Written evidence submitted by TSSA (RIW0017)

TSSA is an independent trade union that principally organises in the railways of the UK and Irish Republic. TSSA is recognised for collective bargaining purposes by Network Rail, Transport for Wales Rail Services (Wales and Borders Franchise) and Amey Infrastructure Wales (AIW). The union is also recognised by other railway companies that operate in Wales, including GWR and Cross Country. Our members are typically employed as managers, professional, technical and supervisory staff and as administrative, customer service and Control Centre employees.

In our response we are seeking to address the areas identified by the Committee:

The exception in Wales is that ownership of the Core Valley Lines (CVL) from Cardiff was transferred from Network Rail to Transport for Wales (TfW) on 28th March 2020. TfW leases the CVL to a private firm, Amey Infrastructure Wales Limited (AIW), which has responsibility as the Infrastructure Manager.[2]

In our view, privatising the Infrastructure Manager that looks after ten percent of the rail infrastructure in Wales has been a retrograde step and allows profits motives to intervene in what should be a body that is only focused on ensuring safe and efficient rail operation, maintenance and renewal. It is also a poor option because the Core Valley Lines were not in the best condition when handed over to TfW and are in a place where they are prone to flooding and can suffer from subsidence because of old mine workings. These events can have a seriously detrimental effect on the railway, as they have done in other parts of the Britain, and we would ask whether the Welsh Government and TfW have the deep pockets that would be required to repair large scale collapses of embankments. Network Rail was able to meet these challenges because of the scale of its operation.    

We would also have a serious concern for rail safety if infrastructure maintenance activities were privatised by TfW and would see this as likely given that they have already leased out the Infrastructure Manager role. This is the lesson learnt from rail disasters like Hatfield (2 killed) and Potters Bar (6 killed) that were attributed to cuts to maintenance standards during the Railtrack era where achieving a profit through cost savings became the priority over ensuring rail safety. That led to Railtrack failing as a company and Network Rail taking maintenance back in house in 2004, saving £400m.[6]

TSSA could support the Welsh Government having a role similar to that of the Scottish Government in setting objectives and providing funding as part of the Control Period process as described above but, obviously, only in relation to Wales. One of the issues with that, however, is that unlike Scotland where the railway can be seen as geographically within the nation, in Wales it is the case that to travel from the South to the North (or vice versa) requires taking a train through England. This issue would have to be resolved and joint arrangements for the border agreed to avoid the problems that can exist with the Wales and Borders Franchise, dependent upon which side of the Wales/England border you find yourself (and even though operated by the same company).

We also want to make the point that the material published about the Union Connectivity Review does not allow for any opportunities or evidence to be drawn to the attention of Sir Peter Hendy’s team (see for instance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/union-connectivity-review-terms-of-reference/union-connectivity-review-terms-of-reference )

What we would hope is that the Union Connectivity Review will lead to greater funding and better cooperation between the Welsh and UK Governments.

February 2021


[1] See: https://www.orr.gov.uk/high-level-output-specifications-and-statements-funds-available

[2] See: https://tfwrail.wales/about-us/metro/core-valley-lines-infrastructure-manager#:~:text=The%20Core%20Valley%20Lines%20network,the%20Core%20Valley%20Lines%20network.

[3] See: https://gov.wales/historical-investment-rail-infrastructure-enhancements-html

[4] See Page 5, “The Rail Network in Wales: The Case for Investment” at: https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-12/the-rail-network-in-wales-case-for-investment.pdf

[5] Operations, Maintenance and Renewal Spend

[6] (DfT & ORR 2010 Rail Value for Money: Scoping study report, Version 1.1. para  3.4 p 22

[7] See: https://gov.wales/historical-investment-rail-infrastructure-enhancements-html

[8] At the time of writing it standards at an average of 16% across Britain. However, traveline.cymru (viewed at 1252 on 26th February 2021) suggest in Wales rail passenger demand is at 30%. 

[9] Available to download from: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/campaigns/sustainability/

[10] Llwybr Newydd: A New Wales Transport Strategy at: https://gov.wales/llwybr-newydd