Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Pwyllgor yr Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau

Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee

13/11/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Bethan Sayed AC
Hefin David AC
Joyce Watson AC
Mohammad Asghar AC
Russell George AC Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Vikki Howells AC

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Andrew Kluth Arbenigwr Carbon Arweiniol, Bwrdd Diogelwch a Safonau’r Rheilffyrdd
Lead Carbon Specialist, Rail Standards and Safety Board
Craig Mitchell Pennaeth Cefnogaeth Gwastraff, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Head of Waste Support, Welsh Local Government Association
Matthew Prosser Cyfarwyddwr Technegol, Angel Trains
Technical Director, Angel Trains
Roger Waters Cyfarwyddwr Gwasanaeth: Gwasanaethau Rheng Flaen, Cyngor Rhondda Cynon Taf
Service Director Frontline Services, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council
Rhiannon Hardiman Pennaeth Cymru, Living Streets Cymru
Wales Manager, Living Streets Cymru

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Chloe Corbyn Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Robert Lloyd-Williams Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:33.

The meeting began at 09:33.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso, bawb. I'd like to welcome Members to committee this morning, and I move to item 1. We have apologies from Bethan Sayed this morning, and, if there are any declarations of interest, please do say so now.

2. Datgarboneiddio Trafnidiaeth—Newid moddol, cynllunio a llywodraeth leol
2. Decarbonisation of Transport—Modal shift, planning and local government

In that case, I move to item 2, and this is our next session in regards to decarbonisation of transport. This morning, we've got a panel from local authorities and others, so if I could ask you to introduce yourselves for the public record, that would be very helpful—if I start from my left.

Thank you, Chair. My name is Roger Waters. I'm the service director for front-line services with Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council. I'm also here representing the Cardiff capital region transport authority, as the transport office chairperson, and you may be aware that the Cardiff capital region transport authority is a sub-committee of the Cardiff capital region city deal and the regional cabinet there.

Good morning. My name's Craig Mitchell, I work for the Welsh Local Government Association.

Good morning. My name's Rhiannon Hardiman. I'm Wales manager of Living Streets, which is the charity for everyday walking.

Thank you. Members will have different questions, and we've got two Members who'll also be joining us shortly as well. If I can ask some very general questions about 'Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales', do you think in your view that there is enough detail in the plan on transport? Also, if I could ask you about any concerns that you've got about the delivery of the targets within the plan as well.

09:35

Shall I kick off, Chair?

Obviously 'Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales' is a very comprehensive document. There are over 100 policies in there, and, through the process of developing the document, there was obviously consultation with local government and other stakeholders. The feedback that we've had from authorities is in principle it's a very good document, it's a very good start in terms of understanding what we need to do as a nation in relation to reducing carbon. Many of the areas are a development of current policies and programmes, so the feedback is that in those areas there tended to be a bit more detail, a bit more flesh, in the document in terms of what was sought in terms of the ambition, but also the process by which we were going to arrive at that. The feedback is also that in some areas the document is a little bit aspirational in terms of its direction and perhaps lacks a little bit of information about how we're actually going to move towards achieving those targets, and, when some of those targets are quite imminent, really, that is an issue.

In terms of transport I think there are a couple of things there. One is obviously that the new transport strategy will be published next year and the expectation is that many of the references to transport in this document will be taken forward in that strategy and given more detail and more information. I think the other issue that we'd like to stress is that transport is for a purpose, it's for mobility, it's—. How we configure services across Wales, how we allow access to those services, how we deliver those services, is quite important. So, there is quite a lot of work with Welsh Government and local government looking at how we can use information technology to deliver services more to the citizens of Wales that will help with that aspect. And, obviously, the role of public services boards is quite important, because obviously that brings together the key players in a locality that provide public services, so that's really a level at which there can be a dialogue about how services are configured and delivered, because clearly the delivery of services doesn't end at the school gate or the hospital door. We have to really get a lot smarter at understanding how people access those services, what are their travel possibilities, and how do we incentivise, in terms of the travel hierarchy, active travel, public transport, and so on and so forth.

So, I think the document is a good start. In terms of your question about deliverability, I think that really relates to the fact that I think some of the proposals are probably better evidenced and have more information. I think, some of them, it's a little bit of a grey area about exactly at this point how they will be delivered, what the role of different stakeholders will be, and how do we support, particularly in terms of financial incentives and the cost of transition to a new way of approaching things. So, I think there are issues to be bottomed out in relation to deliverability.

Could I add—? Craig is absolutely right: transport is a derived demand. We have aspirations for growth across Wales, we have growth deals in north Wales, west Wales and in south-east Wales, and, if you look at the relationship between economic growth and transport travel demand, you'll see that they are related. The graphs showing growth in the economy will show a slight lag, but a mirrored growth, in travel demand, and it's how we get that growth without perhaps creating that huge travel demand that will be the big challenge, because, as we know, the predominant area of satisfying that travel demand is in the private car. We've got huge congestion issues, there's a knock-on effect for buses, et cetera. Whilst electric vehicles may offer a cleaner way forward, if it means that there are simply more and more people with more affordable access to travel—.

09:40

Can I ask you—because I was going to ask you both, really—how the Government has engaged with you in developing their strategy?

If I kick off, I think there were a number of things that Welsh Government did. One was that they did run stakeholder sessions, in which we participated, which were looking at the overall strategy, rather than just looking at transport specifically. They also produced a—. We have a network of environment directors within local government, and they produced information for that network as part of the consultation process. 

I suppose, more importantly, were you satisfied that they engaged with you sufficiently?

I think it was difficult because of the breadth of the coverage of the document. I think it would have been perhaps good to have more sector-specific activity that engaged with stakeholders relevant to that area. But, again, the transport strategy should enable that to happen. 

Yes, okay. Thank you. Rhiannon, I've asked a few questions, do you want to address any of them at all?

If I could just add, in terms of where it talks about active travel in the transport part of the plan, we certainly would commend the sort of ambition that's in there about shifting Wales towards active travel and more sustainable modes of transport, but perhaps what we're not really seeing in here is any kind of strategy or substance around how the Welsh Government proposes to move to that position. 

There are some policies in the document around active travel and land-use planning. These are reflective of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 and 'Planning Policy Wales', which are existing policies, so we're not really seeing anything new, particularly, coming through that's going to help us move along that journey. So, what we would really like to see is a clear strategy for how we're going to achieve modal shift, and for that to be really backed up with targets and funding. 

We've long called for better target setting; we didn't really get that through the active travel action plan. This document hasn't done it, either. So, we'll be looking forward now to the Wales transport strategy to see if that will be the opportunity to really open up the debate around target setting. We're already monitoring data around the frequency that people travel actively, which is defined as walking for 10 minutes for active travel, but we're only putting in targets for how often people do that once a week. So, let's start seeing some targets going in for frequent active travel—the Welsh Government defines that as three times a week. We're monitoring it, so let's set some targets against it. 

Perhaps we need to start being a bit bolder in our language, as well. Let's start actually monitoring how frequently people are using the car for their short journeys. This is where we really need to start getting to the nitty-gritty of the decarbonisation agenda. It really does come down to getting more cars off the road. That's the crux of shifting people to active travel and shifting people to public transport. So, let's actually start monitoring how many of those short journeys under two miles are we actually making by car, and start focusing on shifting those. 

So, overall, it's great to see the level of ambition. We'd like to see some of the proposals that are in there moving quickly into policy, so that we can actually see that those are commitments. At the moment, it's not clear that they are commitments, those proposals. And, talking about proposals, 13, 1 and 12, which are around modal shift, shifting car dependency and public communications—let's see those moved to more firm commitments as soon as possible, I think. 

Thank you, Rhiannon. I don't want to be too long now, because I want to try to move on, but just to ask our local authority colleagues—Rhiannon, I think, set out how the Wales transport strategy can perhaps implement some of the areas that are held in 'Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales'. Have you got any comments on that at all, in terms of how the Wales transport strategy can implement some of the issues raised in 'A Low Carbon Wales'?

I think we need to understand the scale of the problem. If you look at some of the statistics around how travel is made up—these are UK-wide figures, based on 2018—all motor traffic equates to 328 billion miles per year, whereas pedal cycles is 3.3 billion miles a year, so it's about 1 per cent, at the moment, of the total.

Now, within that, cars and taxis are 255 billion miles per year. The growth between 2017 and 2018 for pedal cycles—and it has been growing significantly in recent years—was at 1.8 per cent, whereas the growth in cars and taxis was 0.2 per cent. That was much lower than the year before. So, if you equate that, the continued growth in cycle use gives you about 0.06 billion miles a year, whereas the 0.2 per cent growth in cars and taxis gives you an additional 0.5 billion miles a year. So, the equivalent growth—just natural growth, now, we're talking about—is equivalent to eight and a half years of cycle growth. So, you've really got to accelerate the growth in cycles to something that's I think beyond our comprehension perhaps at the moment just to match that natural growth in cars.

