Welsh Labour 2020 Policy Stage 2 - Transport

Welsh Labour Policy Consultation: Transport and Economy / ASLEF Response - June 2020
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  1. The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) is the UK’s largest train drivers’ union representing over 20,000 members in train operating companies and freight companies, as well as London Underground and light rail systems, including over 650 members in Wales.

  2. ASLEF is in agreement with the social purpose as a basis for investment. ASLEF has long campaigned for infrastructure to be for people, not profit, and for developments and investment to be made in a way that puts communities first.

  3. The proposals for an economic contract are also very welcome. ASLEF is in agreement that any business selling to the Welsh public sector, or receiving public money, should be required to meet a set of standards including fair work, good employee terms and conditions, good environmental practice, promoting equality and trade union recognition.

  4. The union believes that in addition to promoting equality and trade unionism, the requirements should go further, requiring businesses to take tangible actions on equality (such as reducing their gender pay gap and having gender-equal and diverse boards and senior management teams) and trade unionism (for example requiring all businesses in receipt of public money to recognise a trade union for the purposes of collective bargaining for their employees).

  5. The union also believes that consideration in the procurement and funding processes for the receipt of public money from the Welsh Government should take into account levels of compliance with the best practice identified in the contract and businesses which are led by diverse teams, do more for the environment or recognise a trade union should be given an advantage over those which do not. Additionally, the Welsh Government should continue to support Welsh businesses, making applications for funding or to sell to government as accessible as possible to a wide range of start ups and local businesses.

  6. ASLEF is encouraged to see regional growth across Wales as a focus for this policy paper. Better jobs closer to home are good for local communities both economically and in terms of the quality of life. Creating more job opportunities across Wales must not, however, be at the expense of improving sustainable, active and public transport infrastructure. Non-car commutes should be possible for jobs nearer to local communities as well as for those who work in larger towns and cities. Creating new bus corridors and rail lines alongside job or innovation hubs is one way to achieve this.

  7. Manufacturing in Wales is a vital part of live in a number of communities and ASLEF is pleased to see this highlighted in the policy paper. The union is in agreement that the Welsh Labour Government should continue to do everything possible to support manufacturing in Wales and the supply chains and other economic and social activities which rely on manufacturing. ASLEF strongly supports manufacturing, particularly foundation industries like steel, and would like to see more manufacturing in Wales.

  8. In addition to supporting Welsh manufacturing, ASLEF would like to see the Welsh Government use ever lever at its disposal to ensure that as many Welsh and UK projects as possible procure steel manufactured in Wales. This should tie in with developments proposed by Welsh Labour including the metro transport projects as well as larger projects like HS2.

  9. For a strong manufacturing sector to flourish and be able to sell products to the rest of Wales and beyond, the movement of freight is vitally important. ASLEF members drive freight as well as passenger trains, and the union has long campaigned for an increase in the amount of freight moved by rail, along with other measures to encourage the transfer of freight from road to rail. ASLEF would like to see a specific commitment from Welsh Labour to supporting and increasing the use of freight on rail. In practical terms this should include incentives, promotion and also ensuring that track access and paths are available to freight operators to enable them to run an efficient service for their customers.

  10. The need to re-energise and continue to develop Wales’ seaports and Cardiff Airport is also inherently connected to rail freight. ASLEF would like to see Welsh Labour commit to promoting the movement of freight by rail for cargo arriving at Welsh ports, as part of an integrated system with easy interchange from maritime to rail to road for the most sustainable and efficient movement of goods.

  11. The creation of a new National Infrastructure Commission for Wales is to be welcomed and ASLEF is keen to continue to engage with this commission as future developments in transport infrastructure are considered.The union notes, however, that the current commission is not gender balanced and does not include any commissioners from BAME backgrounds. This is of serious concern to ASLEF. Any commission which is to guide infrastructure investment should be as diverse as possible, as better decisions are made when people with a wide range of personal and professional experience are consulted.

  12. The union would also like to see a specific intent to account for diversity in decisions made by the commission and by the Welsh Government on developing infrastructure. The needs of all members of all communities should be taken into account by engaging with a wide range of people and deliberately targeting people from groups that may not be users of existing infrastructure due to its unsuitability, or are under-represented in decision making.

  13. ASLEF is pleased to see a measured approach to the use of AI and digital innovation, particularly that provision has been included at the outset to ensure people are not excluded from society or public services if they do not have access to the internet and digital tools.

  14. The union is concerned that considerations of equality are not part of the proposals on developing the use of AI. AI which has learned from societal biases will hamper progress towards equality so it is vital that any Welsh Labour Government projects exploring this take full account of the issues and processes are put in place to remove this bias.

  15. As the trade union representing train drivers, ASLEF is engaged in discussions about automation and artificial intelligence in a number of forums. Train drivers know that full automation is not a suitable way to operate public transport, or in any safety-critical environment. ASLEF would like to see Welsh Labour be as clear as possible in this manifesto that automation and AI are not intended to replace jobs, and that if automation is introduced that the government will support any affected workers to gain additional and alternative skills to ensure that they can continue to have high-quality employment.

