|Bethan Sayed AC|
|David J Rowlands AC|
|Hefin David AC|
|Jack Sargeant AC|
|Joyce Watson AC|
|Russell George AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Barclay Davies||Cyfarwyddwr, Defnyddwyr Bysiau Cymru|
|Director, Bus Users Cymru|
|Chris Yewlett||Cadeirydd Grŵp Dwyrain Cymru, Sefydliad Siartredig Logisteg a Thrafnidiaeth|
|Chair of the East Wales Group, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport|
|Christine Boston||Cyfarwyddwr Cymru, Cymdeithas Cludiant Cymunedol|
|Director for Wales, Community Transport Association|
|David Beer||Rheolwr Rhanddeiliaid, Transport Focus|
|Stakeholder Manager, Transport Focus|
|Dr Llŷr ap Gareth||Uwch Gynghorwr Polisi, Ffederasiwn Busnesau Bach Cymru|
|Senior Policy Adviser, Federation of Small Businesses Wales|
|Dr Roisin Willmott||Cyfarwyddwr, Y Sefydliad Cynllunio Trefol Brenhinol yng Nghymru|
|Director, Royal Town Planning Institute Wales|
|John Pockett||Cyfarwyddwr, Cydffederasiwn Cludwyr Teithwyr Cymru|
|Director, Confederation of Passenger Transport Wales|
|Linda McCord||Uwch Reolwr Rhanddeiliaid, Transport Focus|
|Senior Stakeholder Manager, Transport Focus|
|Steve Brooks||Cyfarwyddwr Cenedlaethol Cymru, Sustrans|
|National Director Wales, Sustrans|
|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. Papers to note|
|3. Datblygu Trafnidiaeth Cymru yn y Dyfodol: Trafnidiaeth Gyhoeddus a Theithio Llesol||3. The Future Development of Transport for Wales: Public Transport and Active Travel|
|4. Datblygu Trafnidiaeth Cymru yn y Dyfodol: Buddiannau Teithwyr||4. The Future Development of Transport for Wales: Passenger Interests|
|5. Datblygu Trafnidiaeth Cymru yn y Dyfodol: Cyrff Proffesiynol a Chynrychiadol||5. The Future Development of Transport for Wales: Professional and Representative Bodies|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Bore da. Good morning. I'd like to welcome Members to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee. I move to item 1 and we do have apologies from Vikki Howells this morning and two other Members who will be joining us shortly. If there are any declarations of interest, please say so now.
Eitem dau—there are two papers to note. One is a letter to the Development Bank for Wales from me as Chair, following the session a few weeks ago, and the second is a letter to the Minister, Ken Skates, with regard to our piece of work on the potential growth deals, and a similar letter, or the same letter, rather, has also gone to the Wales Office as well. Are Members happy to note those two papers? Great.
In that case, I move to item 3 and this is the second public session, or week, with regard to our inquiry on the future development of Transport for Wales, and we have a packed agenda this morning. We have three separate sessions between panels of public transport bodies, users, businesses and other stakeholders that we we are keen to take evidence from as well. So, if I can ask our first panel, which is made up of a public transport and active travel panel to give us advice this morning—if I could ask you all to perhaps give your names and positions for the public record. We'll start from my left.
Yes, I'm Steve Brooks, I'm director of Sustrans Cymru.
I'm Christine Boston, Wales director for the Community Transport Association.
Bore da. John Pockett—fi yw cyfarwyddwr Cymru Cydffederasiwn Cludwyr Teithwyr Cymru.
Good morning. I'm John Pockett, director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport in Wales.
CPT Cymru is the body that represents bus and coach operators across Wales.
Thank you and thank you for your time with us this morning. I should say you don't need to touch the equipment, it comes on as if by magic. If I could ask Steve Brooks: do you think that the current structure of Transport for Wales is clear and understood?
It's becoming clearer and it's becoming more understood, I think it's fair to say. I think in the early days, Sustrans and a number of other stakeholders were confused as to what the new arrangements meant and, in essence, who you should talk to. So, I think the confusion existed in the difference between TfW and TfW Rail, for example, and the exact division of roles and responsibilities between Welsh Government and TfW. But I think, over time, it's becoming clearer and the flip side, the good story, I suppose, to tell is that I think TfW have been good at engaging with organisations like Sustrans. So, although it wasn't clear in one sense, and we had to quite often unpick what was said in Plenary, for example, from ministerial statements or evidence sessions in committee, the approach, I find, from TfW was quite open. So, we've had quite a good relationship with them and now things are starting to settle down and it has become clearer where things were.
And is it accessible? Do you feel that you can pick up the phone and chat to colleagues?
Yes, absolutely. Again, the panel members may disagree, so I just speak as I find. I'm an observer on the cross-party group on active travel, which was chaired by Lee Waters, formerly of this parish. We had a session on TfW, which James Price, the chief executive, came to and brought one of his senior executive directors and—[Inaudible.]—policy analysts, and I found him to be on top of his brief, but also kind of open to criticism and came with questions. Similarly, TfW have engaged quite a lot with the active travel board, which exists to provide support to civil servants on the implementation of the Act. And we've got good bilateral relationships with them.
All of that, though, I think is in the forming stage of TfW, and its role, so I think there is a question about when things actually start bedding down and everybody rolls up their sleeves and gets on with delivery—how those relationships operate in a more substantive way. But so far, slight confusion at the start, but I think in terms of their approach and how open their door has been, I've got relatively little criticism of that.
And, Christine Boston, if I ask you: do you think the remit of Transport for Wales is clear and their role is clear?
I think there's need for further clarification. I agree with Steve in terms of positive engagement; they've engaged very, very positively with CTA and with the community transport sector, but there has been some confusion. So, for example, our staff and some members have been to events on the transport strategy where Transport for Wales staff have been leading and they've been to some things on the bus strategy where Transport for Wales are talking about, 'We are bringing forward a White Paper on buses.' So, our members are certainly confused about what sits where. Then, in terms of looking at Transport for Wales, they were initially set up to look at the rail franchise and the metro, but looking at the remit letter, actually, they are now being asked to do work that is much broader than that, and there is certainly some confusion amongst our members about who is responsible for what and how they're working together. But, yes, in terms of engagement, they have been very, very open with us, and they've taken on board what our members have had to say as well.
I've had my glory taken away from me, I think, because I agree. I've used the sort of analogy that TfW have had a lengthy and almost phantom pregnancy and a very difficult birth, but I think, after the difficult birth, if I can carry on with that, I think they are now getting their feet under the table and I think they've got a clearer vision. There's a lot of work for them to do still, but the engagement is good, and I pay tribute to them on that. It hasn't always been the case with the Government, but we've got a programme of meetings, updates—we had one last week—and, with each meeting, each quarter, the clarity is becoming clearer—
So, what capacity do you have at those meetings? Is that with a wider group or one to one? Tell us about that.
No, no, this is the CPT—
No. We expressed concern that we didn't know—like everybody, I suppose—what TfW was about, and so James Price set up meetings for us, in fairness to him, and we now have a programme. We started last year, and we had one last week, as I said, so the next one will be in three months' time, but there's nothing stopping us picking up the phone—or it's usually sending an email—to the people we relate to, and you do get good engagement from them. So, I think, as I say, after a bit of a shaky start with their public face, then, because I think that's when the rail franchise started—that's when they really came into their own. They had a bit of a shaky start; not all of it was their responsibility. I think they are getting their act together, as I think Christine and Steve have said.
And, Steve, you commented in your opening comments as well on there being, perhaps, a rocky start and information not being available and some uncertainty and lack of clarity on some areas. Are all the plans that they—are all their strategies and documents all public now and are you happy and content with all of that?
To a degree, yes. Online, they've got a business plan, which gives quite a lot of information. There are still questions—for us as an active travel charity, there are still questions about precisely who's doing what. So, is it TfW? Is it TfW Rail, for example, which is kind of taking a lead. So, there are some of those kind of—
But when you have your stakeholder meetings, as John is talking about, don't you ask those—? Do they not—? Does that not come out in that discussion?
Yes, absolutely. And sometimes they don't know, and it's not because of incompetence, it's because, in a sense, there are some—I wouldn't say bigger fish to fry, but there are some kind of first-order issues that they themselves need to sort out first. So, I think I'm comfortable with it, but to have a good relationship with them you do need to have some kind of comfort with ambiguity with that.
I think John wants to come in, but I'll just ask this question, then. So, perhaps it's not so much that they're not telling you but that their set-up is not yet clear to them. Is that, perhaps, what you're saying?
I think that's right, and I think it hasn't helped when you've had things like—I can't remember which one of my colleagues mentioned the buses White Paper. The Government approached me and asked, 'Could we provide some vehicles for them to have a launch outside the Millennium Centre?' Well, I did that, but then all my dealings were with Transport for Wales. Well, I scratched my head and I thought, 'Well, a White Paper is a Government thing, not a Transport for Wales delivery arm', if I can call it that. So, I think that there may be internal reasons—. There is zero recruitment, I understand, in Welsh Government, whereas Transport for Wales have got money so they can take on people. But it doesn't help in clarity for us, for you, and ultimately for Joe Soap, when they need to know who's responsible.
What information should Transport for Wales make available on its public website, in terms of its documents and strategies that perhaps it's not publishing now?
So, from what I've seen, we've—again, because of the good engagement, we've seen a lot of documentation. So, for example, the commercial director for TfW Rail presented at the active travel board meeting in November, I think it was, and they outlined their integration with active travel strategy, essentially, and went into some detail. Again, in terms of the substance of it, there are some questions, but, essentially, it's good. I'm not sure that that kind of information is yet on the website. So, from my perspective, I've kind of got access to that information because we're a stakeholder. If I was a concerned citizen who wanted to know what TfW is planning to do on active travel, that information might not be readily available.
We've already started, in a way, through you, John, to discuss the relationship between TfW and the Welsh Government. So, in your opinion—all of your opinions, but I'll go to you first, John—how independent should TfW be of the Welsh Government and is it at this moment clear enough, the distinction?
I think I've answered the second bit already.
The first bit: I think everybody needs to be clear what they want TfW to do. What is the model? If you look at Transport Scotland, it's different. As I understand it, it's an Executive agency of the Scottish Government, whereas here, TfW is a not-for-profit, arm's-length company, wholly owned by Welsh Government. Our understanding—. My notes from meetings with the Government and with TfW, but mainly with the Government, have said that the aim of TfW—. Welsh Government is the policy and budget-setting body, and TfW is the delivery body. Well, I don't think that's—. That may be the mission statement, but I think it needs clarity, and I think that needs to come, not from TfW—that needs to be direction set by the Government, if that is the model they decide to adopt. They may decide to—. Transport Scotland changed and became an Executive agency. They may decide, at some point, that that is a good model to follow. But as it is at the moment, I think as Joyce said, there is a lack of clarity.
I certainly agree with that, yes. We don't have a strong view on it, but there needs to be clarity about who is doing what, how they are taking it forward, who they are working with, and who's responsible for what. That should be provided on the website as well. At the minute, the website is about the rail franchise and the metro, and clearly they are working on much more than that. Also, there are issues around how you might scrutinise an arm's-length body. I think that certainly needs oversight and protocols put in place to facilitate that. Also, whilst we've all talked about positive engagement with Transport for Wales, that isn't something that they are required to do right now. It's very good, and it's a very, very positive start. But what could be put in place to ensure that that continues into the future?
So, are you saying that that's dependent on an individual rather than a direction—that positive engagement?
It could be both, but say the personnel changed, that could be different in the future.
I wouldn't disagree with any of that. I think the Government has already provided some level of detail in terms of what that division of labour is going to be, but I think now it needs to flesh that out. So, it would be good if, in this process, that additional detail is provided. I think, broadly, that it's right that the Welsh Government sets public policy and strategy and budgets, and that TfW is the delivery body. There's one argument that might be: TfW should concentrate on what it's got at the moment and do that better, which I'm sympathetic to. But, equally, from an active travel perspective, I have spoken at this committee before about some of the weaknesses inherent in delivering the active travel Act, and what we would describe as the delivery gap. So, I see a role for TfW in potentially being a body that resolves, or that bridges, that delivery gap. So, in some senses, I kind of disagree with, 'They should just focus on what they've got and do it well', because I think there's a role for TfW to roll up their sleeves and solve some of the other sustainable transport issues. But we need more detail now from Ministers as to what sits under policy and strategy and what sits with civil servants, rightly so, and what sits under delivery.
Do any of you feel that they're straying beyond their remit letter? I am quoting you.
Not necessarily the remit letter, because the remit letter is very broad, but, as an external organisation that represents smaller organisations or even the public, if you don't know where to find that, it would be difficult to know what their remit is.
Dŷn ni wedi trafod y modelau yn weddol hyd nes rŷch chi wedi bod yma'r bore yma, ond roeddwn i jest eisiau efallai ymhelaethu mwy ar eich barn chi ar y llywodraethiant a'r atebolrwydd. Dŷch chi'n dweud ei fod efallai nawr yn dibynnu ar ewyllys da a'r staff, ond beth fyddai'n gallu gweithio'n well er mwyn i'r llywodraethiant fod yn fwy effeithlon er mwyn i sgrwtini allu digwydd, nid yn unig gennym ni, ond gan y cyhoedd hefyd? A oes yna fodel dŷch chi wedi'i weld rhywle arall a fyddai'n gallu gweithio o ran hynny o beth?
We have discussed the models since you've been here this morning, but I just perhaps wanted to elaborate a little more on your opinion about the governance and the accountability. You say that it perhaps now depends on goodwill and the staff, but what could work better so that the governance would be more effective so that scrutiny can happen, not just by us, but by the public? Is there a model that you've seen elsewhere that could work in that respect?
Wel, dwi'n credu—dwi wedi dweud hyn yn y papur ysgrifenedig—ei fod yn siom nad oes neb ar y bwrdd sydd ag unrhyw brofiad uniongyrchol, ac efallai anuniongyrchol hefyd, hyd y gwn i, o weithio mewn trafnidiaeth. Felly, ar y bwrdd mae'r craffu cyntaf, y sgrwtini cyntaf, ac os nad oes neb yna sy'n gwybod y cig a'r cnawd o ran fel y mae trafnidiaeth yn gweithio, sut mae rhywun yn gallu craffu ar y staff ac yn y blaen a'u dwyn nhw i gyfrif—atebolrwydd, felly? Felly, rwy'n credu bod angen edrych ar y bwrdd. Ac eto, i bwy mae'r bwrdd ei hunan yn atebol? Dwi ddim yn credu bod hynny'n glir. Rwy'n cymryd eu bod nhw'n atebol i'r Llywodraeth gan eu bod nhw'n ryw gorff hyd-braich, ond dwi'n credu bod angen edrych ar hwnna. Rwy'n credu bod hynny'n rhywbeth oedd yn broblem ar y dechrau ac sydd yn dal yn broblem.