And if you turn that to commuting in Wales—so, we're not talking about overall mileage, where you'd expect vehicles to take up a bigger proportion, but, if you talk about percentage of journeys to work, then, as the main mode, the car is at 82 per cent and cycling is at 2 per cent. So, we're in the same position. If we were wildly optimistic and said, 'We'll double cycle use for journeys to work', that equates to about 2.4 per cent growth in car use, which means, then, that—

09:45

Sorry, I am just a bit conscious of time, but what I wanted to ask you is: that information that you're relaying, because we can perhaps access that information after the meeting, is that Wales-wide information or UK-wide?

These are all Office for National Statistics statistics, compiled by the Department for Transport, et cetera. So, they're all publicly available. 

The last part, about the travel-to-work commutes, is Wales-specific data. It's gathered at DfT level. 

Do you think the Welsh Government needs to do any—? Your opening comment was about the lack of, perhaps, data, but do you think that Welsh Government needs to do anything further in carrying out its own work or its own surveying work?

I'm sure there is a lot of detail available and a lot of information available and we'd expect to see that work through the Wales transport strategy to get a feel for the quantum of this and the major implications that are around this decarbonising of transport.

Sure. It was useful information. Sorry to cut you off. It would be useful to have that information, if we got it. So, we'll look for that information ourselves, because that'll be helpful to our work. I'm going to have to move on, because we're a bit short on time. Vikki Howells.

Thank you, Chair. I just have some questions around the Welsh Government's decarbonisation proposals for the bus industry. So, firstly, what do you think are the main barriers to achieving the target of zero emissions by 2028 in Wales?

I think, really, it's around the capital cost of new vehicles, which I'm told are of the order of double the cost of a new diesel-powered Euro 6 vehicle. And then we've also got the capital cost of installing charging points for buses, whether that be in the bus depots or at the bus stations, and the connections. Some of the major costs around that are the connections from Western Power Distribution—the energy, then—getting the kick that you need to charge these big vehicles at those local charging points. So, there are some huge capital costs involved in that. 

Just to add very quickly, obviously Wales is a very diverse country, very different, so there are issues around the range of the vehicles and how they could be used. Yes. Sorry, there was another point, but it escapes me now.

Yes, just a small comment really. We would definitely support this move to greener vehicles, but I think we would need to look at the energy demand and whether that actually comes down as a result of electrification of fleet and where that energy is coming from, so that we're not actually displacing the carbon and that that's looked at holistically.

09:50

Sorry, just to add very quickly, obviously, the other key issue is declining use of buses, so it goes back to Roger's point about we need to engage the public and run behaviour change in relation to that. The other issue I wanted to flag up is the co-dependency of different elements of the strategy. So, if you're prioritising electric buses, there's very little point if those buses are largely empty and they're stuck in congestion because they're not moving, so understanding those co-dependencies is quite important. 

So, what's the role for local authorities in supporting the decarbonisation of the bus industry and what sort of mechanisms and levers are in place there?

I think there are a number of aspects to that. We've seen some success through collaboration and bidding for funding, so there's been a £9.5 million investment made in providing electric buses for Newport Bus, Cardiff Bus, and Stagecoach in Caerphilly. So, that's welcome and that's being rolled out at the moment, so that will help to start to make a difference, and I think lessons will be learnt from that on the potential to roll that out further. I think the local authorities have control of the major highway networks across Wales, the vast bulk of them, and this is where the buses tend to run, and the investment really is needed in terms of providing bus priority across those networks so they're not held up in the general traffic. And you can see, where that's being done to good effect, that it is having benefits. 

Sorry, just to add very quickly, there are three pilots across Wales of integrated responsive transport systems, whereby it's trying to make the bus meet more the needs of the public, which I think is absolutely critical to enable their use to be increased. Obviously, local authorities can enter into quality partnership schemes currently with bus providers, whereby they're either statutory or voluntary; they come to an agreement where the local authority will improve the infrastructure in return for certain service standards. That really hasn't been particularly progressed, and I know that the transport White Paper set out this concept of enhanced quality partnerships, which was a more collaborative approach between the bus industry and local authorities, and I think the local authorities are very keen to see that taken forward and to try and understand how it could support the better delivery of buses, and obviously there are the franchising proposals as well.

And Craig, looking at it Wales wide, what sort of discussions do you know about between local authorities and bus companies about their actions to decarbonise? Because, looking at it from my perspective, it appears that all that activity is going on in the areas where pollution is highest. But what about the rest of Wales—what kind of discussions are going on there?

I'll be honest, I'm not really aware of what those discussions are and what is happening, which perhaps is an answer in itself, but I think it does vary from authority to authority.

There is a lot of engagement. There is an Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers group that sits under the County Surveyors' Society Wales banner that engages regularly with colleagues in the bus operation side of things to look at issues such as funding and so on. So, there is a lot of collaboration and a lot of discussion going on. But I think the biggest enemy of bus at this point in time, certainly in an urban environment, is the congestion issue.

Okay, thank you. What do you think are the implications for decarbonisation of the Welsh Government's plans to legislate for bus services, and, in particular, how does that fit with perhaps the introduction of franchising powers?

I think, generally, in terms of bus services—and I've given evidence on this previously—the real challenge is around congestion. Effectively, you get the service that you're prepared to pay for. There is something like £220 million to £250 million a year spent on bus, but—the overall transport pot in the UK, 55 per cent of it goes on rail. Yet, in Wales, we have 100 million passenger journeys on bus, compared to about 30 million on rail. So, the investment seems disproportionate at this point in time. But franchising won't come cheap. I've highlighted before: if you look at London as an examplar of franchising and a regulated service, and the advantages in London for bus—you know, bus lanes, we've got congestion charging, we've got low car ownership, we've got a very dense urban network that is ideal for bus—the subsidy there is of the order of about £70 a head for bus, whereas, in Wales, the subsidy is around £7 a head. So, we will need to invest at levels that have hitherto not been seen to have a service of the type that we might aspire to, such as London's.

09:55

That brings me very nicely on to my final question, really, because I think this is all bound up in the issue of should the Government be subsidising buses that, as Rhiannon has said quite often, are fairly empty, and, Craig, you've alluded to the integrated responsive transport pilots as well. So, I'd just like to ask all of you—but particularly Craig and Rhiannon, as you've already mentioned it—what you think about the level of attention that the Welsh Government has put into the integrated responsive transport pilots. Is sufficient attention being given to these more innovative approaches to the delivery of public transport services, or do we need to be even more radical?

I think that, obviously, the pilots are just really getting going, so I think that Welsh Government have put quite substantive investment into those. So, I think it's a case of, you know, we really need to see how that plays out. But I think we really need—. Everything needs to be on the table in terms of how we encourage modal shift.

I think, in a previous session, there was talk about, when you develop a new development, for example, maybe the public transport element should be front-loaded, so that it is there in place for when people move to that development. That is the norm in a number of European cities, for example. Clearly, there's a cost to that. I remember the Mayor of Vienna saying that they run the trams even though the site hasn't even broken ground yet. The idea is that people move there, see the efficient service in place and, naturally, use it.

Personally, where I live in Wales, I moved there because the train service was reopening. It didn't reopen until two and half years after I moved there. I had to buy a car, and there is only one train an hour. So, there is a disconnect between how we cater for transport and incentivise public transport and the reality on the ground, and, as Roger has highlighted, there is a cost to this, and there is a bottom line to this, really. 

Yes, thank you. I don't know enough about the pilots to comment specifically on those, but I would just add that, in terms of public transport, it goes hand in hand with active travel infrastructure. If we want to get more people using buses, bus stop and bus station accessibility is so important. It needs to be safe, welcoming, convenient and easy for people to access public transport close to home. 

Thank you very much, Chair, and good morning to the panel. What can the Welsh Government do more to promote active travel and modal shift, and what are the main barriers to people switching to less-polluting forms of transport in Wales?

So, what we would like to see more of is revenue programmes that actually really meaningfully engage communities in re-imagining their streets, looking at models like placemaking, low-traffic communities. These are whole-community approaches that address things like community severance. They address obstructive parking. They really address things like rat-running traffic running through communities. These are all the things that, in themselves, create barriers to people choosing active travel.

What we're seeing that is happening at the moment in Wales is investment in building active travel infrastructure—very supportive of this. We would echo calls that we've been hearing from local authorities for indications of multi-year funding, so local authorities can actually invest in their own capacity to deliver on this agenda. We would also echo calls from the active travel sector for £20 per head to be invested in active travel in Wales.

But, even with all of this infrastructure going in, there still remains a gap in the promotion, the behaviour change, the community engagement, that support that's required if we're really going to shift people's lifestyles and cultural norms to actually take up the active travel infrastructure that's going in. 

