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£1 billion north Wales rail electrification plan ‘back of a fag packet stuff’

05 Oct 2023 4 minute read
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight programme

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething has expressed scepticism about the UK Government’s plans for the electrification of the main railway line in north Wales, describing it as ‘back of a fag packet stuff’

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made the surprise announcement about the upgrade in his showpiece speech at the Tory Party conference.

Speaking in Manchester on Wednesday (October 4), Mr Sunak said he was cancelling the northern leg of HS2, claiming the “facts have changed”.

In a section of his speech that included confirmation that HS2 will go no further north than Birmingham, Mr Sunak also said he would divert £36bn of rail infrastructure investment to “the north” – with £1bn of the investment earmarked for the north Wales main railway line.

Mr Gething told the BBC’s Newsnight programme: “If there really is going to be significant investment in the rail network across North Wales, that is good news. The difficulty is the credibility of this plan. Because the one billion pound figure is real back of a fag packet stuff.

“There’s no development that’s going into that to understand how the costs come out.

“HS2, broad of its challenges on cost, absolutely had a cost of benefit ratio with their business plan around it.

“In announcing what looks like a big investment in North Wales, they haven’t learnt the any of the lessons of HS2 and controlling costs. If you don’t have that development work done, you can’t control costs. “They don’t really know if a billion pounds will do it.”

Talks

Mr Gething confirmed the Welsh Government had been in talks with the UK Government about major projects across north Wales, but electrification had not been one of the top priorities discussed. He also  revealed that the first ministers in Cardiff knew about the electrification plans was when they were announced by the Prime Minister in his speech.

“I want to see investment made but I’m afraid this just swaps one fiction for another,” he said.

“It was always a fiction that H2 would benefit Wales. The government’s own impact assessment, said that it wouldn’t. Now we have the fiction that actually a billion pounds will invested with no credible plan.

“It isn’t a plan, it’s a line on a map and you have to ask yourself ‘can you really believe that Rishi Sunak will deliver it?”.

Controversy

The announcement of the axing of the northern leg of HS2comes after years of controversy following the UK Government’s decision to classify the HS2 high speed line in England as an “England and Wales” project.

That designation was justified with the assertion that there would be benefits to parts of Wales, including reduced journey times when the £180 billion project reached Crewe.

Earlier this year Tory ministers announced that construction of HS2’s Birmingham to Crewe section (phase 2a) and the Euston terminus in London would be delayed by at least two years to reduce costs.

The estimated delivery date for HS2’s phase 2b western leg from Crewe to Manchester had been put within the range of 2035 to 2041 and the bill for phase 2b was still going through parliament.

It has been argued that the decision has effectively robbed Wales of up to £5bn in rail infrastructure investment that it would have received if the project had been designated as a project only affecting England.

Under the devolution settlement, both Scotland and Northern Ireland are entitled to a proportion of rail infrastructure funding in England, but that does not apply to Wales.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago

It all was…

On the back of a child’s sweet cigarette packet…think about that for a minute…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

First produced by the Hershey Corporation in 1920 in the USA and not banned until 2009, although illegal when called cigarettes you can still get them in the UK…

They were manufactured in partnership with the big tobacco companies,hanging is to good for them…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I just googled this: there was a partnership between the confectioners and the big tobacco companies…

Alwyn Evans
Alwyn Evans
6 months ago

The only justification is that it crosses Ynys Môn, Aberconwy, Clwyd West, Vale of Clwyd, and Delyn constituencies and benefits Clwyd South and Wrexham. And what do all these have in common? That’s right – all but one are held by Tory MPs, and the other by ex-Tory and currently ‘Independent’ sex groper, Rob Roberts

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago

Plenty to suspect here about political motives, sincerity etc but it also offers an opportunity to our crew in Cardiff Bay to start banging a drum about reviving the electrification of the main Swansea to Severn Tunnel route. If that came to a £billion or more then we are on track ( no pun) to getting a bit of that HS2 linked bounty allocated at last. While talking in terms of a round billion here’s also an opportunity to start budgetting for that restoration of the western corridor from Caerfyrddin north via Aber and on to Bangor. Maybe none of… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago

This is electioneering plain and simple by the English Conservatives. They are still robbing Wales of billions of HS2 consequential and this £1bn rail electrification in the North of Wales is peanuts compared to what’s spent the other side of Offa’s Dyke. Anyway, how much will England receive out of this £36bn pre-election bung bonanza prey tell Andrew RT Davies or David TC Davies? Who can forget the Tories election falsehood of rail electrification between Cardiff Swansea only for it to be scrapped with the usual Tory excuses of cost and unforseen economic issues. The Anglocentric media was silent when… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
6 months ago

It is also quite a distraction from the rest of the mess. Everyone looking at HS2 now, and not the continuing state of the UK.

Annibendod
Annibendod
6 months ago

It’s naked pork-barrel politics. Here’s a question for Vaughan Gething … Should Welsh taxpayers money go directly to a Welsh treasury to be administered according to the democratic mandate of the Welsh Government? As opposed to going to Whitehall to be administered by a Tory Government that has never once won a democratic mandate in any national election in Wales, only for them to unilaterally spend a fraction in electorally favourable constituencies and declare the whole charade to be evidence of the benificence of Westminster.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
6 months ago

This is just a Tory cheap option to stop the rising calls for £5b and keep those who voted Tory in 2019, I doubt the option will come to anything, it’s all talk. If the Tories win – it’ll be scrapped and if Labour win it will be delivered a death blow too as a Tory pledge. Westminster at it’s best. We don’t need this bulls*it.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
6 months ago

The big problem Vaughan is that you are happy for Westminster to govern Cymru. The shambolic state of the UK is unlikely to change with the election of a tory-lite Labour government, the British Labour party are engaged in a process of Wooing the tories of middle England. The Labour party in Cymru will go down in history as political luddites clinging to the old world of empire. Please get up off your knees and support the people of Cymru.

Last edited 6 months ago by Cwm Rhondda
Dwr Drewllyd
6 months ago
Reply to  Cwm Rhondda

Plaid need to up their game 500% at the minute they don’t feature in so many Wesh areas. The language and culture are not the b all and end all of governance in Cymru.

Eric Hall
6 months ago

Meanwhile, in further developments – “these spending plans proposed by the Prime Minster were only indicative”.
But then again everyone in the whole of the World already knew that except, apparently, Vaughan Gething and the editorial staff of Nation Cymru

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