CSAG Travel To Senedd To Highlight Business Case Delay

The Petitioners for the re-opening of Carno Station travelled to the National Assembly on June 24th to mark the second anniversary of the handover of their petition to the Presiding Officer and to express their frustration at the delay to the completion of the station business case.

Members of the National Assembly Enterprise and Learning Committee met the delegation from Carno informally at an event at the Senedd yesterday hosted by Montgomeryshire AM Mick Bates. The Assembly Members heard how the completion of the formal business case for the re-opening of Carno Station called for by the committee had been stalled by official inaction over the past year.

Chairman of the Carno Station Action Group, Tony Burton, said “There was tremendous progress in the first year after we handed in the petition. The Enterprise and Learning Committee came to Carno to hold a hearing and concluded that a formal business case should be developed. The Deputy First Minister endorsed this and pointed to TraCC, the Mid Wales Transport Consortium, as the body to carry out the work. The WAG Head of Rail said they would look to see Carno as a priority within the 5 year Regional Transport Plan, and encouraged our group to contribute to the business case by providing evidence to TraCC. So we got busy and prepared a draft over the first six months of 2008, submitting it to TraCC on July 1st

The 62 page document, entitled the Draft Carno Transport Appraisal, was prepared along the lines of the Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG), as recommended by WAG.

Since then, nothing has happened. TraCC have done no work to complete the formal document that the Enterprise and Learning Committee called for, citing lack of funding for consultants to assess and amend the Action Group’s draft.

The petitioners told the AM’s they felt that the powers-that-be had let them down badly. Tony Burton said “The Petition system itself is a fine innovation by the National Assembly, but it means little if there is no follow-through from the various branches of government involved. We look to the Deputy First Minister to break the logjam and get the business case moving again. It needs to be finished in time to provide input into the Regional Transport Plan 5 year programme – ie by late autumn.”

The AM’s present agreed that the current situation was quite unsatisfactory. Gareth Jones (Chair of the Enterprise and Learning Committee) was clearly distressed to learn that his committee’s call for a formal business case – endorsed by WAG – had so far come to naught and promised to take the matter up with the Deputy First Minister to try and get things moving. Other AM’s present proposed that the Enterprise and Learning Committee should invite TraCC to a scrutiny session to answer questions. It was recognised that this needed to be quite soon, if there was to be any chance of getting the Business Case completed in time to be an input to the final version of the Regional Transport Plan (RTP) in September.

The group had a separate meeting with Nicholas Bourne, leader of the Conservative Group in the Assembly and a Regional AM for Mid and West Wales. He said the campaign had his full support and that he would write to the Deputy First Minister on the issue. He also said he was meeting Ray Quant, the TraCC Chairman, in early July to discuss the delay to the Business Case.

Later in the afternoon, the group met with Tim James, who gave evidence as WAG Head of Rail at the E&LC Scrutiny session on November 14th, 2007. He has recently returned to WAG as Director of Integrated Public Transport. He confirmed that WAG had asked TraCC to lead the process of developing the Carno Station Business Case and expressed disappointment at TraCC’s failure to take CSAG’s draft document forward.

The group asked whether, in view of TraCC’s lack of resources, WAG officials could carry out the work needed to complete the business case, but he said they were suffering from staff shortages. However, he offered to arrange a meeting between WAG, TraCC and CSAG to chart a way forward and this meeting has since been fixed for August 6th.