In terms of the barriers to people switching to less polluting forms of transport, these can be quite complex. The foresight report on the future of mobility set out how transport choices are actually quite habitual, and if people feel that they are forced to get a car for whatever reason, once you have that car it's quite difficult to give it up. Even if money is tight, it's quite difficult to give up those car journeys, and, of course, if you have to get the car for work, then suddenly you're using the car for a lot of your other journeys. So, that's a barrier there.

Over the last few decades, though, I would say that car ownership has dominated in terms of our planning and it's been quite a struggle to create public transport networks that really work for people as well. Given that dominance of private vehicle use, we've ended up in this situation now where we have, for example, parked cars parked all over our pavements, parked over our cycle lanes, and this is becoming something else now that has become quite a cultural norm. But people feel that it's okay to do that.

Things like fast-moving traffic in our communities, that's been prioritised over the movement of people. So, that's something else that needs to be looked at. And we know, for example, with parents, because we'd like to see more children given the opportunity to walk to school, we've done surveys with parents that have found, actually, some of the top barriers to parents switching to walking and cycling their children to school is the cars. It's how fast those cars are moving, it's how they're parking dangerously around the school. So, what the effect of that is is that those parents also drive. So, they're adding to the problem. So, it's caught in this vicious cycle now of more and more people choosing to drive because of the other drivers. So, that's something that needs to be addressed head-on, I think. We're starting to do this with schools now. We're looking at parking exclusion zones around schools, things like school streets programmes where streets are closed during school pick-up and drop-off time, and these things are really starting to encourage that sort of behavioural change that we need to see.

If you look at the other end, of older adults, for them, things like potholes and cracks in pavements, that's enough to stop older people from wanting to actually get out and walk in their local community. So, they're actually then left either relying on lifts from friends and family or they actually don't leave the house. So, it's actually quite a serious issue in terms of social isolation and can lead to loneliness as well. So, these are all small things, and this is why we would recommend that whole-community approach where you look at all these sorts of issues that are happening within a community and you bring that community along and you understand all of these complexities. 

10:00

What are the main challenges in implementing the active travel agenda? Does the low-carbon delivery plan help address these?

Okay, yes. The challenges in implementing this agenda, in terms of walking in particular, that's often not even a part of the conversation. Even within transport circles, walking either isn't considered a mode of transport or it's thrown in with walking and cycling, as if walking and cycling were both the same thing, which they're clearly not. So, that needs to be addressed in order to understand the needs of both of those separate modes of transport, but perhaps the bigger issue with active travel is it's not just a transport agenda; it's actually something that needs a cross-cutting approach across education, public health, town-centre regeneration, planning—all of these things. We're seeing some really good examples of where this is working well, such as 'Planning Policy Wales' incorporating active travel and placemaking as a core part of that. We're seeing the new obesity strategy, 'Healthy weight: healthy Wales', which has got commitments in there to active travel, that's great.

Where, perhaps, we haven't seen it work as well, around education, as one example, is the twenty-first century schools programme, and the first tranche of that in particular, which didn't have to really take into account how children got to the school. So, great in terms of seeing scooter and cycle infrastructure going in, but that's not then joining up with the routes to get there. So, some of the feedback we've had from local authorities that we've spoken to is that children used to be able to walk and cycle to primary school, but they're now having to travel a further distance to get to school, so that opportunity's not there for them any more. So, that's something we really need to learn from, in terms of joining up different agendas, different programmes, to make sure that those sorts of implications are really thought through, because you can't deal with active travel as a transport issue in isolation.

10:05

Okay, thank you. The WLGA says that, to achieve emissions reductions, we must reduce the demand for movement. How can this be best achieved?

Yes, I think so. Can I just pick up, very briefly, on a point from a previous question, which is the next round of integrated network maps for active travel will be produced next year? We're already talking to the Deputy Minister about a far more ambitious programme of engagement in terms of developing those maps, but also, as I understand it, there will be a requirement that those integrated network maps must include schools within the network. So, that, hopefully, will start to pick up some of the issues raised there.

In terms of reducing movement, I think it goes back to some of the opening remarks that I made and, just to précis them, it's really about how we deliver services, how to understand the demand for transport, why people need to move, and their options for being able to pick different modes of transport to enable them to do that. We've seen changes in 'Planning Policy Wales', and that will start to come through in local development plans in terms of how we build our future communities. But, clearly, that's an incremental change over time, and what we'd like to see is the kind of initiatives that the Cardiff and Vale public services boards have done under the direction of Dr Tom Porter, in terms of looking at how employees travel to work. Can they work remotely, and so on and so forth? So, those sorts of initiatives that try and reduce the need for transport in the first place.

Did either of you, Roger or Craig, want to comment on the first questions about active travel at all?

Not necessarily the active travel, but I wouldn't mind adding a little bit more, in terms of the White Paper and perhaps how we're dealing with land-use planning at the moment. I think there are some big opportunities ahead of us. 'Planning Policy Wales' is certainly a big step in the right direction and chimes nicely with the strategies that are coming out that we're talking about this morning. But we've got an opportunity, I think, through strategic development plans that are starting to come forward, that could affect the Cardiff capital region, and to use the Transport for Wales and Welsh Government transport models to model scenarios about future strategic developments across south-east Wales to see what the transport impacts are, and to, perhaps, be more selective in allowing which sites come forward to minimise that travel demand.

There's another initiative that's coming through at the moment, which is a better understanding around transit-orientated development. So, this is where we try and target our high-density, normally high-travel-demand type employment or other land uses around transport hubs—bus stations, railway stations, et cetera—and I think that's something that offers us a way forward. So, in terms of the city deal, we're promoting polycentric development. So, at the moment, what you're seeing, every morning, is 100,000 people trying to get into Cardiff for employment and 20,000 people coming out. Then that's reversed in the evening, and the growth in the centre of Cardiff is clear for anyone to see. So, that situation is going to magnify and increase over time.

What we need to see is the polycentric development that we're advocating, which would see more development in the sub-regional centres like Pontypridd, like Caerphilly, like Bridgend, like Cwmbran, so that we can reduce the distance of those journeys of people coming down the Valleys, we can reduce the cost of those journeys, and we can also balance some of the travel demand the other way, so that the trains are fuller in both directions, but perhaps not overflowing in one direction only. And I think the start with Transport for Wales moving into Pontypridd, for example, is exactly what's needed on a wider scale, on a bigger scale, into our sub-regional centres, and I think that'll make a real difference in the future.

Okay, I'm talking here to the local authority and to Craig. You both say that the Welsh Government's decarbonisation plan places too much reliance on electric vehicle technology to reduce emissions from transport. You've said some of the reasons for that, congestion being one of them. So, there is a role, of course, for local authorities here as well. So, if you have any further comments to make other than congestion, because we've heard that one, it would be useful for us to hear that, but also on the role that local authorities, particularly, can and will be playing in that.

10:10

It will be worth you touching upon the work in the south-east, Roger.

We're working with the city deal at the moment, so we have a number of strands of development around electric vehicle charging, in particular. We're working with taxi licensing to develop strategies there. We're also looking at bringing in, as a standard, if you like, on schemes that we're investing in, a metro-plus programme of schemes, which will all include electric vehicle charging, bus charging infrastructure, taxi charging infrastructure, and then, potentially, some of those could even involve car club or car hire-type arrangements with electric vehicles as well. So, I think there's a lot, potentially, to come forward there.

We've also looked at key sites across the 10 authorities—so, places that you may well visit throughout the course of your day, such as public car parks, leisure centres, stations, et cetera—and put those together. So, we're doing a piece of work now about understanding the costs of bringing energy to those sites, and we're looking to amalgamate these into a commercial package, so we're getting commercial advice on that. We're working with Welsh Government, also, as they're bringing forward electric vehicle charging infrastructure on the main strategic networks. I think the M4's pretty well covered now, but the A470 north-south is clearly a gap that needs filling. So, we're looking to put as big a package together as we can so that we've got a consistency of offer to the public, so, if you turn up in RCT looking to charge a vehicle, it's the same as you might find in Caerphilly, Cardiff or Bridgend and so on, but also that bigger commercial package allows us to get, we think, a better deal from the commercial operators that are out there.

Okay. So, we've had taxis and private hire vehicle representation here and discussed how they can play their part, but what we're being told repeatedly is that the licensing of those vehicles is the big problem, and that, in Newport, it seems, you can get a licence under the current system that requires less of the operator than if they'd licensed that vehicle in Cardiff. So, that in itself, before they start anything else, is a massive barrier, because they then are allowed, those licensed cars—and Caerphilly's another area outside—to operate in Cardiff. So, it's not even a level playing field before they start. That's what we're hearing, and it adds to the challenge that they have, and you didn't seem to mention that in your answer to my question as something that was on your agenda. So, accepting that—and you're nodding, so you are accepting it, I'm assuming—how else—? Are you, first of all, going to address that anomaly? Are you able to? And, then, how else are you going to help those vehicles, because they make up an awful lot of vehicles within the cities?

