IN the face of dramatic falls in passenger numbers the Welsh Government has decided to bring the Wales and Borders rail franchise under public control, it was announced today, October 22.

Transport Minister Ken Skates said the move will help secure the future of passenger services in Wales and the Borders area, and protect jobs.

The move comes after a challenging period in which Covid-19 has significantly impacted passenger numbers and rail revenue across Wales.

The new arrangements will see day-to-day rail services become the responsibility of a new publicly-owned subsidiary of Transport for Wales, which includes a new partnership between Transport for Wales, Keolis and Amey.

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said: “The last few months have been extremely challenging for public transport in Wales and across the UK. Covid has significantly impacted passenger revenues and the Welsh Government has had to step in with significant support to stabilise the network and keep it running.

“We have decided to transfer of day-to-day rail services to a new publicly owned subsidiary of Transport for Wales.”

The decision follows the collapse of rail franchises across England as the privatised model comes under strain from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“In Wales we continue a partnership approach between TfW and Keolis Amey as we work together to protect services for the Welsh public, safeguard jobs and secure the important Metro projects we have been working so hard on over the last few years,” Mr Skates added.

Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport Lee Waters said: “There are no easy answers to the challenges we face in rail and in public transport over the next few years – passenger numbers have fallen and there will be difficult days ahead as we navigate through the challenges of Covid.

“We are bringing the Wales and Borders service into public hands because it is a vital asset, critical to the future of our economy and our communities.

“I want us to maintain our ambition for a high quality and integrated public transport system with modal shift at its heart over the next few years and I believe that today’s announcement is vital in helping us do that.”

Commenting on the announcement, Shadow Minister for the Economy, Russell George MS, said: “Before making this decision, Welsh Labour-led Government ministers should have consulted the Welsh Parliament on the list of failings facing the industry pre-Covid – especially the lack of outdated train stock – as well as, crucially, how much this decision is going to cost the Welsh taxpayer."

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Transport Helen Mary Jones MS said Plaid had always maintained that our railways should be brought into public hands , but added: “However crucial questions remain. What are the financial implications? Does Transport for Wales have the capacity to directly manage the service? What is the nature of this subsidiary?

“Decisions of this importance should be announced in the Senedd so that members can ask questions on behalf of the people of Wales. I’m grateful to the Minster for agreeing to meet me privately to discuss, but that is no substitute for public scrutiny. I believe that there is a case for the Senedd to be recalled so that this can be debated.”