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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Those trains again

It is the last week that the Assembly is sitting before Christmas and we are still talking about trains. This time the opposition has decided that it wants a task and finish committee to look at rail infrastructure and improved passenger services.

After much worthy debate about services. largely centred on constituency issues, the North Wales members finally got to the nub of the problem, graphically describing the nightmare they have to face each week to get to Cardiff Bay:

Brynle Williams: ...When it is quicker to travel from Holyhead to London than from Holyhead to Cardiff, there is clearly a serious issue that needs to be resolved. I strongly urge the Welsh Assembly Government to work with Arriva Trains Wales to invest in developing a faster north-south, or south-north, line, and to begin a study into a business case for increased capacity.

Ann Jones: Do you not agree, Brynle, that, as of 12 December, which is next Monday, Arriva Trains Wales will be running a two-hourly service between Holyhead and Cardiff? It has also invested quite a lot of money along the north-Wales coast, with the help of the Assembly Government. We also have additional British Transport Police officers to improve safety on the north-Wales line. I do not know why you feel isolated, because I feel much safer travelling on that line now, knowing that the number of British Transport Police officers has increased and that uniformed North Wales Police officers are now allowed to travel on any train in an attempt to keep passenger safety in mind.

Brynle Williams: Thank you for those comments, Ann. I strongly urge the Welsh Assembly Government to work with Arriva Trains Wales, to get a faster—

Ieuan Wyn Jones rose—

Brynle Williams: Go on.

Ieuan Wyn Jones: I was interested to hear the intervention by Ann Jones, as I am sure Brynle was, because when the new service starts in December, all those trains will be stationary in Shrewsbury for between 15 and 20 minutes for no apparent reason. Why should we be treated like second-class citizens?

Brynle Williams: I agree entirely with what my colleague has said.

Eleanor Burnham: Will you take another intervention?

Brynle Williams: Go on.

Eleanor Burnham: The new timetable fascinates me. You are given a timetable that does not link up the whole of Wales; it is all in little bits. You have to acquire a whole library of timetables to make sense of anything. When you look at it carefully, you see that it is inconvenient for most people who travel by train daily. According to the new timetable, Assembly Members in north Wales will have to get on the train at Holyhead at around 5.30 a.m. in order to reach Cardiff by 9.30 a.m. Are we in the third world or is this an advanced nation? In Wrexham, we will have to be on the train at 6.20 a.m. and then, if we are lucky, we might be here for around 9.30 a.m.. Some of our committees start at 9 a.m.. What good is that?

If only we could start our meetings later then the Government might save a fortune in infrastructure expenditure and subsidy.
Very interesting Peter, I'm sure there is a quote in Grigg's biography of Lloyd George (I just can't find it at te moment) where the great MP for Caernarvon boroughs said the same thing Brynie Williams. It is a shame that Wales is still debating this issue 115 years after he was first elected to Parliament.
Is it Arriva's fault by any chance that Eleanor failed to reach the Chamber in time to abstain in person on yesterday's Budget vote?
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