities coming in. I would suggest, with where we are now, I agree with James, I think we are in the right place for the modes of transport that we're expecting to come in. We've made changes this year. We mentioned bringing Vernon Everitt in, who's a transport specialist. I think the balance of the board feels right from a governance point of view. But, obviously, we'll keep it under review, and if we feel there are gaps—there was an obvious one for last year to fill—then, clearly, we'll review it as we move forward.
TfW did publish a staff survey and the results could have been better, because 51 per cent said that they have access to everything they need to perform to the best of their ability. So, only 51 per cent said that they felt that they had everything they needed to perform. That's not really a high number. And then only 59 per felt that they were given opportunities to learn and develop skills. So, I'm assuming that that survey was there so that you could address what you've found. So, is that happening?
So, the short answer is 'yes'. Just a teeny bit of context, and how I filled in the survey, for what it's worth. So, the context is—and I haven't got the exact numbers—that the 50 per cent number includes people who said, 'Don't know'. At the time we did the survey, there were a significant proportion of new starters in the organisation, so I don't think it would have been unreasonable for them to have said, 'Don't know'. What will be much more interesting is when we do it again—what they now feel.
But I answered 'Don't know' as well, and I probably encouraged a large number of people to answer 'Don't know', because we're entering a world of things like transport planning where we want to be best in class, and to assume we're ever going to be in a position—. So, maybe the question needs to change. To assume that we're ever going to be in a position where we've got everything we need to be world class, certainly at this point, I just didn't think that that was a reasonable thing to achieve. So, I ticked 'Don't know'. Not on the basis that I thought we weren't in a good position, but because there's always things we're going to learn. But I think we should re-run the survey, which we will be doing, and see where the new starters are. There's a whole range of activities we've taken on board on the back of that survey.
Can I just have one extra? Just a very brief one. When other organisations have come into being, it is always a struggle, isn't it, to get your staff feeling part of a new organisation and to work together? And I know that you're still fairly new. And we've seen this elsewhere—it doesn't just appertain to your organisation. So, when do you anticipate doing your next survey that gives us some information?
Can we write to you on that? I don't have the actual date of it, but we will be doing a follow-up and in more depth.
Thank you, Chair. I'd just like to ask some questions around trade union and stakeholder relationships. So, firstly, during the committee's inquiry, trade unions said to us that while union recognition was in place, they didn't have
'everything else that goes with it'.
Is agreement now in place on the frequency of meetings with management, terms of reference and the issues that unions will negotiate and consult on?
So, at a whole host of different levels—including the board, which, if it's okay, I'll let Scott deal with questions around that—we have a formal engagement protocol and way that we are working with trade unions.
It's a learning lesson, I think, for both ourselves and for the trade unions, because the trade unions that are now working together with TfW haven't necessarily worked together in the past. So, we've got some rail unions—Transport Salaried Staffs Association, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen—and we've got unions who have been involved in public services in Wales and linked to the Welsh Government before, so Unite, the Public and Commercial Services Union and Prospect, in the main. Broadly speaking, what we've seen is that the people who've been engaged with the Welsh Government before are very keen and very happy to work under what we call a partnership arrangement. The national unions that haven't been engaged with the Welsh Government before haven't really seen this way of working. Therefore, by definition—it comes back to the trust point—they are more wary about agreeing to a different way of working.
What we have is a partnership agreement that is with the trade unions to sign. I think it would be true to say that they are broadly content with it, but each individual union has a slightly different issue. So, what we're talking to the unions about now is: can we operationalise the partnership agreement so we move to the next stage of working closely together whilst we iron out any difficulties that exist, either between the unions and us or between the trade unions, which we need to get to if we're going to get to things like collective bargaining, et cetera, et cetera? But, I would portray things—as you might expect I would, but I think I'm being honest in this—as that we are making progress. We had a session with the Minister, in fact, very recently, where the unions came in. In terms of ways of working, that was a positive session.
Is it okay if I bring Scott in?
I'm particularly interested in an update on the appointment of a trade union representative to the board, actually.