Thanks. A number of issues there—a number of important issues. There is a wider taxi licensing issue. I think the White Paper attempted to address that, but I don't think that's moving forward at the same pace, perhaps, as the bus issues at this point in time. Through the city deal, we've commissioned a not-for-profit consultancy called Cenex, who are giving us advice. We've held workshops with taxi operators, and this is about achieving the Welsh Government aims of having zero emissions from taxis by 2028. So, we looked at various scenarios as to how we might achieve that, and the biggest barrier seems to be the cost differential between a diesel vehicle and an electric vehicle. If I weren't here today I'd be with the Cardiff capital region transport authority board meeting with papers being presented there for a strategy to deal with decarbonising taxis. So, what I could do, Chair, if that's acceptable, is send the links through to your officials—

10:15

—and then perhaps you can take those things on board. But there's a big strategy there that is coming through, which could be replicated across Wales for other areas. There are about 6,500 taxis in south-east Wales affected. They turn over quite quickly. I think the typical age is up to about seven years, so over a fairly short cycle, we could, indeed, deal with those if funding was available, I think, to support this upgrade in the extra cost.

And then, finally from me, how should the economic capacity of the public sector to refresh public vehicle fleets be addressed? So, are there mechanisms from the UK and the Welsh Government that need to be put in place now to help you in the future, and if there are, what are they?

If I start off, Chair. Obviously a number of authorities are going down the line of procuring electric vehicles. I think Swansea is a good example, which was interesting, in as much as they looked at the whole cost life-cycle of the vehicle. So, whilst the upfront purchase costs were higher, what they found was that because the running costs and the maintenance costs were lower, over the life of the vehicle it actually made economic sense to do that. But what they also found was that was fine for the small vans that they wanted to use, but some of the larger vehicles they trialled weren't really fit for purpose in delivering the service. So, I think there are some pilots in Sheffield and elsewhere looking at hydrogen vehicles as well as large-scale refuse vehicles. The Sheffield pilot is interesting because, clearly, it's a very hilly area, so it replicates much of where those vehicles would have to operate in Wales. So, I think that that understanding of the costs is quite important.

Obviously, for some authorities it's where they store those vehicles, where they can charge those vehicles, and some of the points that have been well made around the grid infrastructure and connectivity. On that front, we are having discussions with authorities about the potential for looking at renewables and how you could use renewable technology to generate the energy on site, and having some kind of storage capacity to enable you to do that. Whether that's practical or achievable depends very much on the different sites in play, but I think that's one issue that we need to look at, for no other reason than that Wales's economy is a huge importer of fossil fuel, and the more that we can generate our energy and energy use within Wales, that must benefit the economy. So, I think those discussions are ongoing. There are issues about the fitness for purpose of some of the vehicles currently that have been tested, but I think that's something that will probably move fairly quickly.

Another issue that we're looking at is the potential with the anaerobic digestion plants that we have across Wales that produce energy—whether that could be used, for example, linked to producing hydrogen for vehicles. For example, there's an AD plant at Bryn Pica, at the eco park there, and I know that Rhondda Cynon Taf are looking at a whole range of different uses on that site, and the circular economy and so on and so forth. So, I think there's certainly interest and willingness for authorities to engage with this. I think the key barriers are around the suitability of the vehicles, around the availability of the energy. I think Neath Port Talbot made the point that there's a Tesla supercharger, apparently, and it's rated at the same level of energy as Neath Port Talbot town centre, so you can imagine if you had one of those all the lights in the town centre would go out. I'm being slightly flippant, but the energy use for some of these superfast chargers is quite high.

So, neither of you addressed if you thought that there were any mechanisms that the UK and the Welsh Government need to put in place. So, I'm assuming, then, that you're quite happy with everything that's—.

I think there's an issue around technical support and ensuring that there's good information about the usability. And in terms of electric charging, there are a number of different systems out there: what are the best systems and how can you use them? So, I think there's a technical aspect. Some authorities do say that, because of the scale of the procurement, it may not make as much economic sense as it would for a larger authority like Swansea, which can purchase a large number of vehicles. So, I think there's the issue of procurement support, and Value Wales and the National Procurement Service, about developing frameworks, perhaps, that enable authorities to buy off that framework at a more advantageous rate, perhaps. I think that could be an issue.

10:20

I think it varies from local authority to local authority. Speaking for RCT, then, we've got a big geographical area, three mountains, very steep valley sides, et cetera, and the performance of electric vehicles in that scenario is quite different to a smaller, flatter authority, and a city authority, for example. So, at the moment, the electric vehicles that are available don't meet our needs, but we're hoping that in the next generation, when the bigger players come to the table, there will be suitable vehicles and then we'll be looking at that evolution through. But I think you start to recognise that the upfront capital cost and the charging infrastructure are in addition to the normal costs that you would be faced with.

Roger Waters, you said that the subsidy in London was £70 per passenger, and the subsidy in Wales was £7 per passenger for the bus services. 

It's of that order, I understand, yes.

Are you suggesting that we should move from £7 per passenger to £70 per passenger in Wales?

I think it's probably not affordable, and we'd probably be running a lot of buses around with nobody sitting on them. So, I think we need to be far more pragmatic about the approach that we take. As Craig has highlighted, there are integrated reservation ticketing pilots and things going on. There isn't a huge amount of wasteful competition that we might remove through franchising and regulation, but I think there are potential opportunities to be more strategic in the way that we approach transport and the planning of transport. So, I think the bit about particularly integrated ticketing and planning services to complement rail, rather than compete with rail, will be the big benefits around some sort of regulated environment.

I'm particularly interested in how transport decarbonisation should be funded and how we pay for that. I was just wondering if you were advocating a shift towards bus subsidies, away from rail subsidies, but that's not what you're saying, even though you say that there are 100 million bus passengers in the UK and 30 million rail passengers, but 55 per cent of the budget is spent on rail. So, you aren't suggesting—

That's for the UK, the 55 per cent. 

Okay. And that doesn't necessarily reflect that such a shift should happen in Wales, then.

I think, if we're to decarbonise, we need to be pulling every lever we possibly can. I think we can't underestimate—

But I'm thinking specifically about funding this and the balance of funding between rail and—. 

Well, no, I wouldn't argue against the balance of funding for rail, because if you use the rail services, particularly the Valleys lines, you'll see that investment is needed. The investment is going in through the city deal—

And it's allocated as well, isn't it, for the next few years? 

Absolutely. What we need to be thinking about—. If you go back to the vision of metro, that was a £5 billion vision. So, the first investment, £740 million, is being made, and that will pay dividends, but we need to see where the next tranche is coming from, and the one after that, and the one after that. 

So, where is this money going to come from in the future, to make this transformation? 

Personally, I think it's a huge challenge. We haven't invested in transport on this level, and if you look at some of the wider decisions—. There was an opportunity and there was a commitment to electrify the main line to Swansea. That decision was turned on its head and it now stops at Cardiff. So, you have a situation where the trains are carrying diesel engines from Cardiff to London, which makes them more inefficient than they would otherwise have been—

So, you think it's partly that the UK Government could have done more for investment in decarbonisation. Who else do you think should be investing? Do you think it should be Welsh Government, the Development Bank of Wales? Are there other sources of funding that we haven't tapped, or do you think the funding should be reallocated by the Welsh Government from elsewhere?

I think, if we're to hit these targets, consideration needs to be given to some of the more difficult issues, which are around the demand management. And there could be revenue streams as a result of demand management.

10:25

Okay. So, what you're effectively saying is that the way we do things is inefficient, which leads to cost, and that that cost doesn't necessarily mean that you have to have an increase in funding on top of what we're currently doing; we could change what we're currently doing and release funding that way.

We can do what we're doing better, that's for sure. But will that make such a change as to be transformational to hit the decarbonisation agenda? No, I don't think so. I think it needs a whole tranche of new, extra investment in transport, and in sustainable transport in particular, to achieve those aims.

I suppose the problem I've got from your answer is that I can't see where it's going to come from.

No, and there were wider fiscal policies, related to transport, that have been parked—excuse the unintended pun. But if you look at the fuel tax escalator, that was stopped in about 2011, and if you look at what's happened to transport since then, the growth shot up again. That was having a dampening effect on transport use—

So, you think that a UK-wide approach would be where the money's going to come from. I'm happy, Craig, if you—

Well, UK-wide is the overarching thing, but then there could be more local things. Road-user charging I would see as a UK-wide thing; congestion charging could be a more local solution.

I did want to come on to the bus services support grant as well, but, Craig, you looked like you wanted to come in.

