The Welsh Co-operative Party was pleased to be able to second a motion from ASLEF, the rail union, at the recent Welsh Labour Party conference, calling for a not-for-dividend provider of rail services in Wales.

Conference notes figures from the Office of Rail Regulation which state that the Welsh rail franchise is the most heavily subsidised passenger rail operation in the United Kingdom per passenger mile receiving £170 million of public money over the term of its 15 year contract between 2003 and 2018.

Conference does not believe these arrangements represent value for money for Welsh passengers or taxpayers and would contend that the low demand franchise as originally specified, in fact, inhibits the growth and investment required to meet Wales’s future rail capacity challenges.

Conference welcomes Welsh Labour’s commitment to exploring options for running the Welsh franchise on a not-for-dividend basis as well as further devolution of rail policy and believes such a structure for rail operations has the potential to deliver genuine improvements to services by retaining profits and surpluses and investing them in Wales and Welsh railways.

Conference calls on the Party to work closely with key stakeholders including trade unions on the strategic development of this policy and to learn lessons from other not-for-dividend organisations such as Welsh Water.

Karen Wilkie, who addressed Conference on behalf of the Co-operative Party, told delegates that we believe that people should be given a real say and stake in the services which are delivered thanks to their taxes and their fares. Karen called upon all interested parties to look to the mutual models which have been developed and have shown such resilience through the economic crisis as a guide to how we might achieve a truly ‘People’s Railway’ – owned by the public for the public – and look forward to working with all sides of this debate to come up with a 21st century model for Wales.