Welsh Government and Network Rail at loggerheads over ‘staff removed to England’ claim
The Welsh Government and Network Rail are at loggerheads over a claim made by the First Minister that staff were “removed” from working on railways in Wales to keep open railways in England.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mark Drakeford said that Welsh rail workers were “removed” to keep England’s rail network going, in a decision backed by the UK Government.
Network Rail said that it wasn’t the case that they had moved workers from Wales to work on lines in England. They said that “no Network Rail staff have been redeployed from Wales to England during this industrial action”.
“We’re continuing to work with our partners at Transport for Wales and other train operators to keep passengers moving where we can,” they said.
The Welsh Government have however said they are not retracting the claim.
“Network Rail have prioritised deploying their contingent signallers, some of whom normally work in Wales, to keep lines in England running as part of their revised route strategy to deal with the dispute,” they said.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has called on Mark Drakeford to withdraw his comments, saying that they were “inaccurate” and were “used to justify some divisive, unjust language”.
“Please can you explain what information you based your answer on or can you confirm that you will be writing to the Llywydd to correct your mistake,” he said.
“In this instance first minister, I believe that a correction is fully warranted”.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, Mark Drakeford had said in the Senedd that there was no strike in Wales and that trains weren’t running because Network Rail staff had been diverted elsewhere.
“Let me explain to the leader the opposition why trains aren’t running in Wales,” Mark Drakeford said.
“It’s because his government has created a dispute with Network Rail, and Network Rail have removed some of the staff who could have been available to make trains run in Wales in order to keep trains running in England.
“I wonder if he supports that measure which was a decision by his government to deny you people in Wales the opportunity to travel where there is no dispute – by removing those workers to look after, which clearly are for them a a higher priority than Welsh citizens will ever be.”
Earlier Andrew RT Davies had asked Mark Drakeford whether he supported the strikes in Wales.
Mark Drakeford answered: “Llywydd there are no strikes in Wales. There is no dispute between Transport for Wales and the trade union where I am responsible for these things.
“Workers are not on strike because of the way in which the Welsh Government acts on a social partnership basis to bring people around the table together. To make sure that conversations take place and that solutions are reached.
“How very different from the entirely absent UK Governments who abandon their responsibilities and mean the 1000s of people unable to travel due to the dereliction of duty, which is so apparent in their approach to industrial relations.”
Amid jeering from backbenchers on both sides, Andrew RT Davies responded:
“When you got to Cardiff Central Station today or the rail network in north Wales or mid Wales there are no trains running First Minister,” he said.
“I do note that you didn’t say that you supported the strikes which is to be welcomed, which is to be welcomed First Minister.
“But surely, in an era where we need the public transport system to come back to life after COVID, We need to move away from the 1950s working practices and move into the 2020s practices that see people are sharing vans to get to the same site to work.
” Surely you’d agree with me on that First Minister, that work practices do need updating in our railways, whether that’s in Wales, England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.”
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