Yes. It was just to flag up that the City of Edinburgh Council have just launched their decarbonisation strategy, and within that, they've done some very detailed work on the costings of different activity and what the cost benefit of that is and looking at the different sources of funding. It's quite an interesting document, because, clearly, in terms of the wider benefit to communities, there are significant savings, but it's where the upfront costs come from. And I think it's about trying to look at as many different forms of funding as we can, depending on the particular type of activity. As you say, the Development Bank of Wales could be an option, particularly where there's a return on that investment. But, yes, it is a problem.

And the bus services support grant—does anybody want to comment on how effective that is in leading to decarbonisation?

The BSSG is used effectively. It's distributed to local authorities to fund subsidised services. They've got a duty to consider social inclusion and to look at the role of bus in that, so there is £25 million across Wales that comes through that process. Some of that is related to vehicle mileage, but some of it, then, is used to subsidise services. The individual councils also put money in—at least most of them do—so what they're funding is a socially necessary service, so it'll be predominantly in urban areas—evening services or weekend services. In more rural areas—for Powys, I think, effectively, every service there is a paid-for service by Powys County Council.

Do you think it's being used effectively to subsidise zero-emission buses, or should it be—can it be?

It's evolved over a period of time. We introduced, initially, in south-east Wales a kind of gold, silver and bronze rating for the bus services, whereby if you were gold-rated, you actually got paid slightly more for providing those services, in terms of the pence-per-mile payment. So, that would mean, if you had interoperable ticketing, so if you accepted other bus services' ticketing, the quality of the vehicles, EV et cetera. So, you could use similar processes to reward carbon-free vehicles, for example. 

Okay. And you said that between £220 million and £250 million—I think it was you, Craig, who said that—is spent in the UK on transport. 

Sorry, that was in Wales on—

But that includes—these are Welsh Government figures—school transport, and it also includes non-emergency health transport. 

And how high should we go with these figures? How high above £250 million do you think we need to go?

That's a piece of work that needs to be done, isn't it? What you'd expect to see, following the White Paper, with the franchising regulations et cetera, is the regulatory impact assessment, which would consider all of those financial aspects. 

10:30

Sorry, just to pick up on that point, some of the discussions we've had with Transport for Wales is understanding the full remit of transport needs across different sectors—so school transport, the health sector, and subsidised buses as well as commercial buses—and trying to understand how that fits together into a coherent package and how you could fund them more effectively across those.

It's very difficult to say.

You've probably got to define a service level and then cost that.

That's fine, I'm not trying to catch you out or anything, I'm just trying to get an idea. And finally, we've heard about innovative sources of private sector finance that have been used—for example, the pay-as-you-save clean transport is an approach. Is funding such as that available in Wales from the private sector? And if private sector funding isn't being leveraged in, how can the Welsh Government do that?

In terms of private sector funding, if you contrast what's happening in Scotland on EV charging, they've probably spent several hundred million in advancing their position. Wales hasn't chosen to do that, but what we're seeing now is commercial operators brining in charging points. Recently, one of the supermarkets in Aberdare put four charging points in, for example. So, there would have been a public sector cost had the public sector brought that through. I think we're at a point now where we can package up commercial opportunities using public sector land to provide the land for these facilities to be sited on and we can get a good deal out of it. So, that's an area that we must be ploughing very—

And you've talked about strategic planing across county boundaries, and that's a route towards achieving that, is it?

We're going to talk about—[Inaudible.]—planning now. You did touch on it earlier, so I'm not going to rehearse where you build and how you build and how people get to and fro, because we're tight on time. But moving on from that, could you then expand how the national development framework can support that decarbonisation of transport, and does the NDF in its current form achieve that?

I'll kick that off. Obviously, the consultation for the NDF is coming to a close shortly. I think a number of authorities have been very vocal about the framework, and I think we have to accept that it's a first iteration of the framework. Some of the issues that have been raised is that lack of connectivity in terms of transport between the regions that have been defined, as well as a lack of a vision for the future in terms of some of that transport side of things. I think, in terms of a regional aspect, the local government Bill, when that is published, which is imminent, as I understand, will create this concept of corporate joint committees, and part of the rationale for that is, whilst we do have potential arrangements for regional transport and we have potential arrangements for regional planning, the concept is to try and bring that together into these corporate joint committees, to ensure that there is better synergy and better integration of those two processes at a regional level. Because, clearly, land use planning defines the requirements for transport and therefore it has to be very closely linked with transport policies. 

So, moving on from that and this joined-up working and regional working, the WLGA have actually said in their written evidence that, as things currently stand, local authorities don't have the expertise, knowledge or guidance to effectively progress transport decarbonisation at the necessary scale and pace that we're talking about this morning. So, will that new way of working that you've described—? It has been attempted—I have to be brutally honest here—more than once and fallen apart, but, you know, I'm optimistic. Will that new way of working that you've just described help alleviate that, and is there more that maybe we need to do? As a Government, not 'we', because I'm not in Government—the Government.

10:35

I think the point that's probably been touched on a number of times is that transport budgets have declined since 2009. The WLGA say that's about a 30 per cent reduction. That has meant that capacity within authorities has reduced and expertise has reduced. I would say that it does vary between different authorities and where that expertise lies. I think the transport boards that support the city deal have become a mechanism for that kind of concentration of expertise and that joint working. So, I think the corporate joint committees will obviously be statutory in nature. It will be mandatory to cover planning and transport within that. They will have the ability to employ staff at a regional level, and so maybe there is an issue within local government of officers moving between authorities, because their expertise is almost precious in that regard. So, having that regional remit with having structures that support that I think will be very positive.

I think the issue around the guidelines is—just, again, another comment on the 'Prosperity for All' document—that some of the ambition, the policy areas, don't have the level of detail in there in terms of how they will be taken forward. So, again, we would see the transport strategy and the process of developing that with the stakeholders as being very important in providing that guidance.

And I'm quite conscious that I haven't actually brought Rhiannon in, but I'm going to bring her in now. So, in terms of all you've heard, have you been engaged in—? Because we're talking about moving transport still, and yet we're trying to talk about transport not always being the option, that there are others, which is why I want to bring Rhiannon in. Have you been engaged in, or are you aware of, some of the things that you've just heard?

We've not been engaged in the national development framework side of things. We were certainly involved in the developments to 'Planning Policy Wales' and the changes to that. We have been involved, to a degree, in the decarbonisation engagement work that happened early on. And, certainly, the Welsh Government does engage us in active travel more widely and in other policy areas that impact on active travel as well. We perhaps could be more engaged in some of what we've just heard.

—Living Streets—I'm confusing another agenda, sorry—worked together on this?

We certainly promote the ambition of Living Streets, and in particular—. I mean, obviously, Cardiff have been quite forward-thinking in terms of the kind of understanding of place that Rhiannon alluded to earlier, and the concept of play streets, for example, is something that we've tried to promote across authorities. There are other initiatives like the working group looking at 20 mph default speed limits—

Not in any formal way.

No. The only thing I would say is that we ourselves are fairly limited in our capacity in WLGA in as much as—. I work on transport two days a month. So, our ability to proactively engage with people is quite difficult. But individual authorities will be very much engaging with Living Streets.

I think there is a co-work forum that we all come together at, which is the active travel board, which is led by the Deputy Minister. So, that meets on a, sort of, quarterly basis, and has wide representation, including the three of us. So, that's a good forum, really, for sharing thoughts and ideas and circulating good practice.

There we are. Thank you. Are there any final points that you want to make that haven't been drawn out in questions—Rhiannon, at all? I don't want to put you on the spot—have a moment to think. Roger or Craig?

I'm happy to share some of the—

I'll send you links for that.

Just one point I would have made earlier on EV charging infrastructure in terms of the role of local authorities—a pretty important role there in considering the placing of EV infrastructure within communities. We have seen some examples where it's been installed right in the middle of the pavement and nobody can get past, let alone people with a buggy or wheelchair users. Also, electric vehicle ownership is set to grow, but there have been some examples of cables running from houses across pavements and that's really not sustainable. So, we need to have a strategic look now at how EV infrastructure is going to be placed, and it needs to be taken up road and vehicle parking spaces, not pedestrian footways.

10:40

Thank you. We'll send you all a copy of the transcript and, by all means, review it and, if you think of anything else you want to add to help our evidence, then we'd appreciate that. Thank you, Roger, for your offer of additional information, which is welcome as well. So, diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much for your written evidence and your time this morning. Thank you.

We'll take a short break of a quarter of an hour, and we'll be back at 10.55 a.m.

10:55

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:40 a 10:59.

The meeting adjourned between 10:40 and 10:59.

3. Datgarboneiddio Trafnidiaeth—Rheilffyrdd
3. Decarbonisation of Transport—Rail

Right. Welcome back to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee. I move to item 3, and this is our fifth evidence session for the committee's inquiry into the decarbonisation of transport. This particular session is a theme around rail transport. So, I'd like to welcome both guests to us, and I'd be grateful if you could just introduce yourselves for the public record.

