Government ‘broke language law nine times’ over lack of Welsh on trains

A Transport for Wales train. Picture by Jeremy Segrott (CC BY 2.0)

A leaked report describes as “not yet final” suggests Welsh Ministers will be found guilty of breaking the rules by failing to provide Welsh language services on a train franchise they took over fifteen months ago.

Transport for Wales (TfW), which is owned by the Welsh Government, breached nine language standards, the leaked report of an investigation by Aled Roberts found.

But the Welsh Language Commissioner’s office said the report was not yet complete and did not represent a final decision on the matter.

“We have conducted an investigation into suspected failure to comply with the Welsh language standards in this case,” a spokesperson said.

“The investigation report is not yet final, so it is not appropriate for us to comment further at this stage.”

According to the incomplete report, the Government Ministers’ failures included:

  • Train and station announcements made in English only;
  • English-only correspondence;
  • The launch of an app without a Welsh version;
  • A website where tickets could not be bought in Welsh.

Transport for Wales was established in 2016 as a subsidiary under the full ownership of the Welsh Government. Transport for Wales is the overarching organisation, with the railway division ‘Transport for Wales Railway Services’ being managed by Keolis Amey to operate the Wales and Borders Railway Services. They have been responsible for the train franchise since October 2018.

 

‘Predictable’

Responding to the news, David Williams from Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that the Welsh Government should be “seriously embarrassed” if it was found that they had broken their own law.

“After all, if the Government can’t meet its own standards, who else will?” he asked. “We’ve received lots of complaints from members and supporters because of these failings on our railways – it’s obvious why people are so angry about the situation.

“Basic things like announcements and tickets aren’t in Welsh. It’s not even possible to buy a ticket in Welsh on their website.

“All these failings were completely predictable, a long time before they took over the franchise. They could and should have planned properly to meet basic legal requirements – they should have been sorted years ago.

“We are concerned about the culture at Transport for Wales that has allowed this completely unacceptable situation to develop and continue. It demonstrates a serious lack of planning for the new franchise and a failure to prioritise the language as well. That attitude is a concern when you consider that Transport for Wales is supposed to gain greater responsibilities over other modes of transport.

“The Welsh Government has made the situation in terms of language rights in the transport sector worse, and far more confusing for everyone, by failing to extend language duties directly to bus and transport companies. They’ve caused this mess.

“We have met Transport for Wales a number of times over the last year, and we met the Minister Ken Skates recently. We’ve been clear that we expect these failings to be rectified as soon as possible and without further delay.

“It’s not acceptable for the Government to break the law and allow the company to deprive people of basic rights to see, hear and use Welsh in their everyday lives.”

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RhosdduRoger SmithHuw DaviesBryn ColionJonathan Gammond Recent comment authors
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Matthew Nobles
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Matthew Nobles

I would respectfully suggest the addressing the woefully poor deficiencies in services (overcrowding, cancellations etc) should be more important priorities for Transport for Wales. So far, the new franchisee has failed commitments made in every area.

Deiniol Jones
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Deiniol Jones

I’m tempted to agree, but the two things are not reliant on each other. It’s not the signalmen and drivers who are expected to provide translation services and the translators would not otherwise be engaged procuring or maintaining trains. A government body, like anyone else, must comply with the law of the land, and not only when things are going well.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

“Lack of Welsh on trains” ? – well yes that’s a problem, but lack of trains in Wales is also a big problem. It’s a bit like the skills shortage in the NHS. I’d like more Welsh speakers throughout the service delivery part of the NHS ( I don’t really give a s*** about the grey suits and other hangers on, a cull of those would be most welcome) but right now the main need is to get more trained doctors and nurses into active service and we can follow up with some language competencies to improve their communication with… Read more »

Bryn Colion
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Bryn Colion

you can do both………private sector has to work hard…why not public sector achieve some basic things

Simon Gruffydd
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Simon Gruffydd

The problem is deeper that the current round of elected politicians. An undercurrent of anti-Welsh language bigotry runs through much of the civil service on both the national and local levels. Here in Bridgend county the local authority have used funds for bilingual signage to introduce English versions of longstanding Welsh street names – confusing the locals whether they can read Welsh or not. Meanwhile many, if not most, English language street names remain English only. We need to drain our own swamp, so to speak, here in Wales. I wish I could have confidence to suggest supporting this party… Read more »

A Prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg
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A Prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg

“Nid dim llai na chwyldro yw adfer yr iaith yng Nghymru. Trwy ddulliau chwyldro yn unig y mae llwyddo.” – Saunders Lewis

There has never been a Welsh revolution. Expanding the Bro Gymraeg is the only Welsh revolution. This Dydd Dewi Sant, 1st March, why not light bonfires calling for that revolution?

Roger Smith
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Roger Smith

An all Wales franchise doesn’t work because the north and south were integral parts of 2 different BR regions, yet all this blog concentrates on is the Welsh language?

Bryn Colion
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Bryn Colion

Funny how many other articles don’t mention welsh language and are in English though

If north and south are separate BR regions, maybe its time to unite them with new rail lines

Roger Smith
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Roger Smith

They are united that’s why the service is so poor, I can explain if asked but little point here as everything on this website is seen in black or white, pro – welsh or anti welsh no common sense.

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

The article is about the failure of the WAG to meet its statutory obligations on Welsh language use. Hence the focus of most (not all) of the comments. The clue is in the article’s title.

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

I expect all TfW’s energies are going into keeping their clapped out third-hand trains in some semblance of working order until the long heralded new trains arrive. I may have misread the news report but the company behind Transport for Wales has recently lost the franchise for ScotRail. I may be mistaken because you have to be a total genius to work out who is responsible for what on our railways. The real issue may be lies with the rolling stock (none of which is owned by the privatized franchise holders) and the state of the railway lines (run by… Read more »

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Government could repossess the entire UK rail network and its operating companies due to their chronic failure to provide an acceptable service. While we remain within UK the whole thing could run as UK Rail with regional/national divisions. Upon independence the Welsh regional company could operate as Wales Rail or TrenauCymru. Is that too complex a vision ?

Roger Smith
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Roger Smith

Yes too simplistic

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

Too complex and too simplistic? You have to choose one, that’s the rule…