The Welsh Transport Forum dinner was an excellent night that saw key figures from across the rail sector come together, to explore the supply chain opportunities within the Welsh sector. Quadrant Transport looks at key findings from the evening’s panel discussions to find out more.
On 4 November 2021, stakeholders, delegates, and key industry decision-makers gathered in Cardiff to discuss the opportunities within the Welsh rail lines.
During the networking dinner, panel discussions highlighted how current decisions within Welsh transport are being made with communities at the heart, building a “service that people will want to use” Christine Boston, Director of Sustrans Cymru explained.
Jan Chaudhry van der Velde, Managing Director for Transport for Wales began the panel discussion by explaining how moulding Cardiff Valley’s rail network from Network Rail was a prime example of “infrastructure devolution” and how the “investment programme, set out back in 2018, is still very much intact.”
This was followed by James Jackson, Industrial Programme Director for Network Rail stating that the evolution of Transport for Wales, Amey Wales, and the Welsh Government have allowed “opportunity to invest in some new technologies and new ways of doing things” which “as a national network, are much more difficult to do.”
Improving connectivity efficiently and effectively
Moving on in the panel discussion, Vernon Everitt, Managing Director for Transport for London, was asked for advice on ensuring efficient and effective delivery within Transport for Wales.
He described how integrating all travel networks is key to effectively improving connectivity, explaining: “It isn’t just the railways. It’s the railways, bus networks, connectivity between railway stations and road networks together.
One piece of advice is to never take the eye off the ball of introducing an integrated network because the people that use us just want to make journeys simple, easy and straightforward. It’s our job to enable that.
“Our job is to give viable options to people to use public transport, walking and cycling to travel, as opposed to their car. If we want to sustain Cardiff long into the future, that’s what we need.”
Decarbonisation was a key topic of discussion
A question was put to the panel about the Welsh decarbonisation programme and the realities of hitting the 2035 target. Jan Chaudhry van der Velde began by stating they are “working on possibilities of converting some of [the current trains] to other forms of less carbon-intensive traction power” fleets.
He continued: “I’m hopeful for electrification of the North Wales Main Line, maybe in connection with HS2 Connectivity Group. I think that will make a lot of sense, and a strong business case as well.”
Christine Boston added: “Whilst emissions overall have come down over the last 20 years, transport emissions have remained largely static.”
We have to reduce car dependency; we have to transform transport and inspire people to travel differently. 68% of children think adults are not doing enough to tackle climate change. We have to do more
Infrastructure and services are not the only things that will encourage travellers back onto the railways, the integration of fares and ticketing also play a major factor in passenger numbers.
Vernon Everitt explained how we need to “integrate the payment mechanism” so that travellers are able to travel around fares that are “understandable”, and “they can be confident that pay the right fare.”
He continued: “You can use your different modes of transport, and you can give people lots of incentive to do different things, just through joining up the payment system.”
There’s a very strong common agenda there, which we could all benefit from over and above all the other things in terms of hard infrastructure
Rounding up the panel discussion, James Jackson mentioned the importance of rebuilding relationships within the sector: “We’ve got this golden opportunity to fix some of the track trading split difficulties that have constipated our investment cycle for decades, which we haven’t had for quite some time.”
“We’ve already said there’s so much appetite for immediate infrastructure devolution, so let’s get the framework right.”