Well, I think—I've said this in the written paper—that it's a disappointment that there's nobody on the board who has any direct experience, or perhaps indirect experience, as far as I know, of working in transport. So, the board is the first level of scrutiny and if there's nobody there who knows the flesh and bones of how transport works, how can they scrutinise the staff and so forth? How can they hold them to account? I think there is a need to look at the board. And, again, to whom is the board itself accountable? I don't think that's clear. I take it that they're accountable to the Government, because they're some sort of arm's-length organisation, but I think there is a need to look at that. I think that is something that was a problem at the start and is still a problem.
Cyn symud ymlaen at y tystion eraill, roeddwn i jest eisiau pigo lan ar y pwynt am yr arbenigedd ar y bwrdd anweithredol. Roedd gyda ni Professor Iain Docherty mewn yr wythnos diwethaf a roedd e'n dweud bod dim angen cael rhywun o drafnidiaeth o reidrwydd oherwydd efallai ei fod yn dda i gael pobl iechyd ac o ran chymdeithaseg, yn hytrach nag eu bod nhw trafnidiaeth yn unig. Fyddech chi'n gweld y ddadl dros hynny?
Before moving on to the other witnesses, I just wanted to pick up on the expertise on the non-executive board. We had Professor Iain Docherty in last week and he said that you don't necessarily have to have somebody in the transport field and that it's perhaps better to have somebody in terms of sociology and health, and not just transport alone. Can you see an argument for that?
Oes, ond rwy'n credu yn ogystal â chael—. Mae'n dda, fel rwy'n ei ddeall, fod rhywun o adnoddau dynol; mae rhywun ar y bwrdd o iechyd a diogelwch. Ond mae angen yn sicr un person. Dwi ddim yn dweud bod angen i'r bwrdd fod—
Yes, but I think as well as—. It's good, as I understand, that there's somebody from human resources; there's somebody on the board from health and safety. But there is a need certainly for one person. I'm not saying that the board has to be—
Felly, does dim un person ar hyn o bryd sydd ganddyn nhw cefndir trafnidiaeth?
So, there isn't one person at the moment with a background in transport?
Does dim un ar y bwrdd, o beth roeddwn i'n gallu ei weld o edrych ar y we. Dwi ddim yn credu bod neb o gwbl. Roedd y cyn cadeirydd dros dro wedi gweithio mewn ryw ddiwydiant—rwy'n credu roedd ef yn gyfrifol am lorïau. Felly, roedd ganddo fe rhyw faint o ddealltwriaeth o drafnidiaeth. Rwy'n credu bod angen un person sydd yn gallu gofyn y cwestiynau anodd i'r swyddogion.
There's no-one on the board, from what I could see, looking at the website. I don't think there's anyone at all. The former interim chair had worked in some sort of industry—I think he was responsible for lorries. So, he had some sort of understanding of transport. So, I think there is a need for one person who can ask the difficult questions of officers.
Yes, I'd certainly agree with that. I think there should be at least one person with experience of transport on the board of a transport organisation, but also someone who has experience of transport from an inclusion and access point of view. Because the needs of all the passengers should be represented and that's quite specialist. If you look at other transport bodies, they would have a wider range of skills and experiences on there. I think they need to be more diverse.
So, have you said—? You're all saying this, but have you raised this with them? Have they told you why there's no transport expert on this board?
We haven't raised it with them so far.
That, I suppose, in a sense, is a matter for the public appointment process. So, we could perhaps comment, and Sustrans certainly did show the advert to people who we thought would be rather good on the board, but, in terms of influencing the actual process, that's difficult.
I think, for me, there are two things. There's one around the formal governance and accountability and that kind of democratic channel and making sure that there's clear line of sight between you and James Price, so, if something does go wrong, you have the ability to get him into committee and ask him why. Equally, I think we need to avoid a situation where—I think you and I will remember from our old student politics days—you had bodies like Education and Learning Wales, which it was quite easy for Ministers in Plenary to kind of bat off any questions from backbenchers and say, ‘Well, that’s kind of an operational matter for Elwa; why are you asking it here?’
It’s a tactic, but it’s also—you know, it can sometimes be kind of—. It can potentially be a genuine response. So, I think that, in this—and I’m not an expert in transport governance, but you need to examine and kind of form a view as to what’s the best way to ensure that there is democratic accountability through the process.
The other flipside is how Transport for Wales continues to, if you like, be informally accountable to its customers—and I know you’ve got a session next with user groups—and also how it continues to be accountable to its stakeholders. We’ve got bilateral conversations with them, and they are now members of the active travel board, for example, but I think where I’m at now is starting to form ideas about how they should formally relate to organisations as well, so we’ve got kind of formal channels. I'd compare it to—. Rather like you, when you get an indication of what the hot topics are in your constituency from your inbox, I get the same from my staff. Most of Sustrans’s staff in Wales are delivery-focused. The problems that I get tend not to be around TfW; they tend to be around other public bodies, and I’d draw the parallel with Network Rail, which has now set up a transport leaders forum, which I think works really, really well, and that’s kind of a really good forum to kind of semi-formally raise issues that are going on without having to write a formal letter or raise it publicly or write to a Minister. So, it’s that kind of thing that I’d like to see from TfW as well.
So, I think democratic accountability on one hand, and that kind of informal accountability through formal structures with stakeholders is the other.
A’r cwestiwn olaf gen i ar hyn o bryd yw un ynglŷn â sylwad—rwy’n credu mai Sustrans oedd e—ynglŷn â gweddu’r hyn y mae Trafnidiaeth Cymru’n ei wneud gyda Deddf llesiant cenedlaethau’r dyfodol, jest i gael y term yn iawn. Ydych chi’n credu y dylai fe ddod o dan y Ddeddf yn swyddogol? Beth byddai hynny’n ei olygu yn ymarferol os mai hyn yw’ch cysyniad chi?
And my final question at present is one around a comment by, I think it was, Sustrans, who said about how Transport for Wales were aligning with the well-being of future generations Act. Do you think it should come under the Act officially? What would it mean in practice if this is your concept?
I think there’s a form-follows-function argument in terms of how it’s constituted legally, so I wouldn’t necessarily say it should be a wholly-Government-owned company or that it should be brought in as a public body. I think that needs to be unpacked more, and things like its ability to borrow, and investment, and what that means for recruitment and retention of staff and kind of getting talent in. All of that needs to be considered in that mix.
But, almost regardless of how it’s legally constituted, it does need to make sure that it’s embedding the principles of the well-being of future generations Act, and, in practice, even if it wasn’t a public body, I would like to see it, just as a matter of best practice, do the things that other public bodies are doing. I think you raised the point about—it may have been Wrexham university, in your constituency.
It’s that kind of thing, really.
As I say, at the moment, I’m satisfied that they are actually going in a direction that is compatible with the future generations Act. They are thinking carefully about things like social regeneration when they're doing station regenerations.
But being compatible is different from holding them to account, for example.
For example, they could say, ‘Oh, yeah, we care about well-being and such’, and then they have nothing to break, because it’s just sort of a moral statement. So, how would you—
Exactly, and there’s greenwash as well. So, I think all of that goes back to your previous question about democratic accountability and that kind of control that Ministers have. So, the Minister should be directing them to do that kind of stuff. If you don’t feel like they’re doing it, then you’ve got the ability to haul them in and ask them why.
John, earlier on, you mentioned Transport Scotland and how the model had changed there after a period, because they believed it hadn’t worked as they’d wanted it to. Is there anything we can learn there in regard to the future model for Transport for Wales?
I don’t know enough about Transport Scotland, in fairness. I’ve spoken to my colleagues in Scotland, and I think, to be fair to Transport for Wales, it’s a new body. As I said, I think it’s had a difficult birth. It’s starting on the way, if you like, and I think best practice will come along. Maybe they’ll—. As I said earlier, Russell, maybe they will decide, ‘Well, we want an executive agency rather than an arm’s-length, not-for-profit company‘. That’s obviously a decision for the politicians.
I think I would probably sit on the fence and say that TfW need to have—they need to have a chance. And I would say that, in fairness, I think I’ve been critical in here, but my experience of them, particularly more recently, has been really, really positive and helpful. I hope that there is almost a ball rolling, and that that'll get even bigger then and it will be better.
Christine and Steve, if I ask you about other models that are available, as a committee, we've visited Transport for the North and Merseytravel—is there anything that you think that we can look at as a good example of a model?
Yes. So, I'm thinking purely in terms of active travel, so there may be a slightly different perspectives on other aspects of transport. I think what's interesting with Transport Scotland is the powers that it has. So, again, side stepping for a moment how it's constituted and the functions that it exercises, it has much more of a wider brief than TfW. As I said, just to go back to my earlier comment about bridging the delivery gap, Transport Scotland is much more of an activist in terms of making sure that what gets built in Scotland around active travel—so, decent pedestrian infrastructure, decent cycling infrastructure—is of a certain quality, for example. So, there's something there that I think TfW should explore. Equally, in the world or the sphere of these types of bodies, you can get a sense of which are more on top of evidence and data, and I think it's fair to say that TfL and Transport Scotland are two organisations that are respected for the use of data and how data and evidence drives some of their decision making. So, again, I think, regardless of how it's constituted, there's stuff that you can learn from other bodies.
And, Christine, you've—often Transport for London is talked about as a good example of a model to follow, but your evidence suggests that they're not really compatible with Transport for Wales.
Yes. I think, Transport for Wales—I think we need to be careful about looking at models in urban areas, because obviously there's a big rural space that Transport for Wales has to cover. So, in terms of comparison with London, they have a whole-network approach—that might be useful. Manchester might be better to look at for the metro. But I think they need to look at a wide range of different approaches and find something that is right for Wales, given the landscape. There are some examples out there that could be useful around bus partnerships. So, in places like Sussex, there's a bus partnership with multi-operated ticketing that could be worth exploring. That includes community transport. So, looking at how the whole of the bus could be delivered to include the full range of options. So, I think we just need to be very careful about solely looking at an urban model and thinking it will fit for Wales.
Thank you. That's an important point, so perhaps speak to that a little bit more if you can. Give us perhaps some examples about how the two models aren't compatible for that very reason.
Sorry, can you say that last part again?
Sorry, yes. So, the two models—I'm accepting what you're saying in terms of their very different landscapes, and urban and rural are very different. But give us some specific examples about how that translates in terms of a potential model for Transport for Wales.
We think that Transport for Wales could do some particularly valuable work on rural transport that then could be looked at as a good example outside of Wales. We think that they particularly should be working with community transport in rural areas, because those operators have experience of working with a more diverse range of needs. So, in an urban area, community transport is working with the particularly marginalised. In a rural area, community transport operators will be working with everybody, trying to get them where they need to go. So, we think that there should be more co-ordinated work with community transport operators to look at what a model could be. In particular, we think that transport planning is a very local thing and needs to be done at more of a local level. So, Transport for Wales can set a strategy, but, in terms of developing transport for communities, that needs to be done locally, depending on what that community needs.
So, putting aside the good and bad examples of different models around the UK, John, can I ask you what does the model for Transport for Wales need to look like, due to the fact that we've got different geography in Wales?
I think Russell, this is at the heart of it. There's not 'one size fits all' and I think there has been a tendency—franchising, for example, 'Oh, have it everywhere'. Well, no. What works in Powys is not suitable for Cardiff or not suitable for north-east Wales. The needs are very, very different, and I think they need to look—. I think this goes back over old ground in a way. I think this is where the old transport consortiums were good, because they were local things. I think loads of people think that it was a mistake to get rid of those, and maybe the ball is rolling backwards in that sort of sense. But I think, essentially, that what Christine says—there are different solutions for different parts of Wales, and it needs to be looked at like that. And I hope that Transport for Wales, and I hope the Government as well will look and will realise that not one size fits all.
So, am I getting you right—? In terms of, say, Transport for London, for example, I think you're suggesting that perhaps once size fits all does work for Transport for London, but it wouldn't do so in Wales.
Indeed. London is a unique situation, isn't it? It's a big city, it has a huge amount of visitors, its car ownership is low per head in comparison—
What I'm suggesting, though, is that with the model in London, one size can fit all. But in Wales, you're suggesting that it can't, because there is a difference across Wales.
It would be a mistake to do it, I think, in Wales.
Yes, but to add—. So, there's always a danger in transport that you basically get men—and it is usually men—sat in an office who will look at a map and draw lines, and that's deemed to be transport planning. So, there's absolutely a critical need to make sure that communities inform those kinds of decisions, and we don't go back to the days of men drawing lines on maps.
You do that through a variety of different mechanisms—things like proper engagement. So, with the active travel Act, you've got the statutory duties on local authorities to consult on that. So, we've got some of that in place. The cautionary tone, though, would be around critical mass and expertise. So, I think that's something we've got to get right in Wales, because, in one sense, we do need to make sure that things are local to address all the points that Christine raised, but at the same time, we just need to make sure that we've got the critical mass of expertise and skills so we're able to do that stuff. So, there's a kind of economy of scale you would get doing things nationally that you lose when you do things locally. But again, as I say, we need to do things locally. So, how do you make sure that that expertise is there? So, then that's quite an interesting thing that I think TfW will need to address.
Can that be done through the joint transport authorities that are proposed?
Yes, possibly, and, again, I think we—Sustrans, this committee, Welsh Government, TfW and others—our thoughts will develop further on this in future months, whether you can have some kind of system where there is a central resource of expertise that local authorities perhaps can draw on. For example, at the moment, in my world, your Ceredigions will be at a disadvantage to Cardiff. So, if there's an underspend in a budget and Government goes out and says, 'People, submit schemes—we've got this underspend', in Cardiff it will be much easier to grab that opportunity, because they've got more staff, more expertise, They can work up a quick proposal like that. Ceredigion probably has one member of staff, so would struggle to do that on top of everything else. So, it's that kind of stuff we need to guard against.
Thank you, Chair. We spoke this morning in various evidence about the confusion in that Transport for Wales is the rail service, the metro, but then we've got the White Paper on the bus. You've also spoken about bridging the gap in active travel. I'd just like to ask each of the witnesses what additional transport functions and responsibilities do you each think Transport for Wales should undertake.
I've got a list. [Laughter.]
Don't all rush at once.
