Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
This statement informs members about our plans for rolling stock for the next Wales and Borders rail service contract.
The importance of having a quality, reliable railway service that is part of a genuinely integrated public transport system across Wales is central to helping our economy grow, to allowing our communities to connect and develop, to allowing learners to access education opportunities and to improving access to healthcare.
Passenger perceptions of the quality of the trains they travel on every day are a fundamental aspect of their overall satisfaction with the service provided. It is important that high quality rolling stock which meets passenger expectations is delivered as part of the next rail service contract.
Passenger growth has been significantly higher than was forecasted when the current contract was let by the UK Government’s Strategic Rail Authority early last decade. There is no provision in this contract, which we have now inherited, for passenger growth. Therefore, despite the significant investment the Welsh Government has made in additional services and rolling stock, sufficient capacity to meet passenger demand has not always been provided. Our plans for the next contract are being developed with this in mind. We will require the bidders to include sufficient capacity to meet passenger demand which is forecasted to grow by a further 74 per cent by 2030.
As well as not accounting for growth, the current contract does not compel the Train Operating Company to provide new rolling stock. As a result, our newest trains are more than 20 years old and the oldest are fast approaching their 40th birthday. Most do not comply with our accessibility requirements, which in itself presents a major challenge. Improvement of the current fleet of rolling stock that is simply not up to the task of delivering a modern, efficient and clean rail network is a priority.
The next rail service contract is an opportunity for people all over Wales to see real changes in the quality of the trains they are using on a daily basis. In response to the public consultation we held earlier this year, people were clear that they wanted to see a range of improvements.
Following the successful prequalification phase of the procurement, we have invited the bidders to develop their outline solutions. These outline solutions will form the basis for the next phase of the contract development – the Competitive Dialogue. Competitive Dialogue is a process through which we work with the bidders to develop a contract which ensures the delivery of our high level objectives, whilst at the same time allowing the bidders to fine tune their own unique solutions to meet a set of detailed requirements, common to all bidders, which each company will ultimately bid against.
As part of this process we have set out some key priorities that we require the bidders to deliver, as a minimum, with their proposed rolling stock solutions:
- High quality rolling stock must be provided which meets increasing passenger expectations and demands. This includes enabling mobile working, connectivity, passenger information and the provision of adequate space to store luggage and bicycles.
- All rolling stock must comply with the Persons with Reduced Mobility Technical Specification of Interoperability regulations. Controlled Emission Toilets must be provided wherever appropriate.
- An increase in capacity must be delivered to support the existing and forecasted growth in passenger numbers so that, even on the busiest services, passengers do not have to stand for more than 20 minutes.
- In Metro areas in particular, rolling stock must be capable of allowing rapid boarding and alighting.
- On the Core Valley Lines (ie those stations north of Cardiff Queen Street plus the Cardiff Bay line) passenger operations making use of diesel only traction will be phased out. Conventional electrification, stored energy systems and hybrid systems will be considered.
During the next part of the procurement process, Transport for Wales will be working with the bidders to explore how these minimum requirements can be further developed in the detailed specification for the rail service contract.
All bidders will be expected to minimise the impact of rolling stock on the environment, whether from the trains or the depot facilities. Innovations may include regeneration from braking and energy monitoring systems for trains, whilst in depots solutions could include solar energy and water harvesting, and minimising the impact on local communities through effective noise and lighting management.
We believe that the companies bidding to provide and operate our trains for the next 15 years, all of whom have track records of delivering rail services around the world, are best placed to help us develop the most suitable rolling stock solutions for the Wales and Borders area. Each of these companies has access to expertise, partners and industry networks which, when channelled through a competitive process, will allow the users of a modernised service to benefit from the very best that the global rail industry can offer.
This collaborative approach with the bidders will result in a deliverable, affordable and tailored solution for rolling stock in Wales to match our ambitions and the needs of the network’s users.
In the meantime, we are continuing to work with the current operator, Arriva Trains Wales, to identify options for providing additional capacity on busy services. Whilst there is very limited diesel rolling stock currently available, my officials are in dialogue with the rail industry to try to identify solutions that could deliver additional capacity in the short term.