Yes. I'm Matthew Prosser, and technical director for Angel Trains.

I'm Andrew Kluth, lead carbon specialist at the Rail Safety and Standards Board and the technical author of the rail industry decarbonisation taskforce report.

Thank you. I've got that report with me here, as well. Thank you. Can I ask, to start with—? I'll ask some very general questions and then Members will perhaps dig in a bit further. But how do you feel the rail industry has worked to decarbonise, and do you think that the industry is taking the challenge of decarbonisation seriously?

11:00

Shall I take that one? Up until fairly recently, I don't think there was a great deal of pressure on the industry to decarbonise. It's only been in the last 18 months or so that there has been. But, over that timeframe, I think it's been taken very seriously. There's been a great deal of support for the taskforce report. It was an independent report from the industry to Government, but the response in Government has also been very positive. So, over the last 18 months, I would say the level of interest has increased dramatically.

Yes. The starting point for rail is, obviously, it's a low-carbon form of transport to start with, which is really part of the reason why the industry hasn't done a huge amount of focus in this area. But, clearly, the goalposts are changing, and the industry recognises that it needs to move forward here.

And the report here, which, Andrew, you were part of—. I notice it says that, in the report, the industry’s decarbonisation actions

'will not deliver change anywhere near fast enough.'FootnoteLink

What do you think, having been part of this taskforce—what do you think are the main challenges for the sector in terms of decarbonisation?

The industry is capable of decarbonising. It's a question of how can you do it in a cost-effective manner. So, the simplest thing to do would be just to electrify everywhere, but that's not going to be practical in cost terms. So, what we need is really clear and consistent policy direction, and then real clarity on making sure that it's going to be funded over the time period necessary.

But what we do have is a very clear statement as to how we can decarbonise through a combination of different technologies. We have time-based targets to get diesel-only passenger trains now off the railway by 2040, and to get to, effectively, rail's contribution to net zero emissions on a national basis by 2050. We've got a commitment to put in place further research on how we can deliver long-term targets and interim targets in a cost-effective manner. And there is work ongoing now with Network Rail's system operator to put together a traction decarbonisation network strategy—TDNS—which is saying, in practical terms, this is what we would then need to do in terms of deployment of solutions across the network. So, it's perfectly feasible, but what we do need to have—and this is what we're going through at the moment—is putting into place a little bit more evidence so that the Department for Transport is in a position where it can say, 'Yes, we can commit to these policy requirements and make sure it's funded.'

Yes. Okay. You talk about the DfT and then Welsh Government. I'm just trying to understand as well where you think certain areas lie. In your report, you say that the future rail industry structure

'should give clarity over where the responsibilities lie for target setting, research and development, monitoring, and regulation.'

So, I'm trying to understand what you think the roles should be of both Welsh Government and UK Government in doing that.

Okay. So, we've got the Williams review ongoing at the moment, which is looking at the structure of the railway, and that was due to report back this month, but, of course, it's been delayed due to the election. So, we expect that's going to come out in the new year. When that issues, again, we've undertaken to do some further research on what the individual players in the system might be required to do. So, you're talking about the policymakers, the regulators, the network operator, the train operating companies, and so on and so forth. And at that point we'll be able to then say, 'This is where we think we can play a role.'

There is a piece of research or work ongoing in Wales at the moment. You've got the Green Valley Lines project just north of Cardiff—those areas where you're looking at the deployment of community-generated renewables. So, it's giving policy support and guidance for those sorts of things where there is a real opportunity to do something innovative. And I think that's where you have the opportunity, as an administration, to be able to say, yes, you can provide clarity: this is what you're looking for. You've got the 'Prosperity for All' document, you've got a clear vision for what you're looking for from transport, and I would say it's the opportunity to be able to say how do we articulate that in a way which is consistent with the decarbonisation agenda.

And was the taskforce's work—? Were you engaged with the Welsh Government and the rail sector specifically in Wales at all?

It was an independent industry report to the Minister for rail, so we didn't seek input from any administrations in the development of the report, because it was an independent report. But when we did publish the report, the chairman, Malcolm Brown, did seek to engage with Ministers from all the administrations—so, in Westminster, in Scotland, in Wales. At that stage, we didn't get any engagement. From the more delivery point of view, we were also speaking to Transport for Wales, and we didn't get engagement at that point, but, subsequently, RSSB has had the opportunity to do a briefing for Transport for Wales on all RSSB research, including this, and we're getting engagement there. One of the things we found out was, previously, TfW didn't really have anybody recruited in the decarbonisation area to be able to take a lead on this, but they do now.

11:05

So, in terms of engaging with the Welsh Government, I think I understood you saying that you attempted to engage—

No. That was almost as a courtesy to say, 'This is what we're doing and we'd like to be able to keep you informed and—'

It wasn't engagement in terms of saying, 'What do you think we should be doing?' Because it was an independent and industry report, so that engagement, at that stage, wasn't sought.

We started talking to Transport for Wales on decarbonisation issues, yes—

But, originally, they didn't have the capacity, the resource, to be able to respond to you.

No. But they do now, and they explained to us when we met them this is one of the reasons why they hadn't been able to engage before, but they have people dedicated in this area now.

Okay, thank you. I've asked a number of questions, Matthew, did you want to come in on anything at all?

No, because I think the question was really about the report, yes.

You mentioned electrification as one technology that's available in the development to help the rail sector decarbonise. Are there others that you think that it would be worth us knowing about?

Yes. Shall I—? Yes, there are a number of technologies that allow the industry to decarbonise. Clearly, electrification is the most obvious, and, provided electricity is generated from renewables or nuclear, it is effectively zero carbon. But hydrogen offers possibilities as an energy source that can be produced with low or zero carbon, depending on how the hydrogen is produced, or there are other bridging technologies, such as battery hybrids, which can be deployed relatively quickly and offer reductions in carbon, but also they offer the ability to have zero emissions at stations, so, from a passenger's point of view, offer a lot of benefits in relation to their journeys and also reduce or can eliminate local air emissions at stations. There's also potential for battery-only trains, as well, but—. There are different ways of delivering different solutions. Really, the message is there are a number of different technologies that can all be combined or delivered to provide low or zero-carbon transport.

Thank you for that. But we have had evidence from the Green Alliance, and they think that a target for electrification of trains would be the most reducing, yet you say it's not affordable in the current climate. Is that your firm opinion, that it is not affordable?

No, that's not correct. It's expensive, so you need to have it deployed in areas where the intensity of use of the line justifies the cost. Previously, if you were trying to reduce carbon on the railways, you only had the choice of replacing diesel with electrification, and it was either electrify the whole line or nothing at all. But now, with the introduction of new technologies, you have a variety of ways of electrifying, so you can do some form of discontinuous electrification, or you could electrify only part way along the line and then bridge it, as Matthew was saying, with a battery hybrid, or, indeed, have a battery train that had charging points along the way. So, there are different flavours of electrification now.

But the other thing here is that you can also introduce hydrogen and battery trains, where you can then compare the economic cost of those against electrification to choose the most cost-effective one. That, I think, is opening up a whole range of different opportunities that just didn't exist before. But electrification is expensive. I think you just need to make sure it's used intelligently.

I think there's a great example with what's happening here in Wales in terms of an innovative electrification approach on the core Valley lines, which is, effectively, not electrifying difficult parts of the railway, and bridging that with battery hybrids. So, this technology is moving on to allow a more blended solution that's case dependent, so it is quite interesting times at the minute.

11:10

And that's come up with some really good solutions about how you electrify using electricity from places other than National Grid, so it's a very exciting project to look at.

Yes, well the National Grid has its own challenges, and I think maybe somebody else might be asking you about that. But we have got a situation where the diesel multiple units are to be replaced anyway with a hybrid, maybe, power system in the future, and you've said that there's real potential there. So I suppose I have to ask Angel Trains, really: there have been problems in actually acquiring systems that we would have liked to have acquired, but didn't get, anyway. So are those problems—? I know in Wales we're doing things differently, but are those problems being resolved? Is it the case that it will be easy for people to acquire the new systems that we are now talking about?

So Angel Trains is involved with a battery-diesel hybrid trial with one of our class 165 units, which will be operating with Chiltern Railways, and that's using technology developed and implemented by a Sheffield-based company called Magtec. So that train is due to go into service around about May next year as a trial. We are absolutely confident that that will offer a significant reduction in fuel consumption and therefore carbon emissions, and offer quite some significant benefits to customers, as I mentioned earlier, around reducing local air emissions and a smoother, faster journey. That type of technology can be retrofitted to existing diesel trains, and I know there's a new order for brand new diesel trains here in Wales, and with a life of a train between 30 and 35 years, it's not really conceivable that those trains will be operating as diesel trains through to 2055. So really this type of conversion technology is something I think that we would certainly be advocating and promoting as a solution.