I'll go first. I think that when they're looking at transport functions, in terms of our members, they need to be careful about what might happen on the ground. I think that their knowledge of community transport is increasing, but they were starting, not very long ago, from a baseline of nothing. So, in whatever they do, they need to be careful that they're not putting any local services at risk. And also that they're making the most of the expertise that is on the ground. So, there is a lot of transport delivery going on in those communities that Transport for Wales may not know about, and they need to be very careful about how they move forward and make sure they're making the most of the skills. The regional transport authorities could be a way to do that strategic work at a local level, but again, they just have to be very careful. We would stress, very much, that Transport for Wales shouldn't be doing anything that puts existing services at risk, because it might be what is a section 22 route, so it can be delivered to the public, but some of the community transport operators might be able to sustain themselves by using those routes. So, if those routes are put at risk, then they can't deliver their other work, meaning that very vulnerable people are left without the ability to go anywhere. That could then mean they can't live independently any more. You know, it can have quite wide ramifications.
I think there is a can of worms here, and I think we know what proposals are on the table, if you like, or what could be. We need to be careful about what Transport for Wales is given power to do. I would say, let them get the rail franchise sorted and in order first, before they try and do anything else. I'm fond of analogies; I used the birth one earlier on. If your house needs painting—.
We'll move on from midwifery. Your house needs painting; well, you do one room and you finish the one room and then you go on to the next room, and then the next room. I think that would be a good place for TfW to start; get the rail franchise sorted, and then show that they've got the expertise before they think of taking on anything else. I would say this, coming from the bus industry, but I think you need the experts to run it, and the experts are—whether anybody likes it or not—the people who run the bus companies, whoever owns the bus companies now. There's not a magic wand that you can wave and there's a solution. I would urge caution: leave the experts to do it, and I think you're on the right track.
I'll canter through them. I think it was in our written evidence as well. I'd probably disagree with John on that. I think it's fine painting your house in a logical order, but if there's an urgent maintenance issue in your house that needs sorting, you'd want to crack on with that as well, so I've got some urgent maintenance issues that I think they should crack on with. One is around, as I said before, policing that delivery gap—so, getting involved in how design guidance around the active travel Act is implemented by local authorities. So, that's kind of the policing role, to make sure that quality infrastructure is built, and it's also a supporting role to make sure that the local authorities and the transport industry have the capability to do that.
The second is: I think there's potential for TfW to—as we said in our evidence—think about land use planning, to potentially be involved in things like the national development framework for Wales and the local development plan process. There's an approach called transit-orientated development, which everybody will know. There's something there that I think that TfW can provide that kind of support and scrutiny to local authorities to make sure that we're developing in a way that is consistent with transport and not going against it.
There's stuff to explore, I think, in terms of the distribution of money to local authorities in active travel. So, you could have a situation where Welsh Government just sets the policies and the overall objectives of a funding programme, but the day-to-day administration of that funding programme is done by TfW. That's what happens in Scotland. And then, depending on what happens with the JTAs, there is something there, potentially, about them as a kind of convener, bringing local authorities together to talk about some of the more regionally strategic stuff, if you like.
Steve mentioned land use there. I think that's fantastic, that somehow or other—. At the moment, local authorities are responsible for planning and land use. Things are better. I'm sure we all know examples of 1960s and 1970s estates that are totally inaccessible for public transport. At least now local authorities do consult on the provision of public transport facilities when they're looking at that, and I think that needs to be put on—. It's a local authority responsibility now; can TfW have input in that? Do they take it over? I don't know, but I think that will be key to making public transport accessible and fit for purpose right across Wales.
Just very quickly, Chair. The Minister has said that he wants his public transport network to become increasingly directly owned or operated by Transport for Wales. Is that a desirable outcome and aim? But is it a case of waiting for the walls to dry, really, before going down that road or—?
I think, Jack, I would probably not agree with that, really. If it's going to be TfW-owned, who's going to run it, then? TfW haven't got the staff to know how to run a transport undertaking. You've got a limited pool of people. You would have to have the same people. Whoever employs them, the same experts are going to be running it, basically, I think. I don't think things would change that much, really.
Professionally, I would not have an opinion on that.
We don't think that Transport for Wales could effectively be an operator and a commissioner. I think that it would be very hard for it to hold itself to account properly, and particularly if they it is delivering and it is commissioning others to deliver, how does it hold itself to account and others to account in a way that is seen to be fair? So, we think that that is not a direction that they should go in, and they need to take a lot of care around it.
I just wanted to ask Sustrans more than anything about—obviously, some of the areas in relation to transport are non-devolved, for example, the development of former railway tunnels and viaducts. I'm just wondering whether you think that that should be something that we would seek devolution over in its entirety so that we could potentially develop some of these routes as part of a future model of transport for Wales.
The issue there, basically, is where that asset now sits. A lot of those old railway structures, which were previously owned by British Rail, were transferred to a publicly owned company that reports to the Secretary of State for Transport, and that's UK-wide. I don't know if I should declare an interest, but Sustrans received some of that land as well and we hold it in our sister charity called RPL—Railway Paths Ltd. But most of the stuff we have is the stuff that, really, you probably wouldn't build a cycle path over because it doesn't go to places that people want to go. I think probably, instinctively, it feels right that that ownership should transfer now from the Department for Transport to Welsh Government, because it does give Welsh Government greater control to develop the network in Wales, but it is—it's not complicated, because it is relatively straightforward, but it probably is controversial because there are all the issues around liabilities and dowries and things like that. So, there is money involved, but it probably feels like, you're right, that should sit here now.
Can we just have a look at joint transport authorities? The Government's White Paper suggests two proposals there: basically that there will be an all-Wales JTA with regional delivery boards or a national JTA with three separate regional JTAs. So, which do you think might be the best model to use? Do you have any opinion on that?
I think that there's a diversity of opinion on this. I think a JTA is certainly the path to go down. Whether it's an all-Wales JTA, which in effect—would TfW become the national JTA? I imagine it would. But then we're getting away from this idea that one size doesn't fit all, perhaps. But then if you've got regional—I go back again to the old regional transport consortiums, which I think, on the whole, certainly in south-east Wales, were seen as successful, although they didn't have budgetary control and they didn't have a statutory footing. So, if you have a JTA for all of Wales, then you have the regional sub-JTAs, David, and then you've got local authorities, you've got this, you've got the Cardiff capital region. I think it is all getting a little bit confused again. So, I think I'm sitting on the fence again here saying that there are pros and cons for whether it would be a national JTA or independent regional JTAs, that is what I'm saying.
I agree with what John has said, really. We'd question why—you know, wouldn't a national JTA be Transport for Wales? If there's a separate body, I think that just creates more confusion. Certainly, what we hear from others is that the regional transport authorities did a lot of good work when they were functioning in the past, so that seems like a good model to return to.
Yes, I agree. We're all singing from the same hymn sheet. I think it was a mistake for Edwina Hart to abolish the old regional transport consortia. What you find is, when things actually serve a purpose, people just do it anyway. So, there are some local authorities that work very closely together collaboratively. Cardiff city region, which John mentioned, is one example. The problem is what happens to local authorities outside of that. So, I think the benefit of having a regional structure is that it is clearer and fairer, again, going back to that example of Ceredigion, because Cardiff city region are talking lots to each other, and we're working with the city region to do some work around access controls and signage on the Valleys cycle network. That stuff just easily happens because that kind of structure is now there. That doesn't happen in other parts of Wales because that structure's not there, and that seems unfair. And if we're asking to do more and to do things differently, then local authorities do need some kind of regional forum to be able to plan and, in some respects, just talk and network and share jobs.
Yes. I think one plea I would make, and I don't want to talk for my colleagues but I'm sure they would support me—. Again, going back to look at the regional transport consortia, it's essential to have good stakeholder representation on the board—all of our organisations, along with the train operators in Wales and I can't remember who else—I think Transport Focus were part of the board, certainly of SEWTA and of SWWITCH in south-west Wales. Whatever form the JTAs take, good stakeholder representation, I think, is essential for their success.
Yes. I think you've all identified the fact that, perhaps, Transport for Wales would be the national JTA. That's not necessarily what they're saying, which puzzles me from the point of view of how they would work with each other if that's not the case and that's not the way that it was set up. Christine, you mentioned the fact that you need local representation with regard to these things going on. Do you think that JTAs will be a good delivery agent for that set-up?
We think the regional transport authorities have been effective in the past and could be a good way forward. Again, we would continue to stress that community transport has a lot to offer, delivering a lot of important services on the ground and they must not be forgotten in transport planning. Also, in terms of the future, the future is expected to be a lot more based on demand-responsive transport, and community transport has been doing that for a long time, so there's actually a lot that could be learned from the sector. Instead of starting from scratch, look at what's there already and how that can be built on.
Okay. And JTAs, we understand—. There would be several local authorities represented within that JTA. It's critical, obviously, that they would have a good interaction with the local authorities, and they could build it into local development plans and things, couldn't they—transport matters?
Yes, I think so. Obviously, it would depend on what their remit would be. Again, I go back to what I said that land use and planning for the future are essential for that, and the JTA, I think, would need to have some input or at least, as you say, David, maybe the local authorities, as happened in the consortia—they were the backbone, really, of the regional transport consortia.
Yes. I think, if you take transport, people's travel patterns don't neatly fall within local authority boundaries. People's travel-to-work area is bigger, people have social connections and all the rest of it. So, there is a need to collaborate across boundaries. I think there's an issue around—and I think Transport Focus will probably talk about this next—the concept of a seamless journey. So, any kind of regional collaboration really should be driven by supporting and enabling people to make seamless, easy journeys, regardless of whether they're crossing democratic boundaries, regardless of whether they're travelling on different modes. So, the danger, the nightmare scenario, is, for example, that somebody might live in Newport, they might travel with one bus operator or they might use a hire bike scheme that is different to the one that they're going to use when they get to Cardiff to go to work, so they need two or three different accounts and they're not sure how it all works and all of that kind of thing. And the benefit of collaborating regionally on delivery is actually that you can iron out a lot of those kinds of differences. But, again, you come back to that question of local accountability as well. So, there is that balance, but I think there's definitely collaboration on delivery of that regional consortia, or JTAs, or whatever.
Well, it looks as if we're moving towards a three-tiered structure for transport in Wales with the Welsh Government, Transport for Wales and JTAs in collaboration with local government. Do you have any ideas how this could be co-ordinated, because there is the other layer that you're talking about with city deals, et cetera? For all these to work together, it has worried me a little bit, seeing all these layers of administration. Do you have any ideas how they may be brought together to work together?
Yes. I share your concern. I don't necessarily from the offset, because it's not quite clear what all of those moving parts are going to be. But, again, I just go back to the real danger that people can just kind of plough their own fields, irrespective of what's going on. So, whether the JTAs have some kind of co-ordination role, whether it's TfW that has some kind of co-ordination role, I don't know, but there is something there, and again, it's one of the benefits of TfL, because it's kind of a simpler structure and you've got London boroughs and you've got the mayor and all the rest of it.
But, the governance framework does need sorting out, whether it's day-to-day delivery or whether it's people's plans and strategies, but everything is better aligned. It's never going to be perfectly aligned. And there's always a danger in Wales, I think, that if there's a problem, we just set up a committee to solve it. So, we need to make sure that we don't do that, but at the same time we do need to make sure that local authority X's plans for walking and cycling tally with what TfW want to do, or what the kind of regional partnership wants to do as well. At the moment, there's no guarantee that that—.
Really, what it comes down to is the remit given to each of these authorities by the Government, isn't it? And they have to be absolutely sure about what their remit is. Is that right?
That's the point I was going to make to that, which is that this is the role of Government; Government have to be clear on what they want, and they have to give direction. I'm not saying 'by order', then, if you like, but they need to give direction for the JTAs and for TfW to know what the ultimate aim is. But that is the responsibility of the Government.
Yes. How are you all involved in the development of JTAs and the proposals in the White Paper? How did the Government involve you?
To the extent that other—. Yes and no, I suppose. I have dialogue with officials in the transport policy and strategy division regularly, so we hear about what's potentially coming up. We'll respond to it as a kind of consultee during the public process. There is, I think—more committees—the Climate Change Commission for Wales had a transport sub-group and, again, there was something there around a space where actors like Sustrans, Community Transport Association, local authorities and Government could talk about things. In that instance, it was decarbonising the transport system. So, it goes back to John's point. I think we are missing something about the kind of transport governance in Wales and getting that right. And what's happening, I think, is that lots of things are organically kind of developing without a clearer picture of how it all fits together. And you don't want to over-design it, but at the same time the risk is that this kind of confusion overlap will only carry on.
Okay. I want to allow enough time for Hefin's questions, but I just want to draw out from you, perhaps, John and Christine, how you were involved in the development of the proposals, the White Paper for JTAs. How were you involved, or were you involved in developing those proposals?
We haven't been involved.
I think, obviously, involvement will now be in the response to the consultation.
We weren't involved in the drafting of the White Paper at all. And, I don't think, perhaps, in a way, that we would expect to be, because it's properly Government's role to issue a White Paper.
Okay. And, what about your involvement in the future of Transport for Wales? We've got our inquiry; you're giving evidence to us, but how has the Government involved you in developing their proposals for the future of Transport for Wales? Or have they not?
Have they sought your views in terms of their future? In terms of the future for Transport for Wales, their future business case, have they involved you in that process at all?
Not specifically, but I think perhaps it's a little bit too early for that, then, because, as I keep saying, Transport for Wales is trying to get its feet under it after a bit of a shaky start, then.
Oh, indeed, yes. But I come back to the point that I think progress is being made by Transport for Wales. They are engaging, and I think the will is there.
I'm asking how the Government's involved you in their future business case and in their future development. If you're saying that they haven't, that's fine, just so I'm clear on that. Christine.
Our involvement has been with Transport for Wales in terms of them positively engaging with us. It has been very good, but maybe a little bit of a concern that someone else had to tell them they should perhaps speak to us. So, that's an indication of how little they knew about community transport, but since then it has been extremely positive. They've been out to several of our events, spoken to our operators, and they're doing a lot of work with them, so that has been very good.
According to the Transport for Wales website, they've got eight executive team staff members and four non-executives. What else do we know about the organisational structure?
Obviously, they're taking on a lot of staff to do a wide range of things.
Engineering. Things that maybe we'd expect them to need.
There is no organisational chart. I think I made that point. I did notice when I was in the offices last week, though, Hefin, that, again, trying to be positive, they have now got a frame with James Price and the executive directors.
