First Minister pledges support for Machynlleth train depot

Trains should be maintained in Wales, at Machynlleth depot and other facilities, under the next rail franchise, First Minister Carwyn Jones has said.

He made the comment as the government set out its commitments for the new Wales and Borders Rail Service. They include having a second person – a safety critical conductor or guard – on every train, and employing skilled workers to maintain the rolling stock, with the maximum number of staff employed in Wales.

At First Minister’s Question Time on Tuesday (3 October), Labour member Joyce Watson welcomed the commitments and praised the Mid Wales facility. She said:

“There was an awful lot to welcome in the transport Minister’s latest statement on the next franchise, and what was particularly welcome was the commitment to keep a guard on every single service.

“The other commitment was that the new rolling stock should be maintained by workers here in Wales. Very recently, I had a tour around the investment that’s been made in the Machynlleth depot, and met some of the 33 highly skilled employees.”

The Mid and West Wales AM visited Machynlleth’s train depot in August. The facility services the fleet of 24 trains that serve the 33 Cambrian line stations in mid Wales and Shropshire. In 2007 it received a £3 million upgrade, since when the workforce has more than trebled from 10 to 33.

Mr Jones replied:

“Machynlleth had a depot in the 1980s, then it closed, then it reopened, because it was needed, clearly, to service trains on the centre of Wales and Cambrian Coast lines. So, yes, we want to make sure that not only do we keep our network of depots, but we increase the number in the future, because we know that there will be new rolling stock, there will be new modes of transport that we will look at, and it’s important, then, that the equipment is maintained in Wales as far as is possible.”

Since January, government officials and bidders have been discussing priorities for the contract. Announcing the final tenders last week, transport minister Ken Skates said:

“I’m delighted to confirm that Abellio Rail Cymru, Arriva Rail Wales, KeolisAmey and MTR Corporation (Cymru) Ltd have all been invited to submit final tenders for the next Wales and Borders Rail Service. From rolling stock to frequency of services, Metros to profit thresholds, this final tender will provide the blueprint for what these four giants of the rail industry are bidding to provide Wales.

“Detailed discussions with all four of the shortlisted potential operators have only served to reinforce our optimism that the next service will see big improvements. I look forward to seeing how the detailed tenders tackle our ambitious requirements for the next 15 years before making a decision on the successful operator in early 2018.

“We intend to create a rail service that benefits the whole of Wales, communities along the border and in England. One with passengers at its heart and today’s announcement is another important step towards that.”