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Welsh rail franchise enters public ownership

Welsh rail franchise enters public ownership

The Welsh Government has now officially taken the Wales and Borders rail franchise into public ownership.

The move is designed to protect services, deliver infrastructure improvements and safeguard jobs in light of the current Coronavirus pandemic. As of today, the Wales and Borders rail services are being operated by Transport for Wales under a subsidiary, 'Transport for Wales Rail LTD'. 

The Wales & Borders franchise has been operated by Keolis and Amey, branded as Transport for Wales, since October 2018. The franchise covers most rail routes in Wales, and also services in border regions, including from Birmingham New Street, Crewe and Manchester Picadilly. Originally, the franchise contract had been for a 15 year period, however, in October 2020, the Welsh Government announced that the franchise would be transferred to a publicly owned operator of last resort.

Keolis and Amery will work with the nationalised operator to provide improvements to services and infrastructure. All staff, services and trains have been transferred to the new operator and no major changes are likely to be seen by commuters.

The move to nationalise the franchise comes due to a significant reduction in passenger numbers during the Coronavirus pandemic, and uncertainty over whether passenger numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels anytime in the near future. It is hoped that the move will provide longer-term financial stability for the services.

Speaking about the transfer of ownership, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates said;

"Our rail service is a critical asset and one we must protect. Since the pandemic began we’ve provided significant financial support to keep trains running. The need for greater public control is a reflection of the ongoing pressures of coronavirus and the challenges being faced across the rail industry as passenger demand remains low.

"We remain determined to deliver key commitments made at the start of the journey with Transport for Wales, including the creation of Metro systems and the delivery of brand new rolling stock. Bringing the rail franchise into public control will help secure this better future for passengers. It is a public transport asset, in public ownership, for the public good."

During the pandemic, governments in the UK have been forced to step in to support public transport operators which have seen lower passenger numbers due to lockdowns but have continued operating to allow essential travel and services for key workers. 

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