Okay. Well, we've benefited from having a trade union representative on our board since last October. The unions that James mentioned—the seven unions—collectively decided who that individual would be. I think it's true to say that it's been a positive experience for us all, but, unfortunately, Gareth Howells, who was the appointed person, is retiring, so we're just looking now at the process of how we're going to replace Gareth.
Okay, thank you. Finally from me, just an update on TfW's stakeholder engagement, specifically the establishment of the national stakeholder board and any sub-groups. I'm wondering whether these are in place now, how they will operate and what role they'll play.
Okay. So, in the previous session, I touched on this in regard to how we're going to engage with customers around what they want when we don't deliver. We have written out to members of the headline panel, or people we would like to be members of the headline panel. There's a date in the diary, I think, for next month. That, I believe, is going to meet quarterly. Below that, there's a series of regional stakeholder boards that are in the process of being set up as well. Very shortly, we should be able to be in a position of giving you an update, putting minutes on the board, et cetera, et cetera, of what's happening on that. So, it is happening.
Can I ask you about the involvement that Transport for Wales has with the proposed bus Bill that the Welsh Government is preparing?
Yes. I'm just trying to think about the quickest way to answer this. The bus Bill that the Welsh Government is preparing is, obviously, all around giving local authorities the power to franchise buses. We have been supporting the Welsh Government with some of the technical documentation and advice necessary, hopefully, to get the Bill through. So, this will be things like impact assessments and some of the technical requirements in order for the Bill to actually work. We've been supporting—in a way that, maybe, a consultant might, normally—Government in driving that through. We don't own the Bill; that's very clearly a Government Bill.
Okay. Would you expect that Bill then to lead to Transport for Wales having more effective oversight of bus services?
I want to be a bit careful what I say on this, because I don't have full access to all of the facts, I guess, and we've got to see how the Bill goes as it goes through various different stages. But, the Bill, in and of itself, will not give Transport for Wales a role in integrating transport.
Now, obviously, we think we should have a role in integrating transport, and what we don't want to do is fragment things more. However, the Bill probably is a necessary step but not a sufficient step to achieve that. So, I believe that there's a further Bill on the back of the bus Bill, which is potentially around mandating or encouraging local authorities to work together on a regional basis on some transport matters—bus would be one of them. So, franchising would be done on a regional basis. I think, at that stage, I would be arguing—and I want to bring Scott in from a board perspective, because we have discussed this—that Transport for Wales should either be an executive provider of some of those services into those boards, so we serve the boards, which is kind of how we're serving Welsh Government, or we should be in a co-ordinating and quality-control position, kind of feeding into those boards. I think, if we're not involved, it will not be possible for us to deliver integrated transport, integrated ticketing or any of the other things we want to see.
So, don't you see Transport for Wales as having a role as a national joint transport authority with the regional JTAs sitting underneath that?
So, that absolutely could work. I don't think, at the minute, that is in the legislation, but that could be one option that comes through, not on the bus Bill but on the second piece of legislation.
I think what's coming out of this is what's really important from a board point of view is that Transport for Wales's role is clearly set out. So, we all understand what it is because, as James is saying, there are a variety of options, but I think—and we've shared this with Welsh Government colleagues—if part of Transport for Wales's role is to truly help integrate transport across Wales and get more people using public transport, we have to have a sufficient level of involvement in bus because bus is key to making the whole integrated piece work. So, that's a point we've shared and it's really important.
I'm a little bit surprised, really. I would have thought that Transport for Wales would have had a more central role in the development of a bus Bill.
So, I don't want to give the wrong impression. I think we are fairly involved in supporting the bus Bill. I think there are some technical issues because local authorities have the powers around buses and I think it would be very difficult to change that. So, I don't think there's anything wrong at all with what's being done, and as I said, I think all of the things that are being done are necessary, but they're probably not sufficient, and I think there needs to be some honest discussion, because there's different models that could be used, including the one you said and including, literally, us as Transport for Wales on a regional basis, for some of our activities, reporting into those new regional accountable bodies, or directing or providing executive services for them. We are talking to Welsh Government about this, so we're not in any disagreement. Our concern would only be that a clear picture is not set out, and, therefore, we end up with confusion rather than clarity.