You could draw that up yourself from the website, couldn't you? But there's nothing that says where people are deployed, or how they're deployed and what they do. That doesn't exist. And you've been critical of that, because one of the things you said was that very few staff are directly employed.
I think that they engage, but I think, if you go on the website—. A Joe Soap could go on the website—all of us, fortunately, can deal with TfW directly—but Joe Soap is not going to find out a great deal on the website, and that is definitely something they need to improve.
And there's only one point of contact on the website. I believe it's 'contact@tfw', so for everything that anyone in the public or externally would want to get to them, unless you have your own contacts inside, it's 'contact@'.
We know, but I think that's partly because we've just been having an ongoing dialogue because we do a lot of delivery work, so those relationships were there previously with Arriva Trains Wales. But you're right—to an external person, that isn't clear.
So the Arriva Trains Wales structure—has that largely been transferred across?
To TfW Rail, yes. So, we're getting back to that confusion about what the difference is between TfW and TfW Rail. In some instances—I know this is going to get really confusing—you might have a staff member at TfW who's thinking about active travel and somebody in TfW Rail who's thinking about active travel as well. That may seem like a duplication, but actually you do need people who are literate in active travel in both bits of that to be able to co-ordinate.
So, is it entirely possible that it's imbalanced towards TfW Rail—the organisation's imbalanced towards TfW Rail, given the structure—
I wouldn't use the word 'imbalanced' just because they are the delivery body obviously—John will know more about this—but they're operating the trains, so I would expect that imbalance to exist. But I think your core point about the capacity of TfW in itself—not the rail, but in itself—is that sufficient? Probably not.
I think, Hefin, it's inevitable, really—it's bound to have this leaning, shall we say, towards rail, because that's been their major purpose up till now. It is for them, then, in due course, when perhaps they've got the rail working okay, to look at the other things.
And when you say 'not directly employed staff', what precisely does that mean?
Well, consultancy staff, then, that they've got there. They're not TfW staff. I don't know how many staff they employ actually directly.
So we could ask them to produce an organisational structure and also a planned structure for the future.
Can I come on to the ability to finance and generate income? Christine Boston, you mentioned this. Is it within the capacity of TfW to generate income?
I think that they perhaps have a role to play in looking at financing options for transport across Wales. Whether that is then directly bringing funding, or whether they look at how they can use the bodies that they're working with. So, perhaps an example might be in how CTA secured project funding to look at a demand-responsive transport network. So, we are receiving European structural funds to be able to build that network, working with our operators, building partnerships with other organisations. So, we just think that there are perhaps more opportunities out there, and it might be Transport for Wales's role to have a look at how they can use the structure to access a wide range of opportunities.
Because the TfW business plan says that the generation of income is relatively low level. You think that there's an opportunity to do more.
Yes, I think so, through a wide range of things, yes.
Right. Is there anything you want to—. Any parting information that you want to provide to us for our inquiry, or have we covered everything, drawn out through questions? John.
I think the message should come from all of us, then, that TfW, as I keep saying, has had a difficult start, but give it a chance. I think things are improving—
I think my paper is quite critical, but I think that things are improving, and you've got to give it a chance, I think.
Okay. Your evidence to us this morning has been really useful. It's been quite strong, so thank you very much for your evidence papers before committee as well. You'll get a transcript of the proceedings. And I can't get the image out of my head either, Bethan. [Laughter.]
We'll discuss that in detail in our private session later. But a transcript of proceedings will be sent to you as well—have a look over it. If there's a point that you want to add, and following other evidence that we see later on today, then please do provide us with that evidence as well. Thank you very much. We'll take a short break. We'll be back in 10 minutes.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:32 a 10:46.
The meeting adjourned between 10:32 and 10:46.
Welcome back to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee. We move to item 4, in regard to our inquiry on the future development of Transport for Wales. This is our second session this morning, our second panel, and I'd be very grateful if members could just introduce themselves for the public record—if I start from my left.
Good morning. My name's Barclay Davies. I'm a director for Wales of Bus Users UK, a national charity representing the interests of bus passengers.
Hi. I'm Linda McCord, I'm the senior stakeholder manager for Transport Focus, but also I chair the Bus Alliance in the west midlands, and I work very closely with Transport for West Midlands and west midlands rail.
I'm David Beer, stakeholder manager with Transport Focus. We're the national watchdog. I lead our work in Wales.
If I could start that, I think, in terms of them taking over, they've had quite a stormy beginning, literally. But I think it's becoming clearer as to how effective they can be. In terms of our organisation, we've had quite a close working relationship with them, and a lot of the people that worked previously at Arriva Trains Wales have transferred across, so it's useful to have some of that continuity.
But in terms of what passengers think—and that's the real test for us; we're giving them a voice in this—we recently ran some focus groups in Wales as part of the Williams rail review that's looking at the structure of railways and taking on board passengers' views as to how that could change for the better. And, just asking them about the structure and what they knew about Transport for Wales, actually they had very little information. They'd seen the new name, but they couldn't actually put any values to it or understand what it meant. And in terms of putting any information out, passengers were largely unaware of the plans. They didn't even know, for example, Transport for Wales were on Twitter. That was their suggestion—maybe they should be on social media. But they also felt that they've not really been listened to, in terms of—. It came out again and again in the research that we did with passengers ahead of the new rail service being implemented that passengers really wanted a step change in the delivery of the rolling stock—the trains are out of date, they're dilapidated, and the seats. There's a real difficulty in getting on some services because of the overcrowding. Passengers really wanted that message to be put across, and they don't feel that they've been listened to, and they're severely disappointed at not seeing any improvement, I think.
So, in terms of effectiveness, I think that the relations that they're building with organisations like our own are good and there's a lot to applaud them about. But in terms of their delivery of service to passengers, I think there's a long way to go yet.
And if I ask you, Linda McCord, about how you feel that the development of Transport for Wales has progressed.
It's a bit difficult for me to respond, because I'm here with David to hopefully give you some examples from the west midlands, but picking up on one thing that David said, I sat in the focus groups in the west midlands, and Transport for West Midlands has been around for quite a few years—Centro before it—and, actually, passengers there didn't know anything about Transport for West Midlands either. And that backs up our insight that we've done on this, which is that, largely, passengers don't care who's running it—they want it to work, they want what they're paying for to deliver. And so, I'm not in a position to say exactly how Transport for Wales is doing, but hopefully in other questions I'll be able to give you some good examples from the west midlands.
We'll come on to questions on that. Barclay Davies, in terms of views on the effectiveness and development of Transport for Wales so far.
From a bus point of view, I think it's too early to tell if the structure is effective, as TfW is continuing to evolve. One thing we note is that there's no organisational chart showing where roles and responsibilities within TfW sit. Although this obviously will be evolving as they evolve, it would be useful to give some indication where certain functions fit, because you're not sure whether it's with the Welsh Government, with Transport for Wales. So, there's a lot of uncertainty around that.
And if I can ask you as well—in your evidence, you've said that the governance structure and funding are reasonably transparent. That's what you said in your response to our call for evidence. Are they also effective?
Again, I think that it's too early to say that. We'd like to see some more accountability and information given to the public. As colleagues have mentioned, a lot of people don't understand who TfW are and what their role and remit is. We'd like to see a quarterly reporting structure, for example, so that passengers are able to go on their website and see TfW's progress against their budget and responsibilities, and to see how they're doing so that they can, at a glance, see how well the—
Are there examples of other organisations doing that? I'm sure there are, but can you give an example of other organisations doing that?
Yes. In the paper, we refer to Transport for London. I know that they are fully—. They've been in operation for many years, and TfW, as I said, are evolving. But one of the things they do is they produce a quarterly report, which is published on their website, and it gives full details of, for example, their income and expenditure, how much of that comes from passengers' fares. It's quite a detailed report, and it enables proper scrutiny to be undertaken of the actions.
And, David, do you think that's a good idea, to have that quarterly report?
Absolutely, and we have been pushing across some of the franchises that we've been involved with for having customer reports. Quite a lot of the new rail franchises that have been set up have got those in place. And, again, here, it's one of the undertakings for that customer report to be in place for the rail service. But again, going back to what passengers have said, they feel that things need to be accountable back to a specific person or body, that it's tangible and they know who to go to when they've got a complaint when something goes wrong. But they want to see the information that's published in layman's terms that they can understand, and they want to be able to track it back to their service. So, punctuality, for example—they want to see what's happening with their train, their service.
Right. Members have got a series of questions. We've only got 35 minutes left on this session, so we'll have to be punchy with questions, and responses as well. Bethan Sayed.
Dwi am siarad Cymraeg. Rŷn ni wedi clywed gan Sustrans, ac eraill, ac roedd y tôn yn eithaf maddeugar o'r hyn a oedd wedi digwydd ar ddechrau bywyd Trafnidiaeth Cymru. Dŷch chi, David Beer, yn swnio fel eich bod chi wedi disgwyl mwy o'r cychwyn. Allwch chi jest dweud yn fras beth fyddech chi wedi ei ddisgwyl i fod yn well ar gychwyn bywyd Trafnidiaeth Cymru?
I'm going to speak in Welsh. We've heard from Sustrans, and others, and the tone was quite forgiving about what happened at the beginning of Transport for Wales. But you, David Beer, sound as though you expected more from the beginning. Can you just tell us, briefly, what you would have expected to be better from the outset with Transport for Wales?
Yes, certainly. Thank you. I think that, when they were starting out, they'd had quite a long time before that, for Welsh Government to look at what they wanted from the specification for Transport for Wales, who had been put in place to run the procurement. We were commissioned to talk to passengers. We produced the future report on what passengers wanted. So, they had an understanding of where passengers were coming from, what their priorities were, and, for example, things like train procurement. Welsh Government knew that that was going to be a pinchpoint and an issue, but the road they went down in terms of how that was to be managed still wouldn't deliver that immediately. There's a five-year track, as we now know. So, I think that it feels a bit like—and certainly from a passenger perspective—a missed opportunity, and passengers don't necessarily feel that they were listened to in terms of what they were saying they wanted to see from the new franchise.
Ocê. Ydych chi'n credu, felly, gyda'r system sydd ohoni, bod hynny'n bosib? Er enghraifft, a ydych chi'n credu bod y strwythur sydd yno, lle mae yna elfen o annibyniaeth gyda Trafnidiaeth i Gymru, ac mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn gosod y polisi—dŷch chi'n credu bod hynny'n mynd i helpu gyda'r consýrn sydd gyda chi ac eraill?
Okay. Do you believe therefore that, with the current system, that is possible? For example, do you believe that the structure that's in place now, where there's an element of independence for Transport for Wales, and the Government sets the policy—do you think that's going to help with the concerns that you and others raise?
Potentially, and I think that one of the things that we would look at is how it works for passengers. Again, passengers will judge it on the service delivery. And there was a good point made in the earlier session about the fact that passengers want to look at their train being delivered on the day. So, what we would look at is how that works for them. The way that policy is set versus delivery needs to have that separation. There needs to be that accountability so that what is planned to be delivered is being delivered and what we would want to see is that that delivery is measured against what passengers are actually seeing. So, again, the National Rail Passenger Survey, which is the major tracking survey that we run nationally across Britain, also runs in Wales and that has been the yardstick by which they're measured year on year. It's now built into the new rail service contract. So, that gives some accountability in terms of what passengers see being delivered.
Roedden ni wedi clywed yn y sesiwn gyda Trafnidiaeth i Gymru eu bod nhw'n mynd i edrych am fesurau newydd hefyd i adeiladu atebolrwydd mewn i'r system ac yn mynd i roi compensation i bobl a oedd yn aros am drenau am hyd at 15 munud—dwi ddim yn siŵr os ydw i'n iawn yn hynny o beth. Ond ydych chi'n credu bod y pethau hynny'n mynd i helpu o ran beth dŷch chi'n sôn amdano? Ac a ydych chi'n credu bod yr atebolrwydd a'r systemau yn eu lle er mwyn i deithwyr allu dweud, 'Dwi angen mynd at fe neu hi', er mwyn eu dwyn nhw i gyfrif?
We heard in the session with Transport for Wales that they're going to look for new measures to incorporate accountability into the system and are going to give compensation to those who've been waiting for trains that were 15 minutes late—I'm not sure I'm right about that. But do you think that those things are going to help in terms of what you're talking about? And do you believe that the accountability and the systems are in place so that passengers can say, 'Yes, I need to go to him or her', to hold them to account?
That's an interesting question. In terms of accountability, I'm not sure yet—going back to what I said previously—that passengers yet understand who it is that they need to go to. So, that message needs to be put together more effectively.
Yes, you're right about 'Delay Repay', as it's called. From the beginning of the new rail service, it was on a 30-minute basis and, since the end of January, that's now been improved to after 15 minutes. Again, that needs to be pushed so that, when passengers are on a train that's been delayed, there's an announcement to say, 'We've now gone over the 15 minutes; you can now claim for that.' Ultimately, again, what's coming down the road, we understand, is that that will be done automatically so, if you have an account and you've bought a ticket with an app or whatever, once you've been on a train that's been delayed, they'll know that in the system and you'll get automatic compensation. We think those are good for passengers. Part of what we think needs to be rebuilt is trust with passengers and that's a big thing when that's been eroded over so many years previously. So, that goes some way towards restoring that and we think that's a big opportunity for them to grab with both hands.
Yes, to David. Good morning. You've talked about the franchising and the rolling stock and we know that the cancellation of electrification and the higher demand for diesel trains clearly played a significant part within that, and we've heard that repeatedly in evidence. Do you recognise that that is the case?
There's been a national lack of diesel trains and I think that at the moment, with having this hiatus in terms of when the new trains are being delivered, there's quite a job for them to do in terms of what's going to fill the gap. I think Mr David was only talking to the Minister in session—was it earlier this week—about trains on the Rhymney line. And I think there’s a promise of new trains coming.
Certainly, yes, and I think that those will be refurbished ones, and they will bring some welcome relief to passengers and some additional seats. But we recognise that that’s been an issue across Britain for the rail industry. And I think, as new rolling stock is being built—for example, in the north of England, the Northern Rail franchise and TransPennine are just bringing their new trains on line, and that’s starting to bring some relief to those passengers.
But what was meant to happen in terms of the May timetable last year and electrification in the north of England and some work in Scotland, allowing some of the older trains to be released and then they could be cascaded to other parts of the country, didn’t happen. And, because of that, that’s left quite a shortage, and now there’s quite a drought of trains, if I could put it that way. So, it’s not just in Wales. I think that’s been a national crisis that potentially hasn’t been managed very well by the Department for Transport and central Government as well.
