NETWORK RAIL’S board has endorsed the divestment of the Core Valley Lines in South Wales, aiming to transfer the assets to the Welsh Government on 31 January. However, the general election appears to have caused further delay.
The Core Valley Lines (CVL) comprise the routes north of Cardiff Queen Street, including freight-only and disused lines, and the Cardiff Bay branch and City line. They exclude the route used by Valley Lines trains through Cardiff Central. The Welsh Government, which has no direct relationship with Network Rail, seeks control of the CVL in order to electrify and enhance them independently of Network Rail’s work programmes.
The timetable for the £738 million CVL modernisation was devised around the criteria for £162 million of European Union funding, principally the requirement to have tram-trains in service before the end of 2022. The plan was to trigger the transfer on 25 July 2019 for transfer to occur on 20 September, but this was delayed.
But now further delay looks likely, as the Secretary of State did not approve the divestment before Parliament was dissolved for the general election on 5 November. It appears the 31 January date cannot be met, since the transfer requires the transport secretary’s approval and would have to be triggered in early December, before the election and the appointment of the new government’s transport secretary.
Once the assets have been transferred, Amey Keolis Infrastructure Ltd (AKIL) will manage the CVL on the Welsh Government’s behalf and will work with TfW to modernise the lines. TfW Rail Services (the franchise operated by KeolisAmey) will operate the infrastructure and trains. The vertical integration will obviate Schedule 4 and 8 payments for planned or unplanned disruption to passenger services. However, Schedules 4 and 8 will continue to apply to any freight operators on the CVL and to CVL passenger services in the Cardiff Central area.
Where a possession overlaps one of the boundaries between CVL and Network Rail infrastructure, the principle of ‘lead possession manager’ will determine whether AKIL or Network Rail is responsible for any consequential Schedule 4 payments.
Train Service Codes (TSCs) will not be changed by the asset transfer, and there will be no need for trains to stop at the infrastructure boundaries for their TSCs to change. The TSCs of through Valley Lines trains usually change at Cardiff Central, and this will continue.
Network Rail will provide timetabling to AKIL as a service.