Wales politics

Wales traffic boss 'to have office by September'

Nick Jones
Image caption Nick Jones said he expects an office to be open by September, when he retires

Wales' bus and haulage regulator has told AMs that he will have an office in the country before he retires in September - almost three years after the post was set up.

Members of the economy committee expressed bewilderment that the traffic commissioner is still not operating an office in the country.

Nick Jones said the bilingual office was likely to be set up in Caernarfon.

Mr Jones said a previous one identified in north Wales had fallen through.

The intention is for the commissioner, who is responsible for road haulage and bus licensing in Wales and was established in October 2016, to have three members of staff.

Mr Jones opened his evidence to the committee saying he hoped there will be an announcement in the future on his accommodation, saying the process had been too slow.

Labour AM Hefin David said: "Do you understand why members are looking baffled that it seems so complicated to do something so simple, which is to set up an office?"

"Yes," said Mr Jones, whose role is jointly funded by the Welsh and UK governments.

"The difficulty is that the traffic commissioner doesn't control staff," he said.

Image caption The traffic commissioner is jointly funded by the UK and Welsh governments

He said there had been issues in Cardiff with recruiting staff and cost of buildings, while in north Wales another location had not come to fruition because of a change of ownership.

"My objective when I was appointed the first full time traffic commissioner for Wales in October 2016 was to seek to set up an office... before I retire," he said.

"I would have preferred to have seen it happen before. What I am clear is that it will happen before I retire."

He said the lease was being signed by the Welsh Government.

"I really anticipate that within weeks, if not days, something will be announced."

Image caption David Rowlands asked why Neil Jones had not been shouting from the rooftops

David Rowlands, UKIP AM, said: "I have to say I share this bewilderment about this inability to set up an office.

"We're all charged as AMs of setting up an office within a month or two.

"If you felt there was something holding you back... I would be shouting from the rooftops," he added.

"It's been frustrating yes," Mr Jones replied.

There are eight traffic commissioners in England, Wales and Scotland responsible for licensing and regulating bus and HGV operators.

They also take action if firms are found to break the rules or breach safety.

Previously Wales did not have a dedicated commissioner and was instead was covered along with the west Midlands by Mr Jones.

In 2016 the Welsh Government gave £210,000 funding so Wales could have its own traffic commissioner - a role jointly funded by the UK Government.