Thanks, Chair. I’d like to start with the statement from Bus Users Cymru, where it says there’s been an apparent lack of public focus by Transport for Wales. Can you just explain to the committee, really, the basis surrounding that? And then, following that, I’d like to ask Transport Focus if you agree with that statement.
The basis for the statement is that the public don’t understand the difference between Transport for Wales and Transport for Wales Rail as the operator, and, as has been documented and talked about earlier, the problems due to the lack of rolling stock in the lead-up to Christmas, where passengers weren’t able to get on services, services were cancelled and replaced by buses, and the reputational damage to Transport for Wales as a result of that, has led to a negative opinion amongst passengers. And you’ve seen the sprouting up of spoof Facebook and Twitter sites, such as Transport for Fails. It’s not really the world-class image of public transport that was meant to be portrayed.
So, we feel there's very much a hearts-and-minds battle to be fought amongst passengers to regain the confidence of passengers, and we would like to see Transport for Wales being more proactive in going out and engaging with communities, through maybe a series of roadshows, events, just to explain who they are and what, and to manage people’s expectations. Because, when the franchise changed from Arriva Trains Wales to TfW Rail, the expectation was there would be a step change overnight. Well, that was never going to be the case, because of the lead-in times to purchase new vehicles. But that wasn’t adequately explained to people, so the expectations weren't managed and that’s why you have a lot of people who are quite upset that the service hasn’t improved. It’s all very well to promise jam tomorrow, but it’s explaining to people when things are going to improve.
So, I think, certainly, we’ve seen this elsewhere in the country, and I think that point that Barclay makes about jam tomorrow—it’s a balance. So, passengers want reliable, punctual services and the possibility of getting a seat, because we want to be able to do what we want to do when we travel, work, et cetera. And I think that, with a new franchise—it's another franchise here—it’s slightly different. Passengers hear, 'Oh, something new is coming', and yet nothing changes. And I think managing those expectations is really important. I think that getting out and saying, ‘Okay, maybe it’s not immediately, although some refurbishment is on its way, or whatever, but this is what you will see in the future. Stick with us.’ But you’ll only get people to stick with them if they’re brought on the journey, and I think it’s very much—and we’ve seen this with all of the insight we gather from passengers—. They do care that their opinions are heard, and I think that the more that they can do to get that voice heard, the better.
Yes, I’d support those views. Again, passengers have said to us that they want to be listened to. That dialogue that Linda talks about is very important to inform passengers, particularly about what there is to come, what's happening now, what they can expect next month, next year—not something that's a little bit less tangible of five years away. Although that's good, passengers very much think about, 'What's my train going to be on Monday morning?'
I think one of the other things is, because passengers want to be listened to, one of the really useful suggestions that came out of the focus groups that we did for the Williams rail review was passengers were saying, 'Why don't they do a kind of approach of "You said, we did"?' So that they're listening to passengers, they can show that that's what they're doing, and then they're putting out regular bulletins to say, 'This is what we've heard passengers say, this is what we're doing, this is what you can expect to see as part of the plans.' But they've got to get the channels right, they've got to get that communication in place, and they've got to take the opportunities to understand where passengers want to see those messages.
Just moving with that then, are there any other more specific steps we can take? Is the route there for passengers to express these views? Is that adequate or is it something we need to focus on?
So, are you asking are there enough areas where passengers can make their views known?
I think that could be better everywhere. At the end of the day, it's us as passengers who are paying for transport, and therefore we should have the loudest voice. I think the likes of ourselves and Bus Users have a role to play in that, but I think the operators and Transport for Wales and Transport for West Midlands have a role to play to ensure that that voice is heard. You mentioned earlier about these sorts of reports—in the west midlands, we do something very simple that says 'achievements'. It shows what we said we would do, and, actually, this is what we have done, and that's widely set out. I think that's important—very much what David said: 'You said, we did'. And keep the message simple.
I was just going to say, I think that, going back to what I said earlier, building trust is really important. Our research shows that that's built on a hierarchy of needs. So, the basis is the core service delivery, so a good product with good value for money that's consistent and predictable. And then on top of that is built the emotional engagement, with staff excellence, going the extra mile, honesty and transparency and visible choice, and then the top level is really that communication, the dialogue with the customer, bringing personalisation, helping them to feel valued and in control. Those go together as a whole to build that trust. The benefit of that trust is the goodwill that comes back in from the passenger, the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong, because the operator can be trusted to do the right thing even when nobody's looking.
Would you agree with Barclay's earlier suggestion that Transport for Wales should perhaps go around to communities and explain to communities what they are and what they do? Because—. In terms more of Transport for Wales as a whole, not just the rail service, because obviously their functions are going to grow. You say that 'You said, we did' is good, but that's only for the rail at the moment. Obviously, we need to take other steps. Would you have any suggestions on what those steps may be for the whole of Transport for Wales, not just the rail service at present?
There can be no harm in doing those sorts of roadshows. Again, we've seen that work very effectively in places like the west midlands, Liverpool and other places. So, I think that's—. It really is getting people to see, 'Here is a body that cares enough about us as their customers to go out to other parts of the country to let them know who we are and that they are giving us the means to be able to feed back our thoughts to them.' You can't do that if you don't know who they are.
There is a range of transport executive bodies across the country. Do you think any of them could offer a template for TfW? But also could they fit into local government with the transport authorities that are being proposed?
So, by executive, are you—things like Transport for Manchester, Transport for West Midlands, those sort of bodies?
I'm happy to talk a little bit about the west midlands, if you feel that would be quite useful. So, Transport for West Midlands has been around for quite a while, and then it's part—. It's the transport arm of the combined authority, which, of course, is a very political body and it's the combined authority that actually makes the decisions and holds the budgets, and then you have a metro mayor who is very much the voice in the area. And picking up from something earlier around how transport is infrastructure—transport is about growth, it's about economic growth, it's about things that really help in every area of life. A metro mayor, who is responsible for housing, who is responsible for lots of other things, obviously assists in making sure that transport is a part of that, as does the combined authority and Transport for West Midlands.
The bus alliance that I chair in the west midlands is a very accountable body. I challenge, very strongly, both the operators and the executive of Transport for West Midlands if what we set out to do is not being delivered and if what passengers expect to get for what they're paying is not being believed. And that works.
I think one size fits all is something that needs to be considered, and that point was made this morning about the difference between urban and rural, but I think the key is very strong partnerships. And we have seen in the west midlands, in Liverpool and other parts of the country that those very strong partnerships actually do work. So, in a bus partnership, the bus operators give brand-new platinum buses, but Transport for West Midlands makes sure the roads work. And basically, it's those two getting together to ensure that actually it's fit for purpose for passengers.
I think it works in the west midlands, and we've seen that it works in other parts of the country. I think it is very much around that partnership and accountability, almost policing that, if you said that you would deliver this, and actually you're not delivering it—is somebody seriously calling the operators to account to say, 'Why aren't you?'? And I think a strong partnership with an independent chair, as we have in the west midlands and in Liverpool by Campaign for Better Transport, does make that accountability be seen.
So, if I move on to Bus Users Cymru, you talk about Transport for London as being a model for Wales. So, what is it that you think that could give to us that we could use?
As I mentioned, Transport for London are well established, whilst Transport for Wales is evolving. So, I believe there are benefits for looking at the TfL model that can be applied to Wales. We mentioned the quarterly reporting—I think that's quite important. In that quarterly reporting they produce a series of infograms, which, if you don't understand accounts, you can just look at the pictures and they tell a story, which I think is quite effective. Their board meetings are transparent and open for members of the public to attend and observe, which adds transparency, which isn't there at the moment with TfW.
Transport for London have in place arrangements whereby community groups and individuals, from all sections, can engage with Transport for London and contribute and participate in their work. That would be a clear advantage for communities in Wales where they feel that they lack provision, to have an opportunity to make their case known.
It's not a perfect model, because Wales has specific challenges, because we have quite a lot of rural areas and the provision of bus services to rural areas is decreasing as a result of cuts to funding and so on and so forth. As Linda said, one size doesn't fit all, and there are parts of the TfL model that can be taken in Wales and applied, and parts of the west midlands model, parts of the Transport for Greater Manchester model, the Liverpool model—it's a case of getting the best from all the available models together that suits the needs and requirements of the people and the communities of Wales.
David wanted to come in. You'll all have to be quite brief, because we've got some other question areas as well. David.
I think a third example could be Transport for the North. They've got a big area that covers both urban and rural areas. One of the things they're doing is to bring funding together, so, for example, for ticketing that spans the whole of the north of England. Now, potentially, that's not a role that you would want in Wales, because ticketing is already well advanced, with the MyTicket, for example, but things like the back office for real-time information, putting a single standard down across a region or a nation, is something that Transport for the North have got experience in. So, again, looking at them and their experience and how they're set up could be useful.
We visited Transport for the North last month as well, as part of our work. David Rowlands.
Can we just look at the specific transport functions that might be delivered by Transport for Wales? The fact is, the Minister has said his aim is that the public transport network will be increasingly directly owned or operated by Transport for Wales. Do you think this is a desirable objective?
I think, from the point of view—. And again, this was mentioned in the previous session: we don't travel in silos, and it's all about moving people and giving people the choice to travel the way they want to travel. And therefore, if there is a body that is responsible for all of transport, that integration and simplicity of movement, I guess, would become easier. We see this in the west midlands; Transport for West Midlands covers all modes of transport, and that is actually a means by ensuring that, actually, that integrated multimodal transport is fit for purpose. So, that is desirable. I think that works.
I think that, from our perspective, decisions should be determined against the passenger test, which incorporates three questions: what benefits will it bring to passengers and how will these improve services? Will it create any disbenefits and what effect will it have on passengers? And will it inhibit or prevent development of future benefits? One of the barriers—. When we ran the bus passenger survey in autumn 2017 in Wales, one of the barriers that came out—. One of the questions that Welsh Government actually asked to put into that was: what are the barriers to making more journeys by public transport? The strong response came back from passengers that it's having services that go where people want to travel. That is a real barrier in the first thing. So, looking at that network, having a coherent structure, co-ordination across the bodies that are responsible for transport, are absolutely vital to incentivise that development of service networks, and then having the guiding mind to be able to draw those together so that everybody's working together and pulling together in the same direction.
I think it makes sense. I know Transport for Wales are already looking at buses. There's potential for the air service from Cardiff to Anglesey to be brought in there. But as colleagues have said, passengers don't tend to concern themselves about delivery mechanisms. As long as the bus is there, it turns up on time, it's punctual, it's reliable, it's affordable, it's accessible, it goes where they want it to go, and passengers know how to engage with the decision makers to make their comments and observations and complaints, then they're generally satisfied. I think Transport for Wales has a unique opportunity to fill the gap. I talked earlier about rural services—that's going to be a more and more pressing issue for people and communities as we go forward, with pressures on budgets, and Transport for Wales can look at innovative solutions to resolve provision of bus services in rural areas. What we wouldn't like to see them doing is replacing or duplicating what already exists or other bodies—that they look proactively at ways of improving the situation, not just reinventing the wheel.
I think, really, that's what this whole inquiry is about: actually getting the correct organs in place to deliver to the passengers the very best possible outcomes, and I think that's what this inquiry is about—looking at which organisations. It seems the Welsh Government are moving towards a three-tiered arrangement for transport. It's the Welsh Government, Transport for Wales, and what we call joint transport authorities, which is local governments getting together, and they have a body, then, that delivers more locally. Do you have any views on how those functions might be split?
We've seen some of the proposals that are being developed in the White Paper consultation—
It seems a little bit strange to us that a national joint transport authority is proposed when you've also got a national authority in Transport for Wales, and we're just wondering what the difference might be and, again, going back to passengers wanting it to be tracked back to an individual or a body that's responsible, it doesn't seem to do that. However, what I would say is the previous transport consortia that were in place worked very well. We have a seat on the groups, and I think they were mentioned in the previous section.
I think that there was a lot to be said about the co-ordination. Having the route by which development proposals could be promoted, could have match funding drawn together—we then had a prioritised list so that they could be implemented and put in place. On a regional basis, I think it had a lot going for it. Now, if it's proposed that something similar will happen with joint transport authorities, I think that will be a good thing and a useful way to go, but I think, again, it needs to be co-ordinated, it needs to be coherent, and it needs to work to deliver the services that passengers want.
I think some of us would have shared the confusion about the national transport authority and Transport for Wales. John Pockett seemed to think that they might be one and the same.
Potentially, yes. I'm not sure that comes through in the White Paper consultation.
No, it doesn't. It seems as if it's left open, actually, as far as the Welsh Government and the White Paper are concerned. Barclay, did you want to—?
I was more or less going to say the same as David has just talked about.
Don't say it, then. If you agree, that's fine. If you've got something new to add, then add that to it.
What I would say is that there needs to be sufficient funding to these bodies to deliver particularly the challenges of serving the rural communities.
Okay. You've covered the next part of my question, really, quite extensively, about the fact that we have to inform the passengers, the users, of exactly what's going on, what the structures are, and what each of those structures are there to deliver. I think that's coming over very strongly. Okay.
With regard to the White Paper that you've already mentioned, have you felt that it's been a transparent process to develop a White Paper and the future business case for Transport for Wales?
I'm not sure—. We haven't been involved in putting the proposals together. We can certainly see where the proposals are heading, and I think it's a useful consultation, a useful set of questions for us to respond to. But in terms of where those proposals have come from and how they've been developed and put together, I'm not sure. We've not been involved in that process.
I had a conversation with Welsh Government probably the middle of last year where it was suggested that there might be a group. At the time, though, there was in existence a public transport user's advisory panel, which we sat on along with Barclays's organisation, Community Transport, and other organisations, and, potentially, we would have expected those proposals to have crossed that group, to have a sense check, to see whether there were any gaps, and to add any additional points that may have been missed. But since that group has been wound up, it's difficult to see where that independent voice comes across modes.
Okay. John Pockett was keen to say it was up to the Government to develop a White Paper, and 'We'll respond to the consultation', but you feel a bit differently that you should have been involved earlier on.
We think that proposals should meet passengers where they are and passengers' top priorities in terms of value for money and getting door-to-door journeys at a reasonable cost. In terms of putting those proposals together, we would have expected that they would touch base with people who were in tune with those thoughts.
I think processes can always be more engaging and transparent. We weren't involved in processing the business case, but we're at the part where the White Paper is out for consultation. We are where we are, to a certain extent, and what's important is how it's taken forward. People come with opinions and suggestions. I think it's important that, when those opinions and suggestions are made, feedback is given regarding them—if they work or if they need fine-tuning or if they don't work—and the public need to understand why things are as they are in order to create acceptance and ownership of the final results, even if it's not what they hoped for.
