Escalating Petrol Prices Strengthen Station Case

The rapid rise in fuel prices over the last few years considerably strengthens the financial case for the opening of new railway stations, according to research by Carno Station Action Group. The business cases for Carno and Bow Street stations recently completed by Capita Symonds for TraCC are founded on Department of Transport advice that the real price of petrol – ie the retail price corrected for inflation – rises at only 0.2% a year, whereas in fact it has gone up at an average of 3% a year over the last nine years.

CSAG chairman Tony Burton said: “The future price of petrol obviously has a significant effect on the fuel cost savings enjoyed by drivers who transfer to the train. Based on the £1.30/litre price of petrol in 2011 and a conservative 2% annual rise of petrol prices into the future, we calculate that the fuel savings gained by users of Carno and Bow Street stations over their notional 60 year lives would be at least half as much again compared with those estimated in the Capita Symonds report. In the case of Carno, this alone would raise the station financial benefit by one fifth.”

On the cost side, Carno Station Action Group point to the use of unrealistically high station operating costs as detracting from the station business cases. A figure of £35,000 per year has been used for each station – enough to employ a full-time stationmaster at each, when the stations are intended to be unstaffed! By comparison, the business case for the proposed Energlyn station near Caerphilly, which is to have two platforms, quotes an operating cost of only £23,500 per year. No evidence has been provided to support the £35,000 per year station operating cost figure and CSAG believe that the cost should be half this at most, in view of the small size and rural situation of each station.

The value for money of transport projects is measured by the ratio of the benefits to the costs – the Benefit Cost Ratio. If proper allowance were made for rising petrol prices and a realistic station operating cost of £17,500 per annum adopted, the Benefit Cost Ratio for Carno station would rise from 1.15 to 1.60. Tony Burton commented “These figures speak for themselves. We look to TraCC and our elected Assembly Members to set out the case to the Minister, Carl Sergeant, as he prepares his revised National Transport Plan. The inclusion of Carno and Bow Street stations in the Plan would clearly demonstrate the Welsh Government’s commitment to sustainable transport.”

Detailed Business Case Completed And Approved

The detailed Business Case for Carno Station was completed by Capita Symonds at the end of May and approved by the TraCC Board for submission to the Welsh Assembly Government. The TraCC Press Release issued on July 8th, 2011, is reproduced below.

TRACC PRESS RELEASE

At its meeting on 25th May, the TraCC Board approved the WelTAG (transport appraisal) Report on the proposals to open two new railway stations at Bow Street (near Aberystwyth, Ceredigion) and Carno (Powys).  The transport appraisal work follows successful petitioning of the National Assembly for Wales by representatives of the local community in Carno (2007) and the completion of the TraCC Rail Utilisation Study by Capita Symonds (2010), the latter identifying Bow Street also as a potential location for a station.  In the case of Carno, TraCC undertook to complete the business case initially developed in draft form by the Carno Station Action Group (CSAG).  The final WelTAG Report is considered robust, both in terms of meeting industry standards on assessment, and in terms of addressing issues raised by local community groups. The Report demonstrates a high Benefit Cost Ratio of 2.2 for a Bow Street station and in the case of Carno, the corresponding Benefit Cost Ratio is lower because of the smaller population, but, as with Bow Street, the report identifies important additional social benefits, such as improving access to employment and reducing social exclusion.Having worked closely with representatives of the two local communities, TraCC has now requested a meeting to present the final Report to Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Local Government and Communities and seeks for both new stations to be included in the Welsh Government’s Rail Forward Programme.

Councillor Trevor Roberts, Chair of TraCC adds: ‘TraCC has responded positively to the request of the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Learning Committee and has completed the WelTAG Report. The final Report clearly demonstrates that there is a strong case for the Welsh Government and Rail Industry in Wales to include plans for these two new stations in their future investment programmes and I would urge them to do so at their earliest opportunity.’ 

Assembly Gives Go-Ahead For Detailed Business Case

Members of Carno Station Action Group were delighted to learn at the end of April 2010 that the detailed study of the case for Carno Station – WelTAG Stage 2 – is to go ahead shortly. Carno station performed well among the various improvement schemes considered in the recently completed Rail Utilisation Study commissioned by TraCC, the Regional Transport Consortium for Mid-Wales, with the result that TraCC recommended that it go forward for detailed appraisal.

In accepting TraCC’s recommendation, senior officers from the Welsh Assembly Government attending a meeting in Newtown on April 27th said that the detailed study would start as soon as possible, and be carried out over the summer. They added that they would like to see a dialogue between CSAG and the consultants carrying out the appraisal, to take advantage of the work CSAG had already done. Once the study was finished, the Welsh Assembly Government would be in a position to decide whether to include the station in its Rail Forward programme.

Following this, the Deputy First Minister has written to the Chair of the Enterprise and Learning Committee, Gareth Jones, to update him on progress with the Carno Station business case, the development of which was the Committee’s key recommendation, after its hearing in Carno in September 2007. Ieuan Wyn Jones wrote: “The next step now is to move into a more detailed business case, referred to as WelTAG Stage Two, which will provide sufficient information to inform an investment decision in the future. This more detailed business case is about to start and should be concluded during autumn 2010.”

Carno Station Action Group Chairman, Tony Burton, commented “This is a real step forward and the group is very happy to see this work going ahead at long last. TraCC and the Welsh Assembly Government are to be congratulated on their swift response to the Rail Utilisation Study. Although there are still several hurdles to cross, it seems that the group’s optimism, as expressed by the mobile “Gorsaf Carno ‘nawr” sign in the village, has been justified after all.”

Carno residents joined members of the Action Group and Assembly Member Mick Bates to celebrate this important milestone at a coffee morning held in Carno Community Centre on Saturday May 8th.

Outline Carno Station Business Case Completed By Capita Symonds

Capita Symonds completed their Mid Wales Rail Utilisation Study for TraCC in April 2010. This considered a range of potential improvements to rail services and facilities, including the provision of new stations.  Each scheme was evaluated on a common basis, with an outline business case being developed in accordance with Stage 1 of the Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG).

 

The WelTAG Stage 1 appraisal of Carno station predicted that the new station would generate about 6300 new trips per annum, significantly more than the figure predicted in the Carno Transport Appraisal (3700). The capital cost of a new station with a 97 m long platform suitable for 4 car trains was estimated at £0.95 m, which is in line with the £1.0 m figure assumed in the Carno Transport Appraisal.

 

The appraisal included an estimate of financial Benefit Cost Ratio in terms of the projected fare revenue divided by the sum of station capital and operating costs, with all revenues and costs discounted back to a common datum year.  However, application of an uplift of 50% to the station capital cost – in order to account for “optimism bias” – reduced the Benefit Cost Ratio to 0.75. The additional revenue accruing to Carno station from existing rail journeys abstracted from Caersws was not included.

WelTAG calls for Transport Economic Efficiency to be measured in terms of User Benefits – eg time savings and vehicle operating cost savings – rather than ticket revenues, but quantitative assessment of Transport Economic Efficiency is only required at Stage 2 of the WelTAG process.

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.

High Hopes For Station’s Inclusion In Regional Transport Plan

“THE RAILWAY IS HERE – WHY NOT LET PEOPLE USE IT”

 

Members of the Carno Station Action Group, who are campaigning for the re-opening of Carno Station, are eagerly awaiting the publication of the draft Regional Transport Plan, which is expected to go out to public consultation in late September. The draft Plan is being prepared by TraCC, the Mid Wales Transport Consortium, and will include a detailed programme of schemes to be implemented in the 5 years to 2014.

Carno Station Action Group submitted their pioneering draft Carno Transport Appraisal to TraCC in July. It was drawn up following the Deputy First Minister’s recommendation last November that the Group should contribute to the development of a formal business case for the station through engagement with TraCC.

The appraisal investigated the costs and benefits of three options for improving access to train services for residents of Carno and the area to the West – re-opening Carno station, a shuttle minibus to Caersws station and the re-routing of the existing bus service via Caersws station. The principal benefits of the station option are savings in travel time, vehicle operating cost and road accidents, with an overall Benefit Cost Ratio of about 2.0, which is far better than that for the other options. The £1 million station cost estimate used in the Appraisal has since been confirmed by the costs reported for the new Mitcham Eastfields station opened in June, where two 8 car platforms, each about twice the length of the single platform required at Carno, cost £3.6 m.

Given the strong case made for Carno Station re-opening in the Appraisal, the Action Group is optimistic that Carno Station will be selected for inclusion in the Regional Transport Plan 5 year programme. Tony Burton, Chairman of the Group, said:

“The benefits of re-opening the station are pretty obvious to most people now. It would open up job opportunities for Carno residents without the need for long car commutes, assist the redevelopment of the moribund Laura Ashley site, facilitate shopping trips and journeys to hospital, revolutionise getting about for those without a car and encourage sustainable travel.

Clearly it would mesh with the aims of the Wales Spatial Plan and help fulfil one of the three themes of the Wales Transport Strategy “Connecting the Nation”, which is “to achieve greater use of the more sustainable and healthy forms of travel.”

Re-opening the station would chime with the mood of the times. As petrol prices rise and road congestion makes driving more frustrating, people are looking for an alternative. The railway is already here – why not let people use it?”

Carno Transport Appraisal completed and handed over to TraCC

Members of the Carno Station Action Group, who are campaigning to reopen Carno Station, are celebrating a major landmark in their campaign after completing a full appraisal of their project for formal consideration by local authorities and the Welsh Assembly Government. Tony Burton, chairman of Carno Station Action Group, said “We believe this is a really significant step in our campaign to reopen our station”.

Last year, the Enterprise and Learning Committee of the National Assembly for Wales considered the bid to reopen Carno Station and asked for a formal business case to be developed. Since then, Carno Station Action Group has been working hard to produce a draft business case in the form laid down by the new Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance. The result, entitled the Carno Transport Appraisal, has now been submitted to TraCC, the consortium of local authorities which implements the Welsh Assembly Government’s transport strategy in Mid Wales. At 3.00 pm on Tuesday 1 July, 2008 the Action Group formally handed the document over to Councillor Gwilym Evans, Chairman of TraCC, at Powys County Hall.

Tony Burton hands over the Carno Transport Appraisal to Councillor Gwilym Evans, Chairman of TraCC outisde County Hall
Tony Burton hands over the Carno Transport Appraisal to Councillor Gwilym Evans, Chairman of TraCC outside County Hall

 

Councillor Evans thanked the Action Group for their hard work in putting the draft appraisal together, and noted that the timing of its submission could hardly be better, as the TraCC board was holding the first meeting of its new session a few days later, on Friday July 4th.  He assured the group that the document would receive close scrutiny.

 

Another view of the handover
Another view of the handover

Tony Burton went on to say “We have followed Welsh Assembly Government Guidance in full in drafting this document for TraCC, looking at economic, social and environmental impacts and examining alternative proposals.” This will be the first transport project in Mid Wales to have had such an appraisal.

 

He added “The completion of the document is a considerable achievement. We now hope that the reopening of the station will be built into the Regional Transport Plan. Carno is a rapidly growing village which is losing its post office and is in danger of losing its school. We look forward to some good news on the station.”

CSAG puts case to Montgomeryshire Shire Committee

The Shire Committee invited Tony Burton to its January 9th meeting to set out the case for re-opening and to report on the exciting developments this year, following the presentation of the Action Group’s petition to the National Assembly. He explained that the core of the Action Group’s case was the sustainable regeneration of Carno in the wake of the Laura Ashley factory closure three years ago. Station re-opening would make job opportunities as far afield as Telford and Aberystwyth accessible to Carno residents and would dramatically improve the prospects of redeveloping the moribund factory site. Housing development on the site would be sustainable, in marked contrast to much new housing in the county in the past, because residents would not be dependent on private transport.

 

The Shire Committee heard that Carno Station Action Group had carried out a detailed demand forecast for the station, which predicted that it would attract about 11,000 passenger journeys a year. The estimated additional annual revenue of £25,000 taken over 60 years would yield a Present Value of £900,000 after discounting, which was well over double the probable cost of a single platform station based on the Eastfields precedent. The way forward charted by the Assembly’s Enterprise and Learning Committee was the preparation of a formal business case and the Action Group were now going to work in conjunction with TraCC, the Mid Wales Transport Consortium, to develop this.

Enterprise & Learning Committee questions Minister – NOV 14TH TRANSCRIPT

 

Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru – The National Assembly for Wales

Y Pwyllgor Menter a Dysgu – The Enterprise and Learning Committee

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

 

Craffu ar Ymatebion Ysgrifenedig y Gweinidog a Network Rail i Adroddiad y Pwyllgor ar ei Drafodaethau ynghylch Deiseb i Ailagor Gorsaf Reilffordd Carno

 

Scrutiny of the Minister’s and Network Rail’s Written Responses to the Committee’s Report on its Consideration of the Petition to Reopen Carno Railway Station

 

[284] Gareth Jones: I remind you that we have received papers: paper 3, which was prepared by the minister, and paper 3a, which is Network Rail’s response to the report and to recommendation 6. We have little time, and I hope that we can be as concise as possible, but this is an important matter.

[285] I will give you the background in brief, or remind you of it. The committee considered a petition to reopen Carno railway station in a public meeting in Carno on 4 September. Having evaluated the evidence, the committee laid its report before the Assembly on 27 September. The Minister provided his written response before the date specified by Standing Orders for the committee to scrutinise its decisions. Network Rail has also provided its response to recommendation 6, which was directed at the company. This is the scrutiny session. We welcome back Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Deputy First Minister and Minister for the Economy and Transport. Would you be kind enough to give a short presentation in accordance with your comments on this matter? We will then have an opportunity to question you on some aspects of your comments.

 

[286] The Deputy First Minister: Tim James has joined me from the department to answer any technical questions arising from the report. I welcome the opportunity to respond to your report. I realise that this is part of a new process in the Assembly for submitting petitions to the Petitions Committee. This petition was transferred to you and you drafted a report and I have responded to it. I feel that this is an important part of our work as a Government in responding to the needs of communities, when we are able to do so – it does not always mean that we can give the response that the committee or the petitioners would wish, but I feel that it is an important part of our new processes. It is important that people have a method by which they can present the concerns of their communities to the Assembly and to the Government and that we can respond. I do not know whether it would be of any benefit for me to make any specific presentation on the report as your report has received quite a full response from my officials and me. I am quite happy to answer any questions arising from the recommendations and the response.

 

[287] Gareth Jones: I welcome the people from Carno who are in the public gallery today. This session gives us an opportunity to ask questions about the contents of your paper.

 

[288] Kirsty Williams: Thank you for your response, Minister, although I am sure that you would agree that it is not what people in Carno would have liked it to be. I have questions about two of the recommendations specifically. You have given assurances that the selection of Talerddig, rather than Carno, as the passing loop site does not prejudice the potential opening of a station of Carno. However, in terms of having an hourly service, there must be time for the trains to travel from one passing loop to the next within 30 minutes. Can you assure us that that will still be possible with the inclusion of a stop at Carno? If it is not, that demonstrates that you are not correct in saying that selecting Talerddig has not compromised the situation at Carno.

[289] Your recommendation 3 mentions passive provision for a single-platform station. What is the nature of the passive provision for the station in Carno? You state that the optimum site for the new station is not yet known. Would common sense not tell you that it is likely to be the site of the original station?

[290] On recommendation 7, there is grave concern that ‘New Stations: A Guide for Promoters’ lays down very high standards. No-one wants to compromise on safety, but it talks about two-platform stations costing between £5 million and £7 million in 2004. My understanding is that the current station at Llanharan is being built for only £4.3 million, even though it includes a very expensive footbridge that complies with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, which is completely necessary. Do you not share my concerns, and those of people living in rural Wales, that there is a danger that setting unnecessarily high standards for new stations may price them out of existence? Do you not think that there is scope for the Welsh Assembly Government to look at the Welsh situation differently, given the nature of our country? Perhaps we could produce our own Welsh version of a new station guide, given the nature of Wales and also the Government’s stated commitment to climate change and sustainable development.

 

[291] 11.30 a.m.

 

[292] The Deputy First Minister: There are some quite technical issues there, which I will ask Tim to come to in a minute. However, my understanding is-and it has always been on this basis-that the work that has been carried out under the contract does not compromise the future of provision of a station in Carno. That is my understanding, and I want to give that reassurance again that the work that is currently being done, and the way that it is being done, does not compromise the provision of a station in Carno at some future point. That is the first thing that you asked for.

[293] Your second point related to the Cambrian line infrastructure enhancement project providing passive provision, which is in my response. A technical feasibility study would be needed to understand all of the issues that are set out there, which would be compliance to engineering standards, compliance to the DDA, ownership and availability of land, safety standards, and so on. It is important for us to accept that there is a minimum standard that has to be achieved in the provision of safety. If we compromised on those, people who would expect that certain safety standards were met would criticise us for not meeting those standards in particular areas where we have asked others to meet those standards. So, we must have a common standard form. The issue about whether they should be different in Wales as compared with England is a difficult one, because we would not want to compromise safety standards in Wales at all. We need to bear that in mind.

[294] Tim, I would like you to come in on the passive provision, but, I would like to make a more general point first. The reality is that, as a Government, we are very committed to the provision of public transport, which includes rail. We want to make it as easy as possible to use those services. A number of criteria have to be met. We are saying that the door is not closed on a station in Carno; we now need to look at a possible business case, which can be presented to the regional consortium and can then be considered in the normal way through that procedure.

 

[295] Mr James: I will respond to Kirsty’s question about what passive provision means. Essentially, the line is being resignalled, and there is a capability within that design to allow a station to be located somewhere in Carno. So, it does not preclude it. There is no need to go back to the drawing board and spend money on a complicated design process.

[296] Picking up on some of the other points, as the Minister has said, high standards need to be maintained for railway stations. If you look at the document that you have referred to, the Strategic Rail Authority guide to stations, it says that:

[297] ‘The promotion of a new station proposal will involve a number of industry participants. Before a proposal can proceed the support of the rail industry must be obtained.’

[298] The industry extends beyond Wales. However, we have seen this guidance note used effectively in Wales, where six new stations are opening on the Ebbw Vale line, and in Llanharan and Abercynon. So, as a guidance document, it can be useful. Clearly, parts of it are out of date. It may be of some comfort to the committee to know that the Department for Transport is currently rewriting this document to bring it up to date, and is taking advice from us in the process.

 

[299] Kirsty Williams: The concern is that the Minister’s response relies heavily on that document, which gives quite large figures for the development of stations, which perhaps bear no resemblance to reality-the Minister is saying that we have a limited budget and the document says that a new station would cost us a certain amount, but, in reality, stations are being built for less than would be indicated by the design guide, and not to a lesser standard; they simply come in cheaper. I would hate to think that we were prejudicing the case because we are relying on outdated or outmoded figures. Our experience tells us different.

 

[300] Mr James: At Carno, when I gave the original evidence, I quoted the Llanharan figure of between £4 million and £5 million as a likely maximum cost for Carno. I would like to assure you that we are not gold-plating any potential costs.

 

[301] Gareth Jones: Thank you for that information, which is important and central to the matter of reopening the station.

 

[302] Jeff Cuthbert: Thank you for this fairly positive response. Carno is not in my constituency, obviously, but I feel involved because I was one of the Assembly Members who attended the hearing, and I take a particular interest in the development of the railway network, which I regard as probably the key form of land-based transport, especially for passengers. That does demand, of course, that it stops to pick people up in population centres. Clearly, in that part of mid Wales, Carno is such a centre of population, so it seemed an obvious and welcome proposal.

[303] I note that you are encouraging greater involvement with the local transport consortium-I hope that that happens. Would you give positive encouragement to the transport consortia to engage with the residents of Carno-the petitioners-so that a decent business case can be put together? Like Kirsty-or rather, her now-empty chair-I accept that safety has to be paramount and that any new station, or the remains of the old station there, which would seem the ideal location, has to be DDA compliant, and has to have adequate lighting and so on, although I am quite sure that there are grounds for questioning the estimated £5 million for its construction. I am not saying that the cost would be as low as the £0.5 million that the petitioners believe it could be built for, but there has to be some movement somewhere.

[304] In its approach to the matter, Network Rail insisted, if memory serves me, that a footbridge had to be built over the existing line. Having said that, we did this the wrong way round in that we heard that before we actually went to have a look at the site. When we got to the site, we saw that the existing arrangement of a level crossing with half barriers on the road was working quite normally. I was able to walk back and forth over it many times without any threat to my life, and I dare say that the train slows down and there would be warnings. A footbridge would mean substantial expenditure; I do not see the justification for that, especially as the platform, if built, would be on the side of the centre of population. So, when we take these things into account, it could be that the actual construction costs would be far less than originally anticipated. Those are the sorts of issues that could be looked at by the transport consortium, in negotiation with Network Rail and others, in drawing up a business plan.

 

[305] The Deputy First Minister: Yes, that is the case. If the business case comes forward, then they need to reflect on your comments-I am sure that they will read the comments and the Record of Proceedings for this committee with interest when they form their case.

[306] When you say ‘encouragement’, there is encouragement there for the local community to positively contribute towards the process, as we say in our report in response, through engagement with Trafnidiaeth Canolbarth Cymru. Then, of course, the business case will come forward for consideration. The original recommendation was that I would ask my officials to provide support to the action group. We are saying that that is best delivered in discussion with TraCC, because we need to look at regional priorities as well, bearing in mind your points about construction. If the business case comes up with a proposal, then we would look at it, although I cannot give any commitments, financial or otherwise, at this stage. Tim, do you want to add to that?

 

[307] Mr James: Just to say that TraCC is one of the consortia putting together regional transport plans, and we would look to see Carno as a priority within such a plan, so that it can be considered along with the other consortia in the round. TraCC can help Carno with making a business case that fits the Assembly government’s appraisal criteria.

11.40 a.m.

 

[308] David Melding: I am still a bit confused. It seems that recommendation 4 was the key one in that this committee felt that a formal business plan should be submitted and that support would be needed for that. I cannot determine whether a business case will be presented yet; the officials tell us about the regional procedures, but is there a business case currently under construction on whether there should be a station at Carno? That is not the responsibility of the Carno Station Action Group, because I agree with the recommendation that it should be the consortia-the Assembly, Arriva Trains, and Network Rail. Therefore, are those organisations consulting the Carno Station Action Group, and are they working on a business plan for a station at Carno? We need a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to that. I note that Network Rail’s response is that it does not consider that an appropriate business case exists for a new station at the site, but that, if a third party were to submit a business case for its reopening, it would be assessed by Network Rail. It seems completely disassociated from the process-that is what concerns me.

 

[309] Mr James: On whether a business case exists, the answer is ‘no’. However, one is being worked on; I am aware that the action group has contacted TraCC and has asked for its help. We told TraCC that it should lead the process, and that the people of Carno should help to provide evidence for that business case, along the lines of the Welsh transport appraisal guidance, which sets a clear framework for appraising projects. Therefore, the current answer is that it is in progress-it is probably in its early days.

[310] On Network Rail’s position, it is stated that Network Rail would not be prepared to fund the station itself. However, there is a window for third-party funding, so, if there is a business case, and if it is a priority, then it is something that we can do because we have the powers to do that under the Railways Act 2005.

 

[311] Gareth Jones: As one of the Members who was present in Carno at that crucial meeting, I am pleased to hear you say, Minister, that, whatever we write in our letter to you, or to the Petitions Committee, if that content is positive and gives support, then that you would seriously consider that.

[312] I accept that this is not a business case as you would normally require, Minister, but, as a mark of respect to the action group in Carno, I believe that it is to be warmly congratulated on the way in which it has presented this case to us, and to the Assembly. Its objectives in relation to the community and what it expects in terms of development in this part of mid Wales are in line with our objectives and aspirations as the Welsh Assembly Government. Getting all of that in line with a successful business plan is another matter.

[313] However, I can reassure those people from Carno who are here that we as a committee thank them for the work that they have carried out. We recognise their sincerity and aspirations, as well as their expertise in this matter, and their aspirations. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all members of this committee when I say that we will be declaring our support for what they wish to see, namely the reopening of the station in Carno.

[314] I remind you, therefore, that we will be writing to the Chair of the Petitions Committee, as a result of this session. I thank you, Minister, for joining us, and for your comments. We wish this action group all the best; it is carrying out good work for the community in Carno.

 

[315] The Deputy First Minister: Thank you.

Action Group Goes To Cardiff For Questioning Of Minister

Fifteen members of Carno Station Action Group travelled to the National Assembly on Wednesday November 14th to see the Minister of Economy and Transport answer questions on plans for Carno Station re-opening. The Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was being scrutinised by the Enterprise and Learning Committee on his responses to their recommendations following their hearing in Carno.

Group Members on steps of National Assembly
Group Members on steps of National Assembly

One of the key recommendations of the Enterprise and Learning Committee was that Carno Station Action Group develop and submit a formal business case with support from the Minister’s officials. However, the Minister’s view was that it was the rôle of TraCC, the Mid Wales Transport Planning Consortium, to develop business cases for transport infrastructure and he replied that Carno Station Action Group could best contribute towards this process by working with them.

 

The Minister confirmed that the selection of Talerddig rather than Carno as the passing loop site for the hourly service would not prejudice the re-opening of the station at Carno at a future date.

Members of the Committee were concerned about the high costs of new stations and queried whether the standards called for in the Department of Transport publication “New Stations – A Guide for Promoters” were appropriate for Wales, in view of its unique commitment to promote sustainability. There was recognition of the danger that setting unnecessarily high standards for new stations would price many of them out of existence altogether.

Tony Burton, Chairman of Carno Station Action Group, commented “It was a very worthwhile day. The Enterprise and Learning Committee examined our initial case thoroughly and helped to give it credibility. Yesterday we saw them in action getting clarity on the Minister’s responses to their recommendations. The Minister did not said yes, but he did not said no. The door is now open for us to make a formal case.”