But you have talked about—again to Angel Trains—some issues with hydrogen for powering trains. Do you want to explain that?

I think the issues with hydrogen really relate to—. There are a number of challenges with hydrogen, one of which is the energy density of hydrogen, so it requires storage tanks around eight times as big as diesel. Diesel is a very effective fuel source for trains because it's very energy dense. Obviously it has carbon and in some cases local air emissions issues. Hydrogen is zero emissions, but one of its principal drawbacks is the volume of space required to store the amount of hydrogen to provide sufficient range for the trains. Also as well there are issues around the readiness of the infrastructure to deliver hydrogen and storage and delivery onto the trains. So, in a sense, it is an absolute technology that will have a place, but today it feels relatively immature compared with the alternative of battery and battery-diesel hybrids.

Okay. So we've talked a lot about the alternatives, and we're trying to move on at pace, so when do you think the new technologies will be sufficiently developed, if they're not already, to take us forward?

There was a technical study done to support the decarbonisation taskforce, which looked at alternative traction options that would be sufficiently mature between now and 2040 to be deployed. So when Matthew was saying at the outset that battery and hydrogen were the obvious two, that's because, having evaluated all the technologies, those are going to be the ones that are going to be sufficiently mature. If you talk to the manufacturers now, they all talk with conviction about the fact that, if they're given the opportunity to do this, they could actually provide solutions for a large part of the services that are required to be replaced. I think it's a question of coming back to the point initially about having a clear policy and financial arrangements in place to do this. It's not a question of saying, 'Is the technology available?' It's the deployment of the technology that's the issue. So we know hydrogen trains work, we know battery trains work, but you've got to put in the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure and you've got to allow for the limited range of hydrogen trains. A diesel will last for three days before refuelling, a hydrogen train will have to refuel every day. So you need to make sure that you can get it back to a refuelling point. With batteries, you need to make sure they're charged or topped up. So those are the challenges. It's not a technological block, it's just saying, 'How do we deploy it?'

11:15

It's infrastructure, and this is one of the things that's being explored as a result of all the work that's ongoing: how do we actually make sure we get that rolled out in an orderly manner? And that's part of what the traction decarbonisation network strategy being carried out by the system operator is looking at; it's saying, 'What should we be trying to deploy across the network in the most cost-effective manner?' And then that enables us to focus efforts on making sure that the right technology and the right infrastructure is available in the right places to roll out these alternative traction options. 

Thank you, Chair. I've got some questions around the level of ambition in Transport for Wales's current plans for rail and whether there's scope to enhance this in the short and long term. You've both made some comments already about the current plans that Transport for Wales has, and I just wanted to know, to start off with, if there's anything that you wanted to add to that around either their new rolling stock or also the fact that they are introducing community ambassadors to help develop links between communities and their local rail network and active travel. Do you have any comments about that, or any other actions that you think Transport for Wales should be taking?

In general terms, with decarbonisation, it has a benefit in its own right through decarbonisation, but also it has other benefits in terms of improving air quality. Once it's up and running, you should have quieter trains. You should find that there are opportunities to be able to bring locally generated renewables onto the line. So there are lots of opportunities for either benefiting communities through improvements in quality of life or, indeed, in allowing them to engage with the railway through taking part in community renewables projects.

And the approach that you're adopting, I think, through 'Prosperity for All', where you're talking about this in that wider context I think is an excellent idea. The work ongoing with the Green Valley Lines at the moment is a feasibility study, but it's looking very seriously at how to electrify sections of the Welsh Valleys north of Cardiff. And that is genuinely innovative. This is partially supported by RSSB funding, so we're asking them to throw up issues that have got to then be considered on a national basis, so you're right at the cutting edge. And I think that sort of thing is an excellent initiative, because you're looking at local problems and looking for solutions that might then be generalised in due course. And I would say, look at your local problems, look at your local solutions, and see how you can deliver to those, because that's where the opportunities are going to really lie for you. 

I think, just to add to that, clearly the investments in transforming railways in this part of the world will have a significant impact on modal shift. That's what I think we need to recognise as well: by offering customers modern trains, modern electric trains, with all of the modern facilities, we'll attract people out of their cars and onto trains. We spoke about the base position for rail in terms of carbon being very good, but there are opportunities, I think, and it's absolutely the right thing to do with the investment, as it offers opportunities for modal shift.

In terms of some of the trains that are operating now, I think Angel Trains owns the class 175 fleet that operates in and around the Welsh network. We have got plans and opportunities to convert those to battery-diesel hybrids as well. So that could be something in addition that certainly my company would be very interested in talking to you about. 

Okay. And how great is the scope to reduce emissions from rail through investment in station infrastructure?

The decarbonisation taskforce, although we've concentrated on traction, was actually looking at property and infrastructure as well. Infrastructure is a bit more difficult, because once you've laid down the infrastructure, it has a very long life cycle and so it's only when you come around to renewing that that you then have to look for opportunities. But, with stations, for instance—and depots are the other area—there has been some work on zero-carbon stations that suggests that many stations across the UK could replace the heating and lighting energy requirements with locally generated renewables. So, you're talking about solar panels, air source heat pumps, better insulation and battery storage in order to be able to use the energy effectively—those sorts of things. And in principle, that should be something you'd be able to do across a lot of your stations throughout Wales, which is heating and lighting. If you're then moving into other areas with the bigger stations, you might be dealing with ticket machines and ticket offices and concessions and IT server equipment and stuff like that. So, that would be a bigger problem, but certainly just with direct heating and lighting, there are great opportunities.

If you're doing major refurbishments or building new stations, you could apply techniques such as BREEAM—the Building Research Establishment environmental assessment method—to maintain really high environmental standards, and you could do that just [correction: that not just] in the capital build, but also in tracking their operations as well. And again, this is one of the recommendations of the taskforce—that that should be mandated in future for projects above a certain size, so that you're actually guaranteeing that they're going to be performing well.

11:20

Thank you very much, Chair. Listening to you carefully, I think you have answered some of my question, but Cardiff business school told the committee that there is currently a shift towards lighter commodities and more frequent distribution cycles, suggesting a move in favour of road freight rather than rail, and towards smaller vehicles. Given this, what is the potential for rail to contribute to emissions reduction from freight and logistics in the longer term?

Do you want me to take that? Okay. Freight is a real challenge. Matthew has already said that the energy density of diesel beats what we can do with battery and hydrogen, and at the moment, apart from electrification, if you're trying to get freight to run across the network, diesel is the only option. And that's likely to be the case for some time. We're doing ongoing work on that.

But if we're then looking at what might be happening elsewhere, last year and the year before, there was a piece of work by the National Infrastructure Commission, looking at what a national freight system might look like, and they came out with their report in April of this year. They recommended that, as part of an integrated national freight system, we should be looking at electrifying key rail freight routes, because that was, in their view, the most effective way of moving certain types of freight.

We've also been talking with the Advanced Propulsion Centre, which is a research and development group looking at automotive technology, and the Rail Industry Association has been talking with them in particular. But one of the challenges that they have is that, for HGVs, you've got exactly the same problems with HGVs as you have with moving freight on rail, and there isn't a solution for the larger vehicles. So, if you're trying to find a solution for the long-distance travel, there isn't a solution at the moment. But what we are looking at through RIA and the APC is where we can share ideas and improvements across heavy-duty rail freight and heavy-duty HGV freight transmission. 

One idea I know that's being suggested is putting in electrification on highways. But the problem you have there is still exactly the same as you have for rail freight: that you get to a terminal point, and you've got to break the freight down and move it on from there. So, it's not a solution in the same right.

Okay. And Cardiff business school has also suggested that freight could be moved off the railways once electric HGVs become more commonplace. Do you agree with this type of suggestion?

Well, again, I just said that if you're trying to electrify HGVs, you'd have to put in place some form of either inductive charging, I guess, under the highway or some form of overhead line, which has been trialled in places like Germany on the road network, but you have the same challenge there as you do with the railways—that you need to have it intensively used to justify the cost, and that's probably only going to happen on principal highways. And then, once you get off the principal highways, you've then got to move it through some form of hybrid. So, you might be dealing with a diesel-electric, for instance, just as you would with bi-mode diesel-electric freight trains.

So, you've got the same problems, and you've got to invest in the infrastructure there. I can't comment on that because we've only been looking at solutions for rail, but the National Infrastructure Commission has looked at that and their view is that we should look at electrifying key rail freight routes because they think that's probably going to be the more effective solution.

We know that Germany is one of the most prosperous economies in the world, so if they can—

There's nothing against it. That's not for me to comment on, because that's for the wider transport strategy, so I'm not the right person to answer that. But I would say that the National Infrastructure Commission has looked at this and their recommendation was that we should seek to electrify key rail freight routes.

11:25

Okay, thank you. Given that freight transport is a sector that is primarily privately owned and operated by the private sector, how can the Welsh Government encourage decarbonisation of rail freight in the same context?