Don't be afraid to say it; we won't take offence. It's important—. I mean, what we want to do is make sure that, in future, where there are these kinds of processes, they are improved. And, therefore, your honesty, if you feel that way, is much appreciated.
I think, in the major franchises that are millions and billions of pounds, that always has the voice of the passenger through us, so why shouldn't something like this? The end user, after all, is the person who's paying for all of this and they should have a voice.
Okay. I think, Chair, my question about JTAs has been answered in responses to David Rowlands's questions.
Yes, I think it has. Thank you. Have Members got any further questions at all? Or are there any other points that you would like to make that weren't drawn out through questions today?
I think, from our perspective, working with Transport for Wales between our organisations has been very useful. We're working with them, for example, on putting the engagement strategy together in terms of stakeholders. We're working with them in terms of putting in place the understanding of what passengers want. So, they are listening, they're enthusiastic about delivering for customers, and I think harnessing that enthusiasm going forwards will be a great force for good for passengers in Wales.
I think there is still a question about where the independent voice of passengers is heard. Certainly, there's a need for representation across Wales, multimodally, and I think having that independent voice and a place for that to be heard—there's a gap in that, and we think that needs to be looked at.
I would echo that, and the experience in the west midlands and elsewhere of having that independent chair of something that really is very challenging and holds to account does bring a lot of benefits, I think.
I'd absolutely endorse the independence value of it. We chair a number of customer panels, and we act as the independent chair for the operator and the customer, and it does add integrity to the proceedings.
Thank you. You'd be very welcome to stay and watch the session, if you're able to. We greatly appreciate your time this morning. Thank you for your evidence papers and thank you for travelling here. If you've got other evidence to add after looking back at the transcript of proceedings or hearing evidence from other witnesses, then please also feel free to contact the committee and add to the evidence you've already provided. Thank you very much for your time.
Right, I'd like to welcome the witnesses to committee. Thank you for joining us. I appreciate that you were listening to the last session as well, so we're grateful for your time with us today. Have you been advised about the translation equipment, which you will likely need later on—if you need to make use of that—? Thank you.
Can I ask you, perhaps, to start with, to give me an overview of how you feel the development of Transport for Wales has progressed? Who would like to start with an open overview. Sorry, I should say, I forgot to ask you to introduce yourselves for the public record—my fault. Perhaps if I ask you, Chris, to do that.
Right, well, I'm Chris Yewlett, representing the CILT, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, the leading professional body in the transport field. Personally, I used to work in Cardiff University for many years, teaching transport and town and country planning. I am a former chair of CILT Cymru, the Welsh body. Our current chair sent his apologies as he's got another commitment today, otherwise he would've come. At the moment, I represent Wales on the body that is the representative advisory group for the whole of the UK. So, that's really where I'm coming from.
I'm Roisin Willmott, I'm the director for the Royal Town Planning Institute in Wales. Again, a pressure body—land use planning and spatial planning.
I'm Dr Llŷr ap Gareth, I'm with the Federation of Small Businesses. We're a membership organisation representing small and medium-sized enterprises in Wales and have about 10,000 members in Wales.
In many ways, it's too early to say. I did pick up one or two of the points that were made, one of which is the confusion between Transport for Wales, the organisation, and Transport for Wales Rail. It doesn't help that every time you catch a train, it's announced as either 'Great Western' or a 'Transport for Wales' train. So, that's reinforced to the public that it's the same organisation, and I think the rail organsisation ran into a number of difficulties, some of which were not of their making, some of which were inherited in the handover. So, they got off to a rather bad start, although there is an ongoing problem that I hope will be resolved by more rolling stock investment, et cetera. But I think it's really too early to tell.
Okay. And, if I ask the same question of Roisin Willmott, but I'm asking particularly about how you feel that the development of Transport for Wales has progressed to date.
I think it is quite early in terms of Transport for Wales as an organisation. Ourselves, as the RTPI, we're grappling with trying to understand who they are and to be able to engage with them. We had some very early engagement. Perhaps we wouldn't be one of the principal organisations that they'd look to engage with initially in their development, but we'd hope that they'd come through. So, we're not clear on how they're going to engage with land use planning, and transport is integral to that; they have to work together—land use planning and transport planning. So, yes, early days and we haven't seen a lot of evidence of that to date.
And if I ask you, Dr ap Gareth, in your evidence to us, you said that the current arrangements do not
'address accountability to those external to TfW and Welsh Government, and the lines of accountability currently seem unclear from the outside looking in.'
So, how do you think that that should be addressed?
Well, I think that some of what's been said points to the problems that have been there, really. I think there's an element where that makes sense in terms of—it's been task-orientated, particularly with the rail franchise, and now they're moving on to the bus strategy, of course, so, in a way, the accountability level has been Welsh Government assigning tasks and Transport for Wales, in essence, being accountable to Welsh Government, so perhaps that's been okay up till now.
Now, in terms of the lines of accountability going further, I think it needs to be clear that we're looking also at lines of accountability to the Assembly and to the whole Assembly. When looking at infrastructure in general, we need to build consensus across the political parties and throughout Wales. There need to be lines of accountability to different bodies, small businesses being one of them, and engagement with communities of interest and communities of place, and with the public at large. It's important, also, that, due to Transport for Wales having this particular structure of being a company, it also needs to be clear that it is accountable to the public at large, and that it has duties, therefore, to the public at large and to the communities that it represents, in a way.
Well, in our paper, we've given some examples there of where, during infrastructure projects, there's been a lot of participation with the public. There are different models there. Some of them will depend on what level you're looking at—engagements where you're dealing with people who are professionals, whether they're experts, you know, and there's also with the public, or a mix of all of them. So, in our paper, there are a few examples from—while they're not particularly to do with transport and the way that Transport for Wales are doing it, the principles remain the same about how you participate. It's there to provide you with a strong evidence base, to make sure that you're trusted, that you are seen as independent of government. It gives you that arm's length. So, there are a few models in there that perhaps could be picked up on. I'm not sure if you want me to go into them at the moment.
Perhaps they'll be drawn out through questions later on. So, I'll come to Bethan Sayed.
Rydych chi jest yn dechrau cyffwrdd ar y peth, ynglŷn ag annibyniaeth y system, a pha mor annibynnol dŷch chi'n credu y dylai Trafnidiaeth Cymru fod. Dŷn ni wedi clywed gan Sefydliad Siartredig Logisteg a Thrafnidiaeth efallai bod yna angen cysoni'r polisi a'r hyn sydd yn bwysau gwleidyddol o ran yr hyn dŷn ni'n cael yn ein he-byst o ran efallai ein bod ni'n meddwl bod yna un cynllun o werth, ond os mae yna gynllun hirdymor gydag arian tu ôl i hwnnw, a ydy hynny'n cyd-fynd â'r realiti gwleidyddol? Felly, os ydy e'n mynd i fod yn hollol annibynnol, ydy hynny yn caniatáu wedyn i'r nuances neu'r blaenoriaethau gwleidyddol i beidio â bod yn rhan ganolog fel sydd gydag, er enghraifft, iechyd, neu gydag addysg, oherwydd bod yna system annibynnol?
You've just started touching on this issue of the independence of the system, and how independent you believe Transport for Wales should be. We've heard from the Chartered Institute for Logistics and Transport that there may be a need to harmonise the policy, and there's political pressure from what we have in our e-mails—maybe that we believe that there's one plan with value, but if there's a long-term plan with money to back that up, does it coincide with the political reality? If it's going to be completely independent, does it allow, therefore, those nuances or the political priorities not to be a central part, as happens in the health and education sectors, because there is an independent system in play?
I don't know if that translated very well. I don't know how I was coming over in my brain.
Mae yna lot o bethau ynglŷn â phrojectau mawr fel hyn, a rhwydweithiau o'r fath, fel trafnidiaeth—bod angen yr annibyniaeth yna, bod angen gallu magu consensws drwy wneud hynny. Felly, mae yna ochr o ddadwleidyddoli, bod gwleidydda mewn ffordd wleidyddol bleidiol, os liciwch chi—ac yn y modd yna, felly, rydych chi'n adeiladu consensws drwy'r engagement yna efo pobl arall.
Mae'n bwysig, felly, bod y llinellau o atebolrwydd, fel petai, ddim yn mynd un ffordd o Lywodraeth Cymru i Drafnidiaeth Cymru. Mae'n bwysig eu bod nhw'n cael eu gweld yn mynd ymhellach na hynny, boed hynny yn magu arbenigedd drwy gael recriwtio arbenigedd o du allan i Gymru dros wahanol feysydd—na fuasech chi fel arall, neu fel arall, waeth iddo fe fod yn gorff llywodraethol mewn ffordd. Dyna ydy, dwi'n tybio, y rheswm pam ei fod o'n gwmni, ond hefyd mae o'n bwysig bod ganddo fo'r llinellau o atebolrwydd yna i'r Cynulliad.
Mewn ffordd, y pwynt ydy gwneud yn sicr bod y llinellau yna yn dangos yn glir ei fod o'n annibynnol o Lywodraeth Cymru. Yn ei hanfod, beth rydych chi'n chwilio amdano hefyd ydy, os ydych chi'n gallu meddwl am ryw brosiect mawr sydd yn eithaf dadleuol—dwi'n siŵr rydych chi'n gallu meddwl am rai lonydd yn ne-ddwyrain Cymru, neu rywbeth fel yna—os buasai'r corff yma, Trafnidiaeth Cymru, yn dod â syniadau a phwyslais polisi a thystiolaeth, a fuasai tryst gan bobl ei fod yn hollol annibynnol? Dyna ydy'r dasg, mewn ffordd—eich bod chi yn sicrhau bod yna gorff yma sydd efo tryst ar draws y gwahanol bleidiau gwleidyddol, ond hefyd dros Gymru, i fedru cael ei weld fel arbenigwr sydd yn gallu bod yn niwtral.
There are many things about large projects such as these, and networks such as transport, and there's a need for independence, and there's a need to foster consensus through that. So, there is an aspect of depoliticalization, that politicizing in a party political way, if you like—and in that way you build consensus through that engagement with other people.
Now, it's important, therefore, that the accountability lines don't go one way from Welsh Government to Transport for Wales. It's important that it's seen as going further that that, whether that is adopting expertise through recruiting expertise from outside Wales in a number of different areas, or otherwise it might as well be a Government body, in a way. And that, I think, is the reason why it's a company, but it's also important that it has those accountability lines to the Assembly.
The point is to ensure that those lines show clearly that it is independent from Welsh Government. In essence, what you're looking for as well is that, if you can think of some large project that is quite controversial—I'm sure you can think of some roads in south-east Wales—if this body, Transport for Wales, brought ideas and a policy emphasis and evidence, would people trust it to be totally independent? That is the task, in a way—that you have to ensure that there is a body here that has trust across the different political parties, but also across Wales, to be able to be seen as an expert that can be neutral.
Ond ydy hynny'n bosib ar hyn o bryd, achos, yn ôl beth dŷn ni'n ei ddeall, mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn gosod y polisi ac wedyn Trafnidiaeth Cymru sydd yn gweithredu'r polisi hwnnw. Dyw hynny ddim, i fi, yn darllen fel corff annibynnol. Byddai corff annibynnol yn gallu dod lan â'i bolisïau ei hun, wedi'u seilio ar ryw fath o remit gan Lywodraeth Cymru ond dim pwyslais polisi Llywodraeth Cymru.
But is that possible at the moment? Because from what we understand, Welsh Government sets the policy and then Transport for Wales implements that policy. To me, that doesn't read as an independent body. An independent body would be able to come up with its own policies based on some sort of remit from Welsh Government, but not having the policy emphasis of Welsh Government.
Mae gan Lywodraeth Cymru wastad lot o bŵer yn setio'r agenda, ac wrth gwrs dŷn ni'n gwybod yn barod yn remit Trafnidiaeth Cymru eu bod nhw'n dilyn hefyd fframweithiau llywodraethol sydd i fod i bara dros amser megis y future generations Act ac yn y blaen. Felly, mae yna gwestiwn yna, ac mae hwnna'n rhywbeth sydd yn mynd i godi fwyfwy wrth iddo fo gael mwy o gyfrifoldebau, dwi'n meddwl, ac mae hynny'n rhywbeth—. I ryw raddau, pwynt hwn ydy codi'r cwestiynau yma, wrth gwrs, ond mae rheswm pam ein bod ni'n codi'r cwestiynau yma yn ein tystiolaeth. Dydyn ni ddim o reidrwydd yn dweud bod pethau wedi bod yn ddrwg i gyd hyd yn hyn, ac mae yna elfen lle mae'n gwneud synnwyr ei fod o di cael ei setio fyny i fod fel hyn, ond efallai fod angen, fel oeddwn yn dweud, cymryd y stabilisers i ffwrdd rŵan—bod Llywodraeth Cymru wedi bod yn bwysig iawn yn setio'r agenda a chael e wedi setio fyny, ond dŷn ni angen gwneud yn sicr ein bod ni rŵan yn edrych ar ei lywodraethiant o i wneud yn sicr ei fod o'n annibynnol yn y ffordd dwi wedi trafod, os ydy hynna'n gwneud synnwyr.
I think the Welsh Government always has a lot of power in setting the agenda, and of course we already know from the remit letter for Transport for Wales that they follow governance arrangements that are meant to play out over time. As such, it has to align with the future generations Act and so on. So, there is a question there, and it's something that's going to arise more and more as it has more responsibilities bestowed on it, and I think that's something—. To an extent, the point of this is to raise these questions, of course, and there's a reason why we raise them in evidence. We're not necessarily saying that things have all been bad thus far, and there's an element that it makes sense that it's been set up like this, but maybe there's a need, as I said, to take the stabilizers away now—that Welsh Government has been important in setting that agenda and having it set up, but we have to make sure that we now look at its governance to make sure that it is independent in the way that I've discussed, if that makes sense.
Can I just comment, partly from personal experience? When the Government of the day was looking at agencies as a way of doing things—this is going back to the 70s, almost—they looked at what went on in Scandinavia, where they had free-standing agencies. The Minister responsible could give directions, but those directions had to be published, they had to be public. They couldn't be privately instructed to do things in a way a civil servant could, and I think that perhaps is a model for going forward.