And I think this is something we'll come back to explore as the committee that will be dealing with Stage 1 of the Bill, and I think at that point we might wish to return to that. Your remit letter says that you should continue to support the Welsh Government on the bus services review. Does that refer to broader work and the four demand-responsive bus pilots?
It does, yes.
So, again, we are supporting, and it is a supporting role for Welsh Government, working with local government and the Welsh Local Government Association, looking at what might be possible within the existing structure and set-up to modernise the bus industry, and there could be some real wins, but I think they're going to be on the whole marginal in nature because we don't have the powers necessary currently to make that step change.
I would say so, at a high level, yes.
Okay. Over the course of the end of last year, I had quite a lot of constituents being in touch about bus passes and receipt of concessionary bus passes. How many have now not been issued? We've got a figure of around 550,000 have been issued of the 750,000 pre-existing cards. Have you got concerns about that?
So, I do have concerns, absolutely, which I'll come on to in a minute, which are mainly not related to what we have done or are able to do—
Can we come on to that in a second, but first look at where we are at the moment?
So, we have about 24,000 more bus passes as of yesterday to send out, to reach all those who have applied.
So, it's 29 January today; 31 January is the cut-off date. Are you concerned there'll be people who want bus passes who will miss the cut-off date?
So, in the main, I believe we will deliver all bus passes in time for the cut-off date. I am concerned about a group of people who, again, yesterday—these numbers are varying massively day to day—stood at about 1,000, and these people are people who, for one reason or another, have not filled in the application form correctly, or provided the wrong format of photo, or maybe got the wrong information on there. Now, that's easy to do; I make mistakes like that all the time. The difficulty for us, and for them, I guess, is making sure that we contact them, we get the right information, and we turn it around. We've done some things to help that. We've got a grace period, as people will know, until the end of February, where, if people are still using their old pass, they will continue to be honoured. My personal concern is what happens beyond that. I don't want to be in a position where an older person who genuinely didn't know anything about it or has made a genuine error—they shouldn't be excluded from the bus network. But at the same time, there are potential fraud issues if we just keep extending the grace period.
Okay. You said you've got wider concerns about the process and the system.
That was the wider concern. So it's what happens at the end. We're treating this like a public service, which it is, in the same way as benefit entitlement or a driving licence or anything else. For those who didn't have the entitlement, you couldn't use the service. For most people in Wales, this will be the first time for a long time that they have had to renew their application. And I guess, just from a TfW perspective, No. 1, I don't want to be damaging any older person's ability to move around and No. 2, I'm worried about the negative publicity that might ensue.
We're planning for that by monitoring on a daily and on a weekly basis how many taps are being made by old passes, so we know how many people are in this group that we might need to worry about, and we're monitoring the grace period. There may come a conversation about having a lower level grace period for a longer period of time, or something else. But all of these things do have to be factored against the fraud risk of just having passes that shouldn't be in circulation. And people who've been on other committees, like the Public Accounts Committee, will have seen some of the consequences of that. So, the message I would want to put out from today, if you could help, is: anyone who hasn't renewed, renew; anyone who's worried, contact us.
And one last question: you wrote to card users who used their passes regularly, which you defined as six or more times in three months—why not everyone who's got a card? Why only those people?
Not to put too fine a point on it, there's a risk in writing to people at the address we hold for them on the card, on two fronts—No. 1, they might not live there anymore, No. 2, they may be deceased. So we were very worried, for obvious reasons, about upsetting people by writing to the homes of people who may have recently died. It's not very sensitive. So that's the reason we didn't write to everyone.
