THE rail franchise which runs trains through Hereford, Leominster and Ludlow has been taken into public ownership.

As of Sunday, the Wales and Borders franchise has been taken over by the Welsh Government in light of falling passenger numbers and the need for financial stability.

The franchise has routes which run from North Wales and Manchester to South and West Wales via Herefordshire and Shropshire.

The move, first announced in October 2020, was necessary to "secure plans for infrastructure improvements and deliver future improvements for passengers", such as the South Wales Metro, the Welsh Government said.

Ken Skates, minister for economy, transport and North Wales, said: "Our rail service is a critical asset and one we must protect. Since the pandemic began we’ve provided significant financial support to keep trains running.

"The need for greater public control is a reflection of the ongoing pressures of coronavirus and the challenges being faced across the rail industry as passenger demand remains low.

"We remain determined to deliver key commitments made at the start of the journey with Transport for Wales, including the creation of Metro systems and the delivery of brand new rolling stock.

"Bringing the rail franchise into public control will help secure this better future for passengers. It is a public transport asset, in public ownership, for the public good.

James Price, chief executive of Transport for Wales, said: "Covid-19 has presented many challenges for us at TfW and these will continue as we evolve as an organisation.

"However, we’ve been able to remain resilient and our main priority during these testing times has been to keep our customers and colleagues safe.

"This next step on our journey will ensure that we continue to provide passenger rail services across our network, protect jobs and deliver our ambitious plans to improve the transport network."