Our railways presently being run by Germany’s state-owned carrier shows that nationalisation shouldn’t be dismissed as an option for Wales, according to the author of a new book.
The National Assembly is due to hand out a new franchise to run the trains in Wales and along the English border in 2018. And with Cardiff Airport enjoying vastly improved passenger numbers since the Welsh Government bought it for £52m in 2013, saving it from virtually certain bankruptcy, author Ian Parri feels that state intervention might not be a bad thing for the railways either.
“There’s no doubt that our whole railway system reeks of the distinct lack of investment it’s suffered from down the decades,” he said. “But now, that it’s recognised as being a distinct part of Wales’ transport infrastructure, rather than a neglected offshoot of the English network, it’s time to take a distinctly Welsh approach to it.
“Arriva Trains Wales has run the franchise at a profit since 2003, and they’re owned by Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s state-owned railways. John Major handed the railways to private concerns when he was prime minister, claiming that state-owned transport could never pay its way.
“It’s a very strange argument to put over when the German government can run our railways at a profit. That profit should be staying in Wales to invest in further improvements to the network.”
He said that it needn’t necessarily be based on the old British Railways business model, when there were fears that the state were interfering too much in the day-to-day running of the trains.
“Perhaps, we would look at a more arm’s length business model such as Glas Cymru, which runs Welsh Water as a not-for-profit concern. There’s no doubt that, while certainly there are signs of improvement here and there, we should be looking at investing even more in making our railways part of an integrated modern transport network for the 21st century.”
His largely tongue-in-cheek book takes in a circular journey of Wales, starting and ending at the isolated Dovey Junction station in Powys.
Ian travels in a figure of eight journey, over eight days, taking in Shrewsbury, Cardiff, Swansea, the Heart of Wales line, Wrexham, Rhyl, Blaenau Ffestiniog and using the narrow gauge railway to link up with the Cambrian Coast line at Minffordd.
Cyffordd i Gyffordd by Ian Parri is published by Gwasg y Bwythyn, priced at £9.95.