Wales rail franchise 'expected to have more staff'
Trains could have more staff under the next rail franchise, the first minster has announced.
Carwyn Jones said it was part of a series of commitments made by the Welsh Government for the Wales and Borders Rail Service.
It comes as Economy Secretary Ken Skates confirmed final tenders had been invited for the service.
The UK and Welsh Government are working on details ahead of more rail powers being devolved next year.
Powers to decide who runs services on the Wales and Borders network were due to be devolved earlier this year, but now may not be handed to the Welsh Government until 2018.
At the heart of the dispute is an argument over whether the DfT should give the Welsh Government £1bn in cash over 15 years.
Yet the two sides have decided to press ahead with the tender process to appoint someone to run the services.
Following "positive and constructive discussions" with the Wales TUC, Mr Jones said the commitments included:
- An expectation of more staff employed on the franchise
- A safety critical conductor (guard) on all trains and services
- Heavy rail infrastructure outside of core valleys lines will remain with Network Rail
- Working with the unions around their aspirations for ticket office and station staff
- "If future legislation allows", for the service to be part of a UK national integrated railway under public ownership
Mr Jones said: "Our hard working railway staff are a major asset in delivering a modern and safe railway.
"It is right that they are central to our ambitious plans for the new Wales & Border Services and South Wales Metro.
"These are progressive commitments that will mean a better service for passengers and a better railway in Wales, and I look forward to this positive dialogue continuing as we develop our plans."
Meanwhile, the economy secretary said a "resolution is near" in the row between the UK and Welsh governments over the new service.
Mr Skates said: "There is will on both sides to ensure that the settlement works for Wales and the Borders."
As previously announced, the four bidders in the running to take over the franchise are Abellio Rail Cymru, Arriva Trains Wales, KeolisAmey and MTR Corporation (Cymru) Ltd.
"From rolling stock to frequency of services, Metros to profit thresholds, this final tender will provide the blueprint for what these four giants of the rail industry are bidding to provide Wales," said Mr Skates.
The services on the lines are currently run by Arriva Trains Wales and an announcement on the successful bidder will be made in the new year.
Russell George, the Welsh Conservatives' transport spokesman, said: "The priorities of Welsh passengers should be at the very heart of the new Wales and Borders Rail franchise namely; an agreement that takes into account the commercial realities of expanding passenger numbers over time, and trains that are reliable, cost effective and contain enough seats to accommodate the travelling public.
"Although the procurement process is approaching an advanced stage, we will continue to hold the Welsh Labour-led Government's 'feet to the fire' over the management and awarding of the new rail franchise so the Welsh public's priorities are delivered in full."
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said; "We want better rail services for people in Wales and we are committed to giving the Welsh Government greater control over trains.
"This is a significant milestone as we work with them on devolving franchising powers. We have given the go-ahead for them to publish an Invitation to Tender, so companies can come forward and bid to run services from 2018."