I think that the Welsh Government's role, in terms of setting policy, setting things like the national transport strategy, and then we have 'Planning Policy Wales', we have those strategies in place, which are important, and they will set the tone for Transport for Wales and for implementation. What is the need? That is really important for transport. What is the current need, the future need as well—what development is coming forward? And a national transport strategy that brings everything together is really important, based on strategy. But the implementation of that—there are various ways that you can implement a strategy. So, that's where Transport for Wales perhaps could have some freedom in terms of making proposals, which could then be consulted on with stakeholders and the public on what is the appropriate way of implementing that strategy in a coherent way, because it can't just be the rail or the bus, it has to be integrated across.
I guess what I was trying to say earlier, but in a bad way, was that it's not very sexy to do these long-term projects in a cycle of five-year term politics. So, what I'm trying to understand is: if, for example, there's a budget deal or whatever, and somebody says, 'I want a new train line opened', and you've already planned for something else, how do we know, within this system, that there would be ways we could hold that to account, because that's something that concerns me, in terms of how this has been set up so far? Perhaps it will all turn out okay, but I'm just not convinced entirely yet that we have this set up to be totally as transparent as possible.
That is a very difficult thing, because a lot of transport projects are long term, so they do need that long-term commitment, particularly on the integration. You can have some short-term projects that are necessary. So, there is a need to have that long-term commitment, and I think having an all-party agreement on national transport strategies et cetera is very important, and having that input into devising what is the right way forward for every part of Wales as well and integrating them.
I think, just to add quickly, it's worth noting—. So, a good example is perhaps Denmark, where I think it's a 10-year, it could be 15-year, plan on infrastructure in general was voted for in its Parliament and was voted through by seven of its eight parties. That gives you a level of—at least, on a strategic level, there's a consensus, so then there will probably be political bargaining and transactional things like you were discussing in terms of budgets that follow on from that, at the implementation level, possibly further down from the strategic level. So, I think it's important to note that, given that we have a body that's generally seen as more consensual, it's worth noting that that is a possibility. Of course, Denmark is even more so in terms of it having proportionality, but it's worth noting that that idea of having consensus at at least a high strategic level of what a 10-year, 15-year plan looks like is something that can be signed up to, and then there are other things that will come further down the line, or lower down, if you like, where there will be that bargaining.
Bydd comisiwn seilwaith Cymru efallai'n gallu cael mwy o rôl fan hyn, achos dŷn ni ddim rili wedi cyffwrdd cymaint arnyn nhw yn y trafodaethau yma yn benodol.
So, the national infrastructure commission could perhaps have more of a role, then, in this, because we haven't really touched on it in these discussions specifically.
Ia, a dyna un peth doeddwn i ddim eisiau ei daflu i mewn yna eto. Ond mae Comisiwn Seilwaith Cenedlaethol Cymru, wrth gwrs, yn rhan bwysig o ecoleg, os liciwch chi, y gwahanol gyrff yma. Dyma lle mae'n bwysig ein bod ni'n gwybod beth ydy remit, a beth ydy nodau, a beth ydy hanfod pob corff. Ac mae'n bwysig eu bod nhw'n gwybod beth ydy eu hanfodion ei gilydd, fel petai. Achos mae yna le, wrth gwrs, lle mae NICW yn edrych ar seilwaith dros yr holl le, fel petai, a TfW ar drafnidiaeth, ond wrth gwrs maen nhw'n cydblethu. Mae rôl NICW yn edrych ar bump i 30 mlynedd, a dwi'n meddwl bod budget TfW am bum mlynedd. Felly, mae'n bwysig nad ydy'r rhain, felly, wedi cael eu rhoi ar wahân i'w gilydd, ond mae angen edrych ar sut maen nhw'n cydblethu a beth ydy'r berthynas yna, a beth ydy'r bartneriaeth yna—pwy sy'n gwneud beth a phwy sy'n gwneud beth yn dda. Felly, dwi'n meddwl bod hynna wedyn hefyd yn gweithio ar gyfer pryd dŷch chi'n sbio ar y cyrff eraill i gyd sydd yn dod i mewn i hyn hefyd.
Yes, and that's one thing that I didn't want to throw in yet. But the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales, of course, is an important part of the ecology, if you like, of these different organisations. This is where it's important that we know what the remit and the aims and the essence of each body is. And it's important that they know what the core issues are relating to each of the bodies. Because there is a place, of course, where NICW looks at the infrastructure across the piece, as it were, and TfW on transport, but of course they do intertwine. The role of NICW looks at five to 30 years, and I think TfW has a budget of five years. So, it's important that these haven't been put separately—it's important to look at how they dovetail, and what that relationship is—who does what and who does what in a good manner. I think that's important, and that also works for when you look at the other organisations that come into this.
Can I just direct some questions to Roisin, please? You've already mentioned the fact that integrating transport planning and land-use planning is not as you'd expect. Am I right to understand that?
I think it could be improved, certainly. In Wales, we have local development plans. We have relatively good coverage of local development plans—certainly if you compare it to somewhere like England, which doesn't have such good coverage. And that can be improved, and integrating that with local transport plans. And it's really important that the two sit together, and that there's a common evidence base as well for that. It's no good building housing that you can't get to, which isn't supported by public transport, and, equally, no good having a bus route that doesn't serve anything.
Can I give you a case example? I'm not being parochial, I'm not talking specifically about my constituency—we're looking at a wide inquiry—but this case example does come from my constituency. The local development plan there was focused on building houses particularly in the south. An awful lot of the objections came from people who said, 'Yes, it's great within the constituency—you'll probably build a bypass associated with the housing. We don't want it, but you could do it, and it would sort out transport'. But as soon as you get into Cardiff, their strategy is to prevent cars coming into Cardiff, and the transport links are terrible. Would you agree, therefore, that the current local development plan system doesn't allow that level of integration?
I wouldn't say it's the local development plan system per se. I think there could be improvements in terms of joint authorities—authorities talking to each other in a much stronger, more integrated way. One answer—south-east Wales, and those parts of Wales—. South-east Wales is characteristic of it, of having complex movements across boundaries. Perhaps in somewhere like Powys, you get less of that. But certainly south-east Wales, Swansea bay, and perhaps the north as well. So, a lot of movement. People don't live by local authority boundaries—they work, play across all of those boundaries, so there's a lot of transport movement. So, we do have the legislation in place, through the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, for strategic development plans, and they would really help this. You've seen it work very effectively in Scotland, if you look at the Clydeplan, those kinds of areas, where land-use planning and transport planning—you could take those strategic planning decisions together, and it gets everyone in a room and signed up to those.
So, what steps do we need to take to operationalise a strategic development plan, for example in south-east Wales? How are you going to make that work? I know the capital region exists, and there is talk of this, but I'm yet to see a strategic development plan emerging from that.
The first step is for the authorities to come together and agree the democratic process, if you like—how they will agree things, their voting. There is legislation in place for that, but they have to sign up to that.
I know there are discussions. I think everyone's being diverted by city deal, because that has lots of money attached to it, so there has been a diversion of perhaps attention on city deal proposals. But the RTPI feels very strongly that, actually, a strategic development plan would give you a cohesive framework to spend the city deal money more effectively. Perhaps we've lost a bit of time on that.
I think we know thus far that those exist, but I don't think we have any evidence that it's having any impact on transport across those boundaries, and you would agree that's the case.
Yes—well, it could be improved, certainly.
I remember with our bus inquiry we took evidence from I think it was Rhondda Cynon Taf council, and they suggested to us that the easiest way to develop their transport plan was to offer a tender to different services—the 'build it and they will come' approach. Do you think that local authorities are proactive enough in developing their transport strategies alongside their development strategies?
It's different professionals involved because there are different skills involved. Chris might have comments on that from the transportation side of it, but there needs to be improvement, certainly, in terms of that integration between the different strategies and eliminating silos, in that sense.
Also, we need to be a bit better at getting transport upfront when we're doing planning so that the transport provisions are not only planned in but actually provided. A classic example of how not to do it is Cardiff Bay, where no public transport was laid on when it was first developed because there weren't enough passengers to sustain it. So, everybody had to buy cars. Some of them actually have two cars on sites that are only supposed to have one each. Subsequently, Cardiff was trying to engineer a lower car ownership level for new developments to make up for the fact that it missed it in the first one.
Well, look at what happened, for example—I know about one in Amsterdam. They developed a completely new area in the docks area. It now has a tram service, but when it first started it was empty and had buses running up and down the route empty, but slowly filling up. When people arrived and took a house, they could take the bus, they could go to work on the bus. In due course, the bus was replaced by a tram, and now you've got a well-used public transport service development. The problem we've got is that people moved there, they've got to get to work, there's no public transport because it's not financially viable, so they buy a car, and having bought a car, they're committed, and they use the car forevermore. So, there are issues like that. That's at a detailed level. At the more global level, perhaps you also need to make sure you put the transport options in so that people can use other transport options.
And even where those issues are being addressed in one area, because of the boundaries of local authorities, those things actually have a knock-on effect that isn't considered in those other local authority areas, because strategic development plans aren't being operationalised. That's fair to say—I think I can draw that from what you've said.
That is a problem. Even in the good old/bad old days when we had eight counties, the four counties in south Wales were actually producing structure plans and they were actually having them considered collectively by what was then the Welsh Office, because it was recognised that the whole of south Wales is one area from that planning and transport point of view. So, we have to try and get back to that a bit I think.
The latest iteration of 'Planning Policy Wales' in December 2018—does that go some way to addressing some of these issues?
Yes, it's certainly much stronger in terms of that integration. It formally establishes the transport hierarchy as well. One thing that hasn't been, I don't believe, discussed yet, certainly today, is the active travel as well, and implementing active travel. Because people can get the train, but then can they cycle home afterwards? How do we get people home? It's looking at those kind of factors as well. So, it's much stronger, it's got very strong lines in there about local transport plans, and also this integration of transport with other land uses as well, so housing, industry, employment, retail, and so on.
Okay. But that's still got to fit in with the bigger picture of strategic development—not to overemphasise.
Yes, this sets the tone, though. The policy sets the framework for everyone to work to.
Okay. And just regarding the Royal Town Planning Institute's evidence regarding Transport for Wales, you say
'Transport for Wales should seek to agree such long term arrangements with the Welsh Government and other key players.'
Can you just elaborate on what those long-term arrangements are?
In terms of looking at the national transport strategy et cetera and being able to implement those forward—sorry, was this the area?
Yes. We have a national development framework as well, which is under development by Welsh Government, and this will also add strength to the national transport strategy. We'd wish those two to be integrated as well, just as, at the local level, the local development plans and local transport plans. So, the national development framework will be very important in setting the framework for the Welsh projects that perhaps Ms Sayed referred to earlier in terms of getting that long-term strategy. And it's important that TfW are able to take that forward and implement it on the ground.
We've heard lots of evidence this morning about the fact that Transport for Wales is new, so, 'Could new equal innovation?' is going to be my question. It's not on the paper. And if we're talking about moving transport, we've had a lot of evidence this week, haven't we, that the types of cars of the future are not going to be the ones of yesterday? So, when we're looking at—and, I suppose, it's a question to Roisin—the plans to deliver transport, linking up with the actual transport that we're talking about on roads, should we be also looking at building in at this stage the infrastructure that will be needed to accommodate the cars—or transport, whatever it might be—of tomorrow?
Yes, certainly. But, I suppose the problem comes with, 'What are we planning for? What is it?' Something that the new edition of 'Planning Policy Wales' has introduced is—well not introduced, but emphasised—about charging points, for example, for electric vehicles. So, it has highlighted that, that developers, proponents of any form of development, need to think about those future things. So, there's flexibility in the policy. I think the problem is: what do people know that they're planning for in those specific—? What technology are we planning for, and what are we using? But there's certainly a shift in that direction.
I think also, I would add that a switch, for example, to a lot more electric cars may well hit [correction: help] the pollution problems, particularly the localised pollution problems, but the problem of sheer congestion of everybody trying to travel by car rather than public transport will be just the same, regardless of whether you have a diesel, petrol or electric engine in your vehicle. So, we still need to look at the overall transport balance, how to make public transport more attractive, more effective, get more people to use it.
There's an interesting case study pending at the moment, I think, which is perhaps Bristol, which has terrible traffic problems—far worse than ours. A lot of people parked and rode at Severn tunnel junction, which used to have huge marshalling yards that are now huge car parks, but that was partly because of the cost of paying the toll. Now that the toll has been abolished, I should be interested to see whether more people actually drive, or whether the traffic situation in Bristol is so bad that they still park and ride at Severn tunnel.
We should be looking to the future, but, of course, it does always involve whether you're hedging your bets across different possibilities or whether you're putting all your eggs in one basket, and that sort of thing. We obviously know that we're hoping to look at electric cars, but it's a difficult one. But it also hits across other things, such as the national grid, and it shows precisely how complex infrastructure is, and how even in talking about transport, we're hitting across other areas of infrastructure here. So, it's a bit of a fudge, but, yes, we should.
That's why I asked the question. I thought, we're all asking the same question and we're talking about Transport for Wales and we're talking about the future of Wales, and you are three key players in that, and being involved in it, so, I was playing devil's advocate by changing the subject. So, in terms of changing the subject and keeping on that theme, you did talk about regional, joined-up thinking, and you specifically—we won't go down that road, I don't think. So, how do you see that working, if we were starting with new beginnings? And we are talking about transport agencies and their role in it, so, how do you think that might work alongside Transport for Wales and also local government, and people clearly understanding their constituent roles, I suppose, and working together with you?
I was going to say, I think we thought the regional transport consortia, which were wound up, that was unfortunate on a planning level. It was also unfortunate at a, sort of, personnel level, because we lost an awful lot of expertise, if you like, and that's one of the things that we've tried to stress, I think, that we need to establish a way in which we can build up transport expertise in Wales.
I mean, we had some unfortunate experiences—. One that I know about is Gwent, for example: when we had the old Gwent county council, when that was abolished, they decided that rather than have a transport planner in each of the new authorities, they'd set up an umbrella group. And that was a good idea at the time, but unfortunately the umbrella group eventually ended up and is now part of Capita. So, that particular expertise is now very much in the private consulting sector. No criticism of the individuals, but it's just the way things happened.
And something similar seems to have been happening with the transport consortia. I think we need to make sure that there are opportunities for people to take employment and also get career development in fields like transport and, indeed, planning, but planning has, sort of, local government structure, which offers career opportunities. We don't want a situation in which we can't attract people from the wider, even UK pool, or people feeling that they have to move elsewhere to pursue their careers, which seems to be one of the consequences of some of the changes in the past. So, having an all-Wales body and various superior [correction: regional] bodies, I think, is a good idea. It's a step in the right direction.
