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Wales should own and run its railways; & COMMENT DEBATE YOUR LETTERS TO THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPER OF WALES.

SIR - I read the Western Mail editorial comment on the rail franchise fiasco with great interest and while it is all to the good that we realise as never before how flawed the whole franchise system is, I cannot agree with your reluctance to go along with the RMT's call for a return to public ownership ("Civil Service has to get back on track after going off the rails in franchise fiasco", Feb 26).

The editorial states that travellers will "shudder at the same bureaucrats attempting to run trains on time." Well, it really depends on the kind of public ownership regime.

Most of us would now agree that British Rail's problems stemmed from decades of Labour and Conservative neglect of rail transport - to the point that, prior to privatisation, some lines were facing closure because the track and signalling were unsafe through years of neglect - "sweating the assets" was the euphemism. Dereliction of duty on the part of government, I would call it.

I sense a growing acceptance in Wales of a plan formulated by the three branches of Railfuture Cymru, a volunteer campaigning and research group, to return the Welsh rail network to public ownership at the expiry of Arriva Trains Wales' franchise.

Last October, I attended a national rail conference in Cardiff to consider the options for the future - and I am glad to say that most of us, including the minister, Carl Sergeant, were highly impressed by the idea of a not-for-dividend Rail Wales (or whatever name) owned by the Welsh Government but - and it is an important but - run at arm's-length by professional railway staff with not just adequate finance and investment but also an agreed "mission statement" to which all Welsh political parties will subscribe to: that they provide us with a top class, modern rail network, integrated with long-distance buses and local tram services, electrified completely (eventually) and answerable to the Government and, thereby, the nation.

And "not-for-dividend" means that any profits remain within the industry. Ideally, as our Railfuture plan states, our Rail Wales would be vertically integrated: that is, Rail Wales would also control the track and signalling, though with separate accounting as per EU law.

The above is possible - if our own Government has the determination to bring this about and if the Westminster Government accepts such a democratic decision on behalf of Wales. The railways in both parts of Ireland have always been run this way - nationalised and run in a way that does not conflict with EU laws.

Let us make England envy us for our well run, attractive public transport systems.

JOHN D ROGERS Chairman, south branch of Railfuture Cymru
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 27, 2013
Words:443
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