Written by James Price, Chief Executive, Transport for Wales
We are extremely proud at Transport for Wales to be publishing our Annual Report for 2019/20.
As a new organisation, this is only our second Annual Report and we’re continuing to take significant steps forward in our programme to transform transport. Much of last year’s Annual Report was focused on our preparations for our projects ahead and our proposals for the future; this year’s report evidently highlights what we’ve already achieved and delivered on.
We have ambitious plans at Transport for Wales, and our vision is to create customer-focused services through a safe transport network of which Wales is proud. We can achieve that vision by constantly moving forward and ensuring that we deliver on our plans.
Some of the key improvements that we’ve delivered this year include our multi-million pound fleet investment; increasing services across the network with an additional 186 added services; providing capacity for 6,500 extra commuters a week on the Valleys Lines pre-coronavirus; implementing our multi-million pound Station Improvement Vision; starting construction on the new £8 million Bow Street railway station; and running direct rail services between North Wales and Liverpool for the first time in 40 years.
We also held our delivery partners to account with the introduction of a new performance incentive regime designed to improve the reliability and presentation of our trains and stations. I’m pleased to see that service delivery is already improving and I hope our customers are also starting to notice the improvement.
As an organisation we are continuing to grow, and our role and remit from the Welsh Government is evolving and already includes more than rail.
A key example of this broadened remit is collaborating with all Welsh local authorities and the Welsh Government to successfully roll out new-style Concessionary Travel Cards to over 600,000 people across Wales.
As part of our growing advisory role, our in-house transport analysis unit is working hard to improve the quality and consistency of the evidence that underpins transport decision-making and investment in Wales.
We’ve also been supporting the Welsh Government with the implementation of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. This means that we’re encouraging an integrated approach to walking and cycling with a purpose, as well as bus and train travel and car-sharing.
Another important expansion has been bringing on-board catering staff in house; we were pleased in January 2020 when over 100 employees joined our team and we started directly operating on-board catering services. We are now working to improve the catering service with local suppliers.
One of our most significant achievements took place towards the very end of the financial year, and on 28 March we completed the transfer of the Aberdare, Coryton, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhymney and Treherbert lines (known as the Core Valleys Lines) from Network Rail into our ownership. This key milestone will allow us to continue with our transformation programme, and we can now start to build the South Wales Metro – work on the lines will begin in August.
In addition, at the very start of this year we opened our Treforest Infrastructure Hub, which is home to around 200 colleagues and will play a vital role in the delivery and future maintenance of the South Wales Metro. We also started constructing our new £100 million Metro Control Centre in Taff’s Well – a facility for our new tram-trains and control centre for the Metro.
All our projects have been delivered and implemented with sustainability at the forefront of our decision making, and at the end of 2019 we successfully launched our Sustainable Development Plan. We want to ensure that sustainable development continues to be a key part of the culture that we’re creating at TfW and is evidenced in all our activities. In November 2019 we gained recognition as a Living Wage Employer, and we also committed to paying our sub-contractors the Living Wage.
However, whilst we have significant progress to report in 2019/20, we’re now confronted by Coronavirus. Without doubt life will change, and like other organisations TfW will adapt to this.
Sadly, people have lost and will lose their lives before their time and the way we live our lives will change. Our society and the economy will take time to recover from this global pandemic, and this is likely to impact how we deliver our future investment plans. Coronavirus has also changed our relationship with our rail services operator, and we’ve reached a six-month Emergency Measures Agreement to make sure our rail services can continue to operate following a huge fall in passenger numbers.
Under the agreement, our rail services operator will be paid a management fee while the Welsh Government takes cost and revenue risks. TfW is now more directly involved in cost control and service recovery, and we’re also planning and developing financial models for November 2020 onwards.
One crucial factor that has been revealed through the challenge of Coronavirus is our resilience as an organisation. I’m proud of the way our team have adapted to the new ways of working and we’ve been able to continue progressing forward with our plans.
We’re still committed to building a safe, effective, and sustainable transport network that moves both people and goods. This is particularly important for Wales as we continue to move away from relying on private cars.
As with any challenge, we’ll respond to Coronavirus by doing what is right and safe for the people and communities of Wales, and we’ll adapt our strategy and operational delivery to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness, in line with economic requirements and government policy.
Meanwhile, as we look forward to 2020/21 and beyond, I want to thank our customers, suppliers, partners and the TfW family for their continuing support. We still have lots of hard work ahead of us, but together we’re creating a high quality, safe, integrated, affordable and accessible transport network of which Wales can be proud.
Transport for Wales Annual Report can be found here: