Transport

A new direction of travel for Wales?

21 September 2015

Article by Andrew Minnis, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

National Transport Finance Plan 2015 report cover

The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport will make a statement on the new National Transport Finance Plan 2015 on Tuesday 22nd September.

I’ve prepared this post to give a little bit of background on the development and purpose of the plan, and what the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport has said about it so far.

Background

The first National Transport Plan was published in 2010 and expired in April 2015.

A consultation draft of the new plan, referred to simply as the draft National Transport Plan, was published for consultation between December and March 2015.

After consideration of consultation responses the final (renamed) National Transport and Finance Plan 2015 was published on 16 July 2015.

The plan makes clear that it is “not a policy document”. Rather the Wales Transport Strategy (the strategy) “sets out the policy framework”, while the plan itself lists “the schemes Welsh Government will deliver across the different areas of transport policy for which for which it is responsible”.

Published in 2008, this statutory strategy sets out how the Welsh Government intends to achieve its social, economic and environmental objectives by pursuing five strategic priorities (reduced greenhouse gas / environmental impact, transport integration, improved access to key settlements and sites, improved international connectivity, and increased safety).

Consultation on the draft plan

The Welsh Government received 161 responses to the consultation and published a summary of consultation responses.

This says that respondents were generally supportive of its content. However, a significant number of issues were raised ranging from its presentation (the structure / length of the plan), to issues with the substance of the plan including:

  • The need for clearer links between the plan and the strategy, particularly on the environment;
  • Differing views on priorities for interventions (for example road v. rail); and
  • Concerns about timescales and funding availability.
  • Full details of the issues raised and the Welsh Government’s response are included in the summary.

The Finalised Plan.

The finalised plan was published in two documents (the plan itself and a separate document containing information on the context and evidence base).

The plan says its purpose is to:

Provide the timescale for financing schemes undertaken by the Welsh Government;

Provide the timescale for delivering these schemes and detail the estimated expenditure required to deliver the schemes;

Identify the likely source of financing to allow delivery to take place.

Annex A comprises a delivery schedule for about 110 revenue and capital initiatives, some of which are subdivided into multiple parts. Schemes fall into two timescales:

  • Schemes for delivery between April 2015 to March 2020; and
  • Schemes for delivery “in the medium term” (beyond April 2020).Part 4 describes the sources of funding available for delivery. A range of public and private funding sources are identified. However, with the exception of the ERDF projects, details of funding for individual schemes are not provided.
  • Annex B provides details of those schemes which are to be funded under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with indicative costs and sources of match funding.

The summary of consultation responses refers to the fact that:

The final Plan will include a commitment to meaningful monitoring and evaluation and the delivery schedule will be kept under regular review to ensure it continues to achieve the best outcomes and value for money in support of the final Plan aspirations.

However, while the consultation draft included a section on monitoring and evaluation, this is omitted from the final plan.

What the Minister said about the Plan

The Minister’s written statement, published with the plan, said it “strikes a good balance between major road investments, improvements to the public transport system, and encouraging sustainable travel”.

It said the delivery profile is not fixed:

each scheme may be subject to change for a variety of reasons such as a result of the statutory processes that are undertaken, future budgetary settlements or changes in innovation. We will need to be responsive to changing circumstances and therefore the plan will be regularly updated and published so that everyone has clear sight of the progress of our programme.

It also highlighted the fact that the plan includes a programme for action in non-devolved areas, and also areas where agreement on further devolution has been reached with UK Government but powers have not yet passed to the Assembly or Welsh Ministers:

Since the responsibility for rail infrastructure in Wales is non-devolved, the Plan includes commitments to continue to press UK Government and Network Rail to invest in the rail network. Electrification and modernisation of the rail network will bring significant potential to introduce transformational change to the transport system in Wales.

As well as targeting infrastructure improvements, the Plan includes proposals to prepare the ground to take on board responsibility for specifying and awarding the next Wales and Borders franchise.