It would be premature of me to try to answer that question—Matthew might have some views—but, as I say, we did do an alternative traction study to support the taskforce, but that looked principally at passenger transport because the problems for freight are significantly different. There is an ongoing study on that at the moment, which is due to report back in February/March next year. So, rather than sort of give you an answer that is incomplete, I'd like to say it would be better to wait for that to come out in February/March next year, see what they recommend, and see what that then suggests it might do to affect the recommendations of the taskforce.

Matthew Prosser, in your paper, you said that we need a long-term policy and funding framework to address decarbonisation, and with deliverable timescales. Can you just outline what that would look like and how it would be structured?

It's really reflecting one of the recommendations in the taskforce's report, that this industry is a long-term industry. Infrastructure lifespans and investments go over many, many decades. As we've said, the life of a new train is typically 30 to 35 years. So, it is a long-term industry. Therefore, for private investors investing in the industry, such as in trains, clarity over the long-term vision and long-term direction for the business helps us to make investment decisions and choose the right technologies. So, clearly, understanding which way policy is moving in terms of decarbonisation allows us to support that with our investment decisions for the future.

Do you feel that the devolution settlement between England and Wales makes that more difficult to achieve?

I'm not an expert in this area, but I don't, on initial inspection, believe it does, no. 

You don't think they've got different objectives that make it harder for you to meet them.

It is possible, but I think if you look across in a broad sense, what we're talking about here in terms of decarbonisaltion, the same issues here in Wales are the same issues that are affecting Scotland and England. So, at a country-wide level, they are the same issues. I think the approaches that have been taken may differ, and that may complicate things, but we'll have to see. I think, from our point of view, clarity of policy is really quite important.

Okay, and the future of rail infrastructure in Wales will depend on what should and shouldn't be devolved. Do you think that further devolution of powers for rail services would enable and benefit decarbonisation? That's to either of you. Or do you think it's better held centrally?

In this area, I think the general view seems to be that devolution or regionalisation is certainly the preferred way, because Network Rail has just gone through the process of regionalisation itself, and there were hints coming out, from what we understand from the Williams review, that that's going to be supported. What you do have is that the national rail network uses lines that have local services and also long-distance services. So, devolution—this is just me talking out loud—would need to be able to support the development of local services but also still allow for those long-distance services to continue running in an effective manner. So, there's going to have to be some sort of, I would say, co-operation, irrespective of whatever solution is agreed.

It's difficult to know what's going to happen after 12 December as well. Would you say the Welsh Government's long-term plan for rolling stock is different to the regions of England? Is it a different approach being taken? Or do you think it actually matches up pretty well with the building of rolling stock in Wales, for example?

I think that what's happened here in Wales, in terms of procuring new rolling stock for the Welsh franchise, will clearly deliver some significant benefits for passengers and customers. I think that's really the point where we would start from. It's about saying, 'Okay. What are the benefits for customers?' There are a number of possible routes to deliver that. So, I think that it's a view about the end impact and benefits for passengers and the underlying economy that the rail industry supports.  

11:30

Okay. Do you think that Wales is taking a sector-leading approach with that?

I think that what we're seeing is different approaches being taken by different authorities around the country now. So, I think that what you see here in Wales is certainly different. Certainly, the arrangements for what's happened with the funding of the Valleys lines here in Cardiff is quite different and quite innovative, yes. 

Okay. Let's think about beyond the UK, and examples abroad that might give us an idea of how to progress decarbonisation. Could you think of uses of technology in different countries that would be exemplary for us here in this country?

I think the starting point is that most European countries have far more developed electrification on their railways than we have here in the UK. So, I think that, in terms of route miles, it's about 42 per cent here in the UK. In other European countries, it is much higher. So, the approaches that have been taken across Europe really have been principally focused on electrification.

I think that there are different challenges because we are running a largely Victorian network. What is done on the continent tends to be different because the starting conditions are different.

We've just been watching the Rugby World Cup and the Japanese bullet trains.

Well, it was great until the final. [Laughter.]

Well, it was the semi-final that I think you meant there. So, the Welsh Government is currently developing proposals for a global centre of rail excellence. Are you aware of that, and does it offer the potential to decarbonise rail in Wales?

We're aware of it, but I don't know very much about it. I think that if it focuses on opportunities that are particularly good for Wales, it will be an excellent thing. So, again, we've mentioned the Welsh Valleys lines, and there is some really interesting stuff going on there. The types of vehicles that you might need to support the railway in Wales are probably a little bit different from much of the rest of the UK because of your particular constraints with infrastructure. But I think there are some great opportunities there if that's where you're looking.

Thank you. Is there anything else in terms of—? Our piece of work will lead to a report to Government with recommendations. Is there anything else, at all, that you think would be useful to impart to us in terms of the decarbonisaiton of rail, in terms of our work, that has perhaps not been already drawn out through questions?

I think that if we're going to produce the most effective solution across the UK, which is what you really want, then it's going to take a great deal of co-operation between all of the regions of the UK, both in policy terms but more so in technical implementation terms. We've just started the engagement with TfW, as I said at the top of this meeting, and I would certainly encourage that engagement.

In recent times, myself and other people in the standards development team and in the research and development team in RSSB have met officials from TfW and also met officials from Transport Scotland, as well as talking with officials in DfT. So, I think there's increasing awareness of the need to manage, as we've said, the local and national priorities in a sensible manner. I would say that that would be an area where there could be a lot of work done very quickly to support that process, which would help the long-term ambitions and the realisation of those.

Do you think that, with the devolved administration, that can be a complication, and how can that be overcome?

I would say that, for TfW, it's too early to say how the relationship will develop because they have only started to be engaged in this area, but, even in England, there has been devolution to regional authorities. So, that's going to apply, whether it's England or whether it's Scotland or whether it's Wales. Again, at the national rail conference yesterday, we had people speaking from ScotRail and also from TfW, as well as from some of the devolved administrations in England, and what they were saying is, if you look on a devolved basis, you can actually tailor solutions to local needs, and that seems to be having improvements in terms of the quality of services being delivered locally. So, from that point of view, with addressing local needs, it makes a great deal of sense, it seems to me, based on the feedback that was being provided by those devolved authorities reporting back at the national rail conference yesterday. And I would say it's getting that balance that's going to be the real opportunity there between making sure the national services are delivered and the local ones in the most effective manner. I think that's where the opportunity really lies.

11:35

I quite agree. I think the opportunity to do things to solve local problems is a real opportunity of devolving powers, providing they're not in conflict with the greater good of the UK. But it seems to me that many of the challenges that the country's facing in terms of decarbonisation are in many ways national challenges. So, I don't see any conflict there. But, certainly, what you've seen happening here in Wales shows that you can do things differently from other parts of the country and deliver good outcomes for customers and people here in Wales. So, I think there is a balance there.

I think also that there are opportunities to do some bridging technologies to deliver solutions quicker than, perhaps, waiting for further electrification, deployment of hydrogen or further evolution of battery technologies. So, I think the message here is there are solutions out there available today that require zero infrastructure investments that, whilst they won't deliver a zero-carbon transport solution, will deliver many benefits and can be delivered quite quickly.

That's the diesel hybrid solution.

The other thing I would say is we've got to move very quickly. So, getting engagement early is going to be good. The other thing is we're probably going to go up some dead ends and it's going to be frustrating at times—but to just encourage, even it feels like we're, sort of, going up dead ends at times, just to keep going and to maintain co-operation. I just get the sense that we're making it sound like it's going to be simple, and it isn't. It's going to be hard work, but just keep the enthusiasm.

Yes, thank you. Well, can I thank you both for your time and for your papers in advance? It's very much appreciated, to help our work in this area. So, thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr.

You're welcome. Thank you.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) a 17.42 (ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitem 5 ac o'r eitem gyntaf yng nghyfarfod 21 Tachwedd 2019
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) and 17.42 (ix) to resolve to exclude the public from item 5 and from the first item at its meeting on 21 November 2019

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod, ac o eitem 1 y cyfarfod ar 21 Tacwedd, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) ac (ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting, and from item 1 of the meeting on 21 November, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Right. So, that does draw our public meeting to an end, but can I just move to item 4? I will point out to Members that we have got a technical briefing next week from Welsh Government officials on the national development framework. So, with that in mind, can I move, under Standing Order 17.42, to resolve to exclude members of the public from item 5 of today's meeting and from the first item of the meeting next week, on 21 November? Are Members happy with that? Thank you.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:38.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:38.

Mae’r tystion wedi darparu gwybodaeth ychwanegol / The witnesses have supplied further information:

This quote is drawn from page 8 of the Decarbonisation Taskforce final report. It refers to the rate of carbon reduction prevalent in the rail industry within the policy, financial and operational environment at the time the Taskforce was formed.

Archwilio Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru