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Francis: Speeding up improvements on Welsh railways

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"In announcing your transport programme, this time last year, Minister, you said that it was designed to 'increase the speed of delivery on transport, support the development of the economy and help to spread prosperity across all parts of Wales.'

Clearly, an effective rail infrastructure and service is integral to a vibrant economy. According to a recently published Confederation of British Industry survey, transport problems are hitting businesses hardest, more than half of businesses thought that the reputation of the UK as a place to do business was being harmed by the issue of poor transport, and 48 per cent thought that their own company's reputation had suffered as a result.

As we have heard from other speakers, from a rail passenger's point of view, there are currently serious problems with overcrowding and gaps in service provision in Wales. The service has to improve.

On 3 October, the 1.30 p.m. train from Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury was cancelled and replaced by a motor coach service, which took a long time to arrive, further inconveniencing passengers, who missed rail connections for the north, the west midlands and London.

On that day, around 150 students were crammed into three motor coaches, which then had to drive very fast in order to make up for lost time.

On the way back in the evening, around 200 people were squeezed onto coaches, so that there was standing room only. Apart from the resulting inconvenience of missed appointments, this surely represents an unsafe service and is an accident waiting to happen.

Two weeks ago, the early morning Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury service, which is the first London train of the day and is always packed to the gunnels, had no heating at all. I do not suppose that Arriva Trains Wales offered any kind of rebate for that inconvenience.

I mention all this, not because I want you all to think of me as a parochial trainspotting anorak, but because these are real, everyday examples that demonstrate the serious gaps in service provision.

These gaps happen all over Wales, as I know Leighton Andrews would be only too happy to point out, as he has done in the past. They affect the way that we do business in Wales; moreover, they are potentially dangerous.

As Peter Law has outlined, despite warm words and pledged intentions, this Government has, thus far, failed to deliver its promised integrated rail network.

Projects have been repeatedly delayed, while others have not even come to fruition. The fact is that a provision in the final budget for rail improvements has only come about as the result of pressure from opposition parties.

New rolling stock on the Cambrian and Heart of Wales lines will alleviate the dangerous problems of overcrowding.

A commitment to installing passing loops on the Cambrian line will deliver an hourly service—and they must be loops, probably at Borth and Caersws.

This line is a star performer in terms of year-on-year passenger growth, averaging 7 per cent per annum, with footfall figures in excess of half a million a year providing transport to an area with a growing population and which, in transport terms, is isolated and served by poor roads.

Just to put things into perspective, the cost of installing those loops would be the equivalent of a quarter of a mile of motorway.

Installing those loops was a commitment when Sue Essex was Minister with responsibility for transport.

Mysteriously, Welsh Assembly Government officials then informed the Economic Development and Transport Committee that it had become a mere aspiration.

That means that your Government, your locomotive, is moving backwards down the track, and we are in reverse. It is exactly that kind of reversal that prompts the need for us to form a committee.

The budget negotiations have provided several positive developments for railways in Wales and we have to progress those further. We urge the Government that there should be no more delays regarding the contracting, which you mentioned, for reopening the Ebbw Vale line.

It would be the responsible thing for your Government to provide regular progress reports on that project. That is why we need this committee.

Minister, let me refer you to comments that you made in January 2003: 'The Welsh Assembly Government is…committed to an efficient and reliable rail system in Wales, and there is considerable public backing for this'.

If you truly believe what you said then, and you are a man of conviction, and I hope that you are, you cannot fail to support our motion today.

Finally, I ask you to remember that it is your job to hold your own Government to account. That is why you are here and that is why we are all here."

"Wrth gyhoeddi'ch rhaglen drafnidiaeth, yr adeg hon y llynedd, Weinidog, dywedasoch mai'r amcan oedd y byddai'n 'mynd â'r maen i'r wal yn gynt mewn cysylltiad â thrafnidiaeth, yn hyrwyddo datblygiad yr economi ac yn helpu i ledaenu ffyniant i bob rhan o Gymru.'

Mae'n amlwg bod seilwaith a gwasanaeth rheilffyrdd effeithiol yn hollbwysig ar gyfer economi ffyniannus.

Yn ôl arolwg a gyhoeddwyd yn ddiweddar gan Gydffederasiwn Diwydiant Prydain, busnesau sydd yn cael eu bwrw'n galetaf gan broblemau trafnidiaeth, yr oedd mwy na hanner y busnesau o'r farn bod trafnidiaeth wael yn gwneud niwed i'r enw da sydd gan y DU fel lle i fasnachu, ac yr oedd 48 y cant yn credu bod enw da eu cwmni eu hunain wedi dioddef o ganlyniad i hynny.

Fel y clywsom gan siaradwyr eraill, o safbwynt teithwyr rheilffyrdd, ceir problemau difrifol ar hyn o bryd o ran gorlenwi cerbydau a bylchau yn y gwasanaeth a ddarperir yng Nghymru.

Rhaid i'r gwasanaeth wella. Ar 3 Hydref, cafodd y trên 1.30 p.m. o Aberystwyth i Amwythig ei ganslo a rhoddwyd coets i redeg yn ei le, a fu'n hwyrach yn cyrraedd, gan beri anhwylustod pellach i deithwyr, a gollodd gysylltiadau rheilffyrdd ar gyfer teithio tua'r gogledd, i orllewin canolbarth Lloegr ac i Lundain.

Y diwrnod hwnnw, yr oedd tua 150 o fyfyrwyr wedi'u gwasgu i dair coets, y bu'n rhaid iddynt wedyn yrru'n gyflym iawn i adennill yr amser a gollwyd. Ar y ffordd yn ôl gyda'r hwyr, yr oedd tua 200 o bobl wedi ymwasgu i goetshis, fel bod rhaid i bawb sefyll.

Heblaw am yr anhwylustod a gafwyd o golli apwyntiadau, mae'n sicr bod gwasanaeth o'r fath yn anniogel a bod damwain yn siwr o ddigwydd ryw bryd.

Bythefnos yn ôl, ar y gwasanaeth yn y bore bach o Aberystwyth i Amwythig, sef y trên dyddiol cyntaf i Lundain sydd bob amser yn llawn dop, nid oedd unrhyw wresogi o gwbl.

Nid yw'n debyg gennyf fod Trenau Arriva Cymru wedi cynnig unrhyw fath o ad-daliad am yr anhwyslustod hwnnw.

Yr wyf yn sôn am hyn oll, nid am fy mod am ichi fy ystyried yn rhyw wyliwr trenau plwyfol, ond am mai enghreifftiau pob dydd, go iawn yw'r rhain sydd yn dangos y bylchau yn y gwasanaeth a ddarperir. Ceir bylchau o'r fath ledled Cymru, fel y byddai Leighton Andrews yn falch iawn o nodi, yr wyf yn siwr, fel y gwnaeth yn y gorffennol.

Maent yn effeithio ar y modd yr ydym yn mynd ynghylch pethau yng Nghymru; ar ben hynny, gallent fod yn beryglus.

Fel y mae Peter Law wedi nodi, er gwaethaf y geiriau braf a'r addewidion, mae'r Llywodraeth hon wedi methu â darparu'r rhwydwaith rheilffyrdd integredig y mae wedi'i addo, hyd yma.

Mae prosiectau wedi'u gohirio dro ar ôl tro, tra bo eraill heb gychwyn hyd yn oed. Y gwir amdani yw nad ydyw'r ddarpariaeth yn y gyllideb derfynol ar gyfer gwelliannau i reilffyrdd ond wedi'i sicrhau o ganlyniad i bwysau gan wrthbleidiau.

Bydd cerbydau newydd ar reilffordd y Cambrian a rheilffordd Calon Cymru'n lliniaru'r problemau peryglus o ran gorlenwi.

Bydd ymrwymiad i osod dolennau goddiweddyd ar reilffordd y Cambrian yn sicrhau gwasanaeth bob awr—a rhaid cael dolennau, yn y Borth a Chaersws yn ôl pob tebyg.

Mae'r rheilffordd hon yn perfformio'n rhagorol o ran y twf yn nifer y teithwyr o flwyddyn i flwyddyn, sef 7 y cant y flwyddyn ar gyfartaledd, gyda hanner miliwn o deithwyr y flwyddyn, ac mae'n darparu trafnidiaeth i ardal y mae ei phoblogaeth ar gynnydd ac sydd wedi'i hynysu, yng nghyd-destun trafnidiaeth, ac yn cael ei gwasanaethu gan ffyrdd gwael.

Er mwyn gweld hyn yn ei wir oleuni, byddai cost gosod y dolennau hynny'n cyfateb i gost chwarter milltir o draffordd.

Cafwyd ymrwymiad i osod y dolennau hynny pan oedd Sue Essex yn Weinidog a chanddi gyfrifoldeb dros drafnidiaeth. Yn rhyfedd iawn, rhoddodd swyddogion Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru wybod i'r Pwyllgor Datblygu Economaidd a Thrafnidiaeth wedyn fod hynny wedi troi'n ddyhead yn unig.

Mae hynny'n golygu bod eich Llywodraeth, eich locomotif, yn symud yn ei hôl i lawr y lein, ac yr ydym yn mynd wysg ein cefn. Gwrthdroad o'r union fath hwnnw sydd yn creu'r angen inni ffurfio pwyllgor.

Mae'r negodiadau ar y gyllideb wedi arwain at sawl datblygiad buddiol ar gyfer rheilffyrdd yng Nghymru a rhaid inni hyrwyddo'r rhain ymhellach. Anogwn y Llywodraeth i sicrhau na fydd unrhyw oedi pellach wrth osod y contractau, y cyfeiriasoch atynt, ar gyfer ailagor rheilffordd Glynebwy.

Y peth cyfrifol fyddai i'ch Llywodraeth roi adroddiadau rheolaidd ar gynnydd ar y prosiect hwnnw. Dyna pam y mae arnom angen pwyllgor o'r fath.

Weinidog, gadewch imi'ch cyfeirio at sylwadau a wnaethoch yn Ionawr 2003: 'Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru yn… ymrwymedig i system rheilffyrdd effeithlon a dibynadwy yng Nghymru, ac mae cryn gefnogaeth i hyn ymhlith y cyhoedd.'

Os ydych yn credu o ddifrif yr hyn a ddywedasoch bryd hynny, ac yn barod i sefyll dros eich egwyddorion, ac yr wyf yn gobeithio mai dyn felly ydych, byddwch yn sicr o gefnogi ein cynnig heddiw.

Yn olaf, yr wyf yn gofyn ichi gofio mai'ch gwaith chi yw galw'ch Llywodraeth eich hun i gyfrif. Dyna pam yr ydych yma a dyna pam yr ydym i gyd yma."

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