You referred in your reply about integrated ticketing—. I know that that was an issue that we picked up on in our inquiry report, and when you responded to our report, you talked about integrated ticketing in terms of rail, but I wonder if you can perhaps expand on that in terms of developing a fully-integrated, multimodal—
We've got plans for that, technical plans, and we've got ideas about what we would want to do. I think, and there may be people who would disagree with me, but in the main, I think people would agree that technology is no longer the barrier to doing this. So, we could have account-based ticketing; we could have tap-in, tap-out; and we could have—I'm probably using the wrong term—geofencing, where you have the app on your phone, which we have on rail, and you walk around, you don't do anything, and you get a minimum bill with a Visa-type guarantee on it. But without the ability to be involved in the bus network, and potentially without the ability to mandate that it's accepted on the bus network, we can't get fully integrated ticketing across modes of travel. So, it comes back to the ability, maybe before, by agreement, or after franchising by mandating, that whatever ticketing platform we're going to use is accepted across different modes.
And picking up on another point that Hefin David raised, or your response to one of his questions, the Minister isn't proposing joint transport authorities any longer; rather, he's looking at joint committees under the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill, so do you think that that is sufficient?
My understanding—and I'm not an expert on this, nor involved in the detail—is that, to all intents and purposes, that would achieve the same end, and they would have the same powers. When I've asked, that's what I've been told.
I think so, yes. But with a wider remit, because they'll include, I think, economic development and some other aspects.
The issue we had was that there was then no national JTA to co-ordinate and oversee.
I think the view is that that is the role of TfW. All I'm saying is—.
All I'm saying is that we need to find a way to make that work.
And just a last question. With regard to developing your future budget in the context of the additional responsibilities that you will be receiving in the future, we touched on that in the opening questions, but I was just looking at the budget process and how you'd go about that.
It's very much working collaboratively with Welsh Government, in terms of being very clear about the remit and what it is that we're expected to deliver, and we're doing that. As James said at the start, in terms of budget that we're looking at for next year, we're comfortable with what we've got for currently what we do, but clearly, as more services come in, it's going to be—and again, the board is very focused on this—making sure that the associated budget comes with it. We've been talking to Welsh Government about longer budgetary cycles, which, for an ongoing situation that we're managing, will be incredibly helpful. I think in principle, they're looking at that. Because the activities we're undertaking are not things you can just stop, start, switch; this is a long-term plan for us to deliver. But I think we're in the right place with the Welsh Government, so, as I said, the key is making sure that the budget evolves with the responsibilities that we take on.
You've got another meeting at 12, but are you able to take one last question from Helen Mary Jones?
Just a very brief question for Mr Waddington: how does the board ensure that Transport for Wales is delivering on its Welsh language responsibilities? Is there a particular member of the board who leads on scrutiny for that? That might be something they might want to write to us, Chair, rather than giving an answer today.
I'd be happy to write to you. I think Alun Bowen, who is one of our non-executive directors, particularly focuses—he is bilingual—on making sure that everything we put out, such as our annual report, is bilingual. He has a focus on it, and obviously in terms of our customer engagement, that's rail services, which I know you heard from earlier. But, yes—
But you have some responsibility for how you write what you require of them—
Absolutely, and we have had—.
So, just building on what Scott said, that is set out in the contract. In the main, they are on track to deliver it. There are a couple of issues and there is a big issue, in fact, with how strong the current law around the use of Welsh is in binding UK Government systems that have to be used in Wales. So there's something called the RDG—the Rail Delivery Group—which is a UK system. I've written to them saying, 'I think you're breaching the law', basically. They've replied saying, 'The law doesn't apply to us.' This is on ticketing, et cetera.
Okay, can I thank you both for your time with us today? I appreciate, James Price, that you've had, sometimes—you've said yourself that they're figures off the top of your head that you've revealed to us. So, if you feel that, when you get the transcript of the proceedings—
We'll go through it and check it, yes.
—if there's anything you need to adjust, then we'd welcome that, of course. And we welcome Scott Waddington to the committee for the first time, as well, so we look forward to you coming back to committee at a future point. So, diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much.
Thanks for your time.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
I will move to item 5 under Standing Order 17.42. Can I resolve to exclude members of the public from item 6? Thank you. That brings us, then, to the end of today's meeting.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:34.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:34.