The Welsh Government has confirmed that they have decided to bring the Wales and Borders rail franchise under public control.
They said that they were doing so “in the face of dramatic falls in passenger numbers”.
Transport Minister Ken Skates said the move will help secure the future of passenger services in Wales and the Borders area, protect jobs and maintain the Welsh Government’s ambitious plans for Metro.
The move comes after a “challenging period” in which Covid-19 has significantly impacted passenger numbers and rail revenue across Wales.
“The last few months have been extremely challenging for public transport in Wales and across the UK,” Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates said.
“Covid has significantly impacted passenger revenues and the Welsh Government has had to step in with significant support to stabilise the network and keep it running.
“We have decided to transfer of day to day rail services to a new publicly owned subsidiary of Transport for Wales.
“In Wales we continue a partnership approach between TfW and Keolis Amey as we work together to protect services for the Welsh public, safeguard jobs and secure the important Metro projects we have been working so hard on over the last few years.”
Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies said that the Welsh Government’s “long-list of blunders” didn’t fill him with confidence.
“We cannot see our train industry run into the ground,” he said.
The decision follows the collapse of rail franchises across England as the privatised model comes under strain from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport Lee Waters said there were no easy answers to the challenges they faced in rail and in public transport over the next few years.#
“Passenger numbers have fallen and there will be difficult days ahead as we navigate through the challenges of Covid,” he said.
“We are bringing the Wales and Borders service into public hands because it is a vital asset, critical to the future of our economy and our communities.
“I want us to maintain our ambition for a high quality and integrated public transport system with modal shift at its heart over the next few years and I believe that today’s announcement is vital in helping us do that.”
French-Spanish joint venture KeolisAmey took over the running of the Wales and Borders franchise in 2018.
They promised to eventually replace all trains, at a cost of £800m, as well as spend £738m to electrify the South Wales valleys lines, add more services and launch the new South Wales Metro over the next 15 years.
At the time their arrival seemed to mark an end to the troubled tenure for Arriva Trains Wales, criticised for overcrowding on commuter services.
However, it warned at the time that most of the biggest promised changes will not happen for at least a couple of years.
“I support the Welsh Labour Government extending the not for profit model and now taking full public ownership, as with Airport and re-regulating buses services,” Labour Senedd Member Mick Antoniw said.
“Thatcher’s disastrous privatisation experiment is coming to an end in Wales.”
Conservative economy shadow minister Russell George MS said the move did not fill him with “any hope”.
He said: “Given the track record of the Welsh Labour-led Government, its decision to take control of our vital train industry has not filled me with any hope. Given how reliant the people of Wales are on using trains, we cannot allow the Welsh Labour-led Government to run it into the ground, like it has with Cardiff Airport.
“Before making this decision, Welsh Labour-led Government ministers should have consulted the Welsh Parliament on the list of failings facing the industry pre-COVID – especially the lack of outdated train stock – as well as, crucially, how much this decision is going to cost the Welsh taxpayer.
“Eyebrows will be raised, too, on why any support is being left until February 2021.
“There is no excuse to waste hardworking families’ taxes and that is why I call on the Welsh Labour-led Government to immediately answer our serious concerns.”
James Price, chief executive at Transport for Wales said he was pleased with this agreement.
He said that it would allow Transport for Wales to “continue to deliver the transformation of the Wales and Borders rail network over what’s an incredibly difficult period for the industry, with a huge reduction in passenger journeys and revenue”.
“KeolisAmey have made a significant contribution to transport in Wales over the past two years and I’ve welcomed their collaborative approach to securing this agreement, which has allowed us to achieve a positive way forward for the Wales and Borders contract,” he said.
“We will continue to benefit from the international industry expertise of both Keolis and Amey whilst giving TfW and Welsh Government more control to deliver our key transport objectives, as we look to sustain the good progress of the rail network and ensure it plays a vital role in helping Wales to be well-placed in a post-pandemic environment.”