  16. ASLEF agrees with the headline priorities for transport investment, including building on the current Transport for Wales Rail programme and the expansion of the South Wales Metro. ASLEF is also in favour of proposals for the Swansea Bay and North Wales metros, and would like to see a commitment to including heavy rail in these proposals wherever possible. While light rail and bus rapid transit schemes obviously have a place in an integrated transport system, heavy rail remains the most efficient and environmentally-friendly way for both passengers and freight to travel at speed.

  17. ASLEF believes in public ownership of our railways, and has consistently called for rail in Wales to be publicly owned and operated. The union supports proposals to continue to campaign for the devolution powers needed to operate rail fully in the public sector in Wales, and with proposals to link up with UK Labour manifesto pledges to create a UK Rail service which would include heavy rail in Wales, with decisions devolved as appropriate to take account of local knowledge and priorities.

  18. The union is also pleased to see a commitment to station improvements on the network included in the plans. ASLEF would also like to see these proposals specifically related to both transport workers and local communities, who will have particular needs and experience to inform the design and priorities of improvements to stations. This might include access from a particular direction, lighting to improve safety or hygiene facilities for station and train staff. We would like to see a specific commitment to engage and liaise with transport workers through their unions on all these decisions.

  19. Proposals for new demand-responsive local bus services are also encouraging. The union would like to see these linked to an integrated system, for example including linking to train arrival times as well as to wider demand. In order for the maximum impact and take-up of such services, ASLEF would also recommend a rigorous communications plan be included as part of this proposal so that residents in the areas where demand-responsive services operate are aware of how the services are planned and how demand is measured. This would help to alleviate any problems with under-used services being cut due to lower use when in fact they are much-needed but residents were not aware of the provision.

  20. The use of data to plan demand-responsive services is a very strong proposal. The union would also be keen to see additional proposals for using data to inform transport decisions. For example, making sure local authorities, bus and rail operators release open data to enable apps like Citymapper to create journey planning tools. The data from these sort of applications - which include not just journeys taken but how they are taken, and journeys requested that are impossible to complete without a car - can then be used to inform demand and the planning of new infrastructure.

  21. In order to encourage modal shift away from cars and on to public transport and active travel, it is imperative that this is as easy as possible. In addition to the route planning tools which would be made possible with wide-ranging open data, ease and safety must also be considered. In practical terms this should include using the powers available to the Welsh Government to allow bus services to run timetables in such a way that they enable smooth integration with onward journeys by bus or rail. For freight movements it should be as easy as possible for customers to switch from road to rail freight. Both safety and perception of safety are also very important when encouraging passengers to make better choices, so Welsh Labour should also commit to engaging with a diverse range of people when making any transport system plans to ensure that their needs are taken into account and the maximum number of people use public transport and active travel regularly.

  22. Digitisation plans including mobile ticketing are also very welcome, as ASLEF believes that any barriers to people using the railway should be removed wherever possible. For mobile ticketing to work, 4G and 5G as well as broadband infrastructure must be available right across Wales. ASLEF would expect the next Welsh Labour Government to ensure that this is available right across the network before alternative ticketing arrangements are phased out.

  23. ASLEF agrees with proposals to build on the growth of Wales’ seaports and Cardiff Airport. The union believes that intermodal transport infrastructure is vital to the success of these international gateways and would therefore want to see specific proposals to that effect, including prioritising rail freight over road freight and timetabling of passenger rail services to made it easy for passengers to transfer between sea or air and rail for their onward journey.

  24. ASLEF also agrees that decarbonisation of transport and energy should be a key priority for the Welsh Government. The climate emergency can only be addressed by bold, wide-reaching actions. Many of the infrastructure proposals outlined in the document will lead to a reduction in carbon emissions, and Welsh Labour should be as bold as possible in its proposals to encourage modal shift, electrification and sustainable generation of energy.

  25. Jobs and skills are a key part of the infrastructure picture and so ASLEF is pleased to see this as a priority for the economy. The union would like to see a commitment to linking skills development with the improvement in transport and particularly rail infrastructure in Wales. There are success on which to build in that area, and ASLEF would like to see this included and specified in the proposals.

  26. Parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications its very important and the union is pleased to see this reaffirmed in this document. ASLEF would also like to see a link drawn between trade union education and skills development, as trade unions play a significant role in facilitating lifelong learning, both directly related to workplace and union activity and across wider skills. The union believes that Welsh Labour should specify this link between lifelong learning and union learning and commit to facilitating unions to play a key part in lifelong learning alongside the Welsh Government.

  27. This paper overall presents a number of very strong proposals for Welsh Labour policy going into the next election, and ASLEF is encouraged to see key policies including development of public transport and decarbonisation. In our response we have outlined some of the areas where we feel the proposals could go further in order to fully realise the ambition and potential of a devolved Wales and we look forward to working alongside Welsh Labour’s elected representatives to deliver these improvements.