Devolution of the Valley Lines: what the ORR is doing

By Nick Layt, Senior Manager, Consumer Policy & Compliance - Planning & operations.

8 July 2019

In October 2018 Transport for Wales Rail Services (TfW) started running passenger services on the Wales and Borders franchise, an event that heralded the start of a planned transformation of the service for passengers.

In time, passengers will see new services, new trains and upgraded stations. One plan is to transform the valleys lines from Cardiff to destinations including Treherbert, Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil. To make this happen work is going on to allow Network Rail to transfer ownership of this part of the network to the Welsh Government where it will be managed by the network operator selected as part of the franchise competition. This will then become one of the few areas where rail services transfer between two railway networks during their journey - running on Network Rail south of Cardiff before switching to TfW infrastructure near Queen Street.

Before services can start running, it is the ORR’s job to be sure that the selected network operator meets the safety requirements, has the necessary licence and all access agreements with operators are in place. Across ORR, teams are working to ensure that regulatory authorisations are in place for the transfer to take place in September. Things we need to consider include ensuring that track and train are not run by the same company (as required by European Law), and that access is granted to all operators who wish to operate on the network, including freight and charter operators.

Meanwhile, our economists are working with TfW and the network operator to consider issues such as how penalties will be applied if a late running train on the valleys line delays services on Network Rail infrastructure.

Finally, some of the money that Network Rail was allocated to run the Wales route will transfer to the new network operator, so we need to be sure that Network Rail will still have enough funding to deliver its stated obligations on the rest of the Wales and Border network.

As TfW says – the journey has just begun. For more information see TfW's plans.