Wales will have to sign up to ‘consistent branding’ of new Great British Railways body, UK Government says
Wales will have to support one national network, one website and app, and include the UK Government’s chosen branding as a new Great British Railways body takes over the rail network, the UK Government has said.
The Welsh Government has previously called for the devolution of rail infrastructure to Wales, arguing that the UK Government has been guilty of “historic and continuing under-investment” in Wales’ rail tracks.
But the UK Government has announced a new body, Great British Railways, will take over responsibility for both tracks and trains in 2023, with UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying it will place the railways under a “single, accountable national leadership”.
According to the plan, Wales will have to “work together in partnership with Great British Railways” and this “includes supporting a single national network, including one website and app and delivering consistent branding and passenger standards, such as on accessibility and compensation.”
“Great British Railways will continue to own the infrastructure in Scotland and Wales (other than some of the South Wales Valley Lines), as Network Rail does now,” the UK Government adds.
“A joint working agreement between Transport for Wales and Great British Railways will be explored to improve the rail offer for passengers and freight customers in the connected network between Wales, the West Midlands and the West of England. This agreement would need to be negotiated between the UK and Welsh governments, building on existing Wales and Borders agreements for rail services.”
However, the plan also suggests that Transport for Wales will be able to continue to exist, at least for the time being.
“Existing devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales, London, Merseyside, and Tyne and Wear will continue to exercise their current powers and to be democratically accountable for them,” it says. “They will continue to award contracts and set fares on their services, for instance.
“Co-operation with a single national organisation will strengthen devolved railways by helping improve consistency in the passenger experience across the network, maintain common principles and standards and improve joint working on issues such as managing specialist or scarce technology and skills.
“Existing leases of stations to devolved transport authorities will continue and there will be opportunities to develop these relationships in the future.”
The Scottish Government have already responded to say that there is a lack of clarity about how the plans will impact Scotland, that they were not consulted, and that the move is contrary to their call for more devolution of rail in Scotland.
“There is no mention of Scotland in these details, and it is not clear how these proposals will respect the established and successful devolved responsibility for railways in Scotland,” the Scottish Government said.
“The white paper will affect Scotland’s Railway [ScotRail and Network Rail Scotland], yet the Scottish Government has not been consulted on what is now published.