It's setting up those decision-making remits, like the strategic development plans, which wouldn't necessarily cover all of Wales, so it's not a complete answer, but it brings the specialist stakeholders together, the different interests, and gets more formulation of answers that cross sectors. So, it's not just the transport, it's looking at the other development issues as well and getting integrated decisions to meet all of those. So, getting people together. The evidence base is also really important, and I note in the remit letter that Transport for Wales is developing an evidence base. I don't know anything about it, and it would be a comfort to know that that could be correlated against local transport plans and local development plans so the same data is being used across all of them, or could be compared and used, so that it's not something that's completely defunct in another sector as well.
Yes. I guess your point about it being new and young, at least, means that it can establish new ways of working in a much easier way than changing course for an old institution, if you like. I think it has that chance of being a catalyst and, therefore, getting everything around it to be clarified as well—what the roles are.
I think it's important also here to note that, perhaps, local isn't always local. This is national. We look at these spatial levels, sometimes, as being different and sometimes the functions these institutions do actually reinforce each other. So, for example, I think, with the bus strategy at TfW looking at contracting, having a, sort of, template contract for all local authorities to use, that's a good example of, perhaps, expertise coming from the centre to help the decision making at the local level, and I think that's the kind of thing that TfW can help quite a lot. If it's providing advice and expertise to Welsh Government, it should be doing that to whatever the regional picture will look like and the local picture, particularly so given that we know that a lot of the expertise has been hollowed out in local government, particularly over the last decade or so.
Roisin, in your earlier answer, you talked about the need to integrate the national development framework with the national transport plan. How would that happen in practice?
I'd like to think different parts of the Welsh Government would speak to each other and use a joint evidence base in developing those. Obviously, the national development framework will look beyond transport—it's not just transport as well. But it is those different parts of Welsh Government coming together to develop a common strategy that would support that integration. But then also the consultation process and having other stakeholders being able to comment and critique what is being proposed in the national development framework. I'm not sure of the timescales for the revision of the national transport strategy, but that is, I think, due. That would be helpful to review that as well; it's been some time since the last iteration.
Understand that the national freight strategy is now over 10 years old, and it really needs to be updated. And we have to be careful that we don't only talk about passengers. I mean, passengers are very important, and there are lots of them and they complain if they don't get the service, but freight is equally important in the transport field, and integrating the two. So, we need to update that as part of the overall review of transport planning in Wales.
Are there any specific recommendations you think the committee could make with regard to that integration?
Ensuring that it is integrated and that—
How is it going to be integrated? Tell me a bit more about how you think it could be integrated.
Well, they would both say the same thing about national—they wouldn't be at odds about different types of policy. So, they'd follow the transport hierarchy, for example, that's been established in 'Planning Policy Wales'. There wouldn't be deviation from that. So, they'd both come from the same thrust, and perhaps if they're developed completely separately, that can be more difficult to get that same thrust on that. So, bringing them forward together so that they're saying the same things and in the same way would be very helpful.
Thank you, Chair. Transport for Wales has the rail service, as we know, and the south Wales metro. It's looking at a White Paper on buses. In your opinion, what additional transport functions should Transport for Wales assume the responsibility for, if any?
It's a bit of a fudge again, I guess, but I think the important thing, in our evidence, is to make sure that the structures are there so that any additional responsibilities can be handled. In principle, given that the aim of an arm's-length body on transport is to look at the integration of all transport networks in Wales, there's no reason for it not to take on other things such as aviation and ports. It should be looking at whether it's a direct responsibility or not. Active travel, it would make sense that it looks at the framework and makes sure that they have the recommendations and design and so on to help the local authorities, or whatever way they do that. So, in principle, there's no reason that they shouldn't be taking on those things. But if we were to say, 'Yes, we want those; we want to see what that would look like'—. So, for example, if they were to look at Cardiff Airport, you would want to look at what that adds, how it works, and given that Welsh Government currently runs Cardiff Airport, in some respects, the public transport to and from there, integrating that process, in principle, makes sense. But we'd obviously need to see the details of it.
I have to be slightly careful about what I say here because different members of our organisation have different views, particularly some of the private bus operators, but certainly there's a case for better integration. People have mentioned Transport for London many times. Of course, Transport for London have a different structure altogether. They are entitled to set the bus network, even though the operations are privatised, and the bus companies bid to run them, but we don't have the situation of competition on the streets, if you like, where somebody can put on a different bus and—. When it first happened in parts of England, they had literally bus jams in Manchester because there were people competing. And we've seen cases recently—and I'm very careful how I put this—where some of the local bus services have been destabilised by competitive operations that then seem to have just, in one case, disappeared, including the one that runs past my house. So, I think there is a need for looking more carefully at how we actually regulate the bus system so that we actually have a bus service.
One of the complaints—I declare an interest as a holder of a senior citizens' bus pass—one of the complaints coming from England, of course, is that, politically, you can't withdraw the bus pass but you can just withdraw the buses. And in large tracts of England, buses have disappeared and there is a danger of that happening in parts of Wales—in rural Wales and some, even, of the less intensively used parts of bigger areas like Cardiff. So, I think there's an issue here. I think the bus industry is complaining that they have had rather a hard time of it financially—perhaps there's been too much focus on the rail industry—and I can see where they're coming from. We do have to be careful.
And the other thing, of course—I've been harping on this for years—is integration. In London—. I mean, the one thing that really is an integrated transport ticket is the concessionary pass, because, you go on any bus, you just present it and you travel. You don't have a situation, which I've seen, where people are waiting at a bus stop and some of them get on the bus and others don't, because the bus that's come along, it's run by a company that offers a cheaper fare, but doesn't run in the evening, so, if you buy a return ticket, you won't be able to get home, and the pricing structure is such that you have to buy a return ticket—if you buy singles, you're worse off. I think that is a nonsense and we ought to do something about it. There's another bus company—I won't mention them, but, personally, I think their behaviour is outrageous—
No, no. I will not name them. Wherever there is an agreed set-up for a regional ticket over quite a lot of south Wales, for example, which they will always sign up to, they will then offer their own ticket for their own buses in that area for about 50p less. And, whenever somebody gets on a bus, the driver will ask you, 'Well, would you like the cheaper ticket?', and the reason they do that—I can understand it—is because they sell the cheaper ticket, they get all the revenue; they sell the expensive ticket, they get the pro-rata revenue, which is shared out on an agreement. But it does make it difficult for passengers. I have heard of cases of passengers who've been stranded in rural places because their ticket isn't valid on the only bus that's still running after 6.00 p.m., you know. The trouble is, you only have to have one or two cases like that that are spread round—[Inaudible.]—public transport, so that, I think, is something—. We've been talking about this for many, many years.
I think mentioned earlier in the previous session was the advisory committee, which was set up—again, I declare an interest—to replace a thing called the Public Transport Users committee, which— again, I declare an interest—I was a member of. It was an interesting body, and it had all sorts of people there. Some of us were transport experts, some of us were literally bus users and there was a person there to represent the disabled interest—quite a wide-ranging group. And we heard evidence and, for example, we produced a report and the report made six recommendations to the Minister, and the Minister said, quite reasonably, 'Well, one of these is not my responsibility, but I accept the other five', and then, every subsequent meeting, there was a standing item on the agenda, which was: what was progress on these five items? And, unfortunately, the response usually was, 'Not much so far', and, eventually, the subsequent Minister abolished the body and now I hear that the body that replaced it, which did not have quite that public profile, has also disappeared. There is, perhaps, a need for somebody from the, shall we say, backbench committee circuit to make sure that Government is effectively held to account, especially if it has abolished these bodies that might actually feed something in. Sorry, that's—
Just one to Chris on whether—. Llŷr mentioned before that it might be reasonable for TfW to take over the Cardiff Airport and so on, aviation sectors—should they play any role in relation to the highways?
Yes, can I just—? On the first point—I'll come back to the second point—. The first point—you mentioned airports and seaports. One of the problems is that devolution, as Ron Davies said, is a process, it's not an event. One of the problems we have in the transport field specifically is that there are some things like education and health that are totally devolved to Wales. The Welsh Minister is responsible—has to liaise with the English Minister, interfaces, but it's totally devolved. Some things, like Home Office functions, are totally non-devolved, so, you know, the police in Wales and the police in England are run by the same body. Transport, unfortunately, is partially devolved, and, some things, the Minister is the Minister for England, and, some things, the Minister is the Minister for England and Wales, and, some things, the Minister is the Minister for the UK. And one of the dangers—. Not civil servants, who can see their way through these—what's the word—arcane arrangements, but, Ministers, almost politically, tend to see themselves as the Minister for England. And the transport Minister, for example, has responsibility for seaports, but the seaport situation in Wales is different to that in England, apart from the fact that we are responsible for most of the through-trade between Ireland and the rest of the continent of Europe. There was an issue not so long ago, where Welsh seaports, particularly places like Holyhead and Milford—they are on the Irish Sea, and they have the prospect of attracting business from cruise liners, which actually cruise up the Irish Sea, because a lot of the international cruise market wants to go to Dublin, and it's quite feasible to go to Dublin as well and call at Holyhead and go to places in Wales. But providing facilities for that wasn't seen as being really part of the policy. Well, why not? Because the UK policy perhaps reflected the majority of English ports, where that wasn't an issue. So, there are problems there. Sorry, I—
Have you had answers to your question? What was the question, Jack, again, sorry?
On the airport, well, the airport seems to be working quite well as a Welsh Government-owned, arm's-length operation. It was grossly neglected by the previous owners, who—
Yes. Well—. It's working well. It was grossly neglected, but, since it's been taken over, it's working well. I don't think there's a reason to change that.
Highways—yes, I think there should be some remit, because you've really got to integrate between highway development and transport developments and public transport developments and, indeed, highways for freight. And there has been a tendency for those to be a bit siloed in the past. And things like, also—not so much the airports, but the subsidised air service, the PSO service, to Anglesey. That clearly is something that it would be appropriate for them—
Do you have any further questions, Jack? There we are. David Rowlands.
Yes. It seems as if Wales is moving to a three-tiered structure for transport in Wales—the Welsh Government, Transport for Wales, and JTAs and local government together. Does this seem reasonable, and what risks does this present, and how should these governance levels be co-ordinated?
I think it makes sense, because there will be some movement, some infrastructure, that you want organised at a national level; there will be others that are of a local priority, but just as important in that locality, for all sorts of reasons, even integrating with national links as well. And of course people will use national infrastructure for local trips as well. So, it does make sense to have the different tiers. We would say, as the RTPI, that plans are important in terms of integrating those together. So, you have your tiers of plans and strategies—so, the national development framework, the national transport strategy, down through to your local development plans. And, as long as those strategies and plans speak together, and you have good stakeholder involvement, then that should help with the integration between the different levels.
I don't have much to add to that, but I think—. Yes, I think it makes sense on those terms. There's a question, perhaps, about the joint transport authorities, about whether they're set from above, or whether they're going to reflect what's happening already. But I think there are probably better people who you're asking questions to on that than me.
Okay. In their White Paper, they seem to be saying that they will have a national JTA structure, alongside Transport for Wales. Now, John Pockett shared my confusion about this, as to whether, if we have a national transport for Wales body, as well as Transport for Wales, how would they link together. But John also mentioned the fact they could be one and the same. So, do you think this is desirable, and what role should each play if they do separate those two functions?
No. The danger is you end up with three bodies, if you're not careful—
—the independent agency, Transport for Wales, the Minister, who is the sort of political responsible person, and this other body. And I'm not quite sure who would be in this other body—all the local authorities, or something?
You'd have to ask what added value that would provide. [Inaudible.]
That's right, yes. I think that came up in the last discussion, where we said that the remit from the Welsh Government has to be absolutely distinct in what it requires each and every one of them to be, and where each of their roles would lie.
I think in the White Paper, 'Improving public transport', they're quite high level, they're quite abstract, so, you can't really respond to them without saying, 'Well, yes, but—', or, 'No, but—', because it's as much about the role and remit and how these would relate to each other, what are the delineations of responsibilities and functions. But, yes, there does seem to be—. I'm not sure what happens to the regional level then, if there is a national joint transport authority.
I think I'm right to say that there would be one or the other. So, there'd either be regional authorities, or there would be one joint authority. And that's what we're asking—what's behind the question, perhaps, really.
I guess the question is who decides that, and if it's coming from the bottom up, as it were, or top down as well and what does the—you know, what's the best way for it to reflect what the regional voice and what the regional needs are? It seems to me to be that it follows it's probably the regional level, whatever that then is.
Because there is, after all, the WLGA to represent the interest of local government across Wales on broader issues like is there enough money being put into transport and that sort of thing.
Perhaps, Roisin, you may be able to answer this. What practical steps should be taken to integrate the functions of JTAs into the land-use planning process, and do these differ from the approach that is needed to integrate Transport for Wales?
I think it's just—. They are the same process, but just perhaps different stakeholders or different levels of stakeholder. It is about having common evidence bases, and agreeing what the priorities are for whichever area you're talking about, whether it's a local level or the national level, and what are your issues and what are the priorities that you're trying to address, and using that evidence to base your strategy on in terms of solutions.
In terms of the different strategies, land-use plans can't go into all the detail that you might need in a transport plan, but it is having the two that say the same thing, similar to what I was saying about the national development framework and the national transport strategy as well, so, they all kind of flow through. And you'd like to think that the national strategies would set an overarching framework—of course, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is very important, and having that integrated as well. So, if that can be done at a national level that can then be translated down to a more local level and dealing with specific localised issues, then that would help.
Does the panel think that Transport for Wales is adequately resourced for today and for the future?
I'll be careful how I say this, but I think that nothing is adequately resourced at the moment.
What about in terms of staffing, then? We'll get away from finances. What about staffing? Is it adequately staffed—in skills and responsibilities?
From an RTPI perspective, we don't know the detail; we aren't sufficiently engaged with Transport for Wales to comment on that. We would hope that they have got in-house planning expertise to enable them to have those linkages, but we don't know, so—
People don't report to us. Although we set the membership qualifications, et cetera, and make people chartered planners, et cetera, we don't know who necessarily—. People don't have to report us who's employed where.
Perhaps. I think any organisation should say that they have the correct qualified staff to deliver whatever service—you'd like to think that they have, whether it would be TfW Rail, if I'm getting this correct, got the right qualified drivers, et cetera.
I was thinking more about the policy expertise, and the—you know, the strategic expertise.
Absolutely. Well, perhaps in their business plan they would say something along that, but I don't think many organisations would necessarily say that, unless it's a regulatory function.