Wales politics

Wales rail franchise bids formally invited 'this week'

Arriva Train
Image caption The successful bidder will run all local trains, excluding intercity services

Rail companies will be able to bid for the next Wales and Borders franchise this week, BBC Wales understands.

The tender was postponed from August with the Welsh and UK governments blaming each other for delays.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We are awaiting final sign off from UK government and expect to have positive news on this very shortly."

Plaid Cymru accused Welsh Labour ministers of a "botched job" showing "the height of incompetence".

Four businesses are in the running to take over the network from Arriva Trains Wales in 2018 and have already been discussing their ideas with the Welsh Government.

The winner will also build and run the Metro public transport system in Cardiff and the south Wales valleys.

The Welsh Government's Transport for Wales agency had originally intended to issue the tender invitation on August 18.

But it had been delayed until Tuesday because of a dispute with the UK Department for Transport, including over funding.

Image copyright Welsh government
Image caption The winner will also run the proposed South Wales Metro transport network

A well-placed source said an announcement would be made this week.

However, Plaid Cymru accused the Welsh Government of missing the latest deadline.

Dai Lloyd, the party's infrastructure spokesman, said: "The botched job they have made of procuring the next franchise demonstrates the height of incompetence."

Powers over the rail franchise are being devolved from the UK government to Wales - a process that is also taking longer than initially expected.

During the summer, UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling warned he would only authorise the next stage of the bidding process when both sides sorted out a row over funding.

Wales' Economy Secretary Ken Skates wants Whitehall to find another £1bn to help pay for running the network over the next 15 years.

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