£5bn rail funding loss for Wales ‘above my pay grade’, says Andrew RT Davies
Welsh Conservative Senedd group leader Andrew RT Davies has been ridiculed by the Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru after saying the issue of Wales losing £5bn rail funding was “above [his] pay grade”.
Mr Davies made the comment during an interview with BBC Radio Wales, when asked about the continuing controversy of the HS2 rail project being treated as an “England and Wales” spend despite the fact that the entire route is in England.
Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid’s leader at Westminster, wrote a post on social media channel X, formerly known as Twitter, which said: “‘It’s above my pay grade’ says Tory leader in Wales @AndrewRTDavies in response to a question on @BBCRadioWales about #HS2 and his chronic failure to persuade his own party to give Wales our missing £5 billion. Sycophantic. The general election will be a reckoning.”
It appears that Mr Davies has retreated from the stance he adopted when delivering a speech at the Welsh Conservative conference in Newtown in May 2022, when he said his party was “making the case that Wales should receive its fair share of HS2 spending”, adding: “We believe that instead of banning roadbuilding like Labour, we need to push on and build a modern and sustainable transport network of road and rail.”
Plaid Cymru has renewed its call for the UK Government to reclassify HS2 as an “England only” project following reports that sections of the high-speed rail link will be delayed or even scrapped to save money.
Ms Saville Roberts has argued that it is “absurd” that the UK Government “continues to pretend that HS2 is an ‘England-and-Wales’ project”.
Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales doesn’t receive Barnett consequentials from spending on HS2 because national rail infrastructure in Wales is reserved to the UK Government.
For this reason the Treasury has classified HS2 as a ‘national project’ which benefits both countries, despite the railway project – even if completed – being wholly in England.
A Cardiff University report found that if rail was devolved, Wales would have received an extra £514m investment in its rail infrastructure between 2011-12 and 2019-20 as a result of UK Government investment in HS2.
Ms Saville Roberts argues that it is “absurd” that the UK Government continues to “pretend” that HS2 benefits Wales, when reports suggest that it will be “nothing more than a new line between London and Birmingham”.
She has called on the Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, to “start doing his job” and demand Wales’s fair share from the “biggest white elephant in the Tory circus”.
A budget of £55.7bn for the whole of the HS2 project was set in 2015. But the target cost of Phase One alone has spiralled to £40.3bn at 2019 prices.
In 2021 David TC Davies claimed HS2 will have “huge benefits for Wales” despite running solely through England.
He told the Commons that the high speed railway running between London and Birmingham would benefit Wales because companies in the nation will be able to bid to work on it.
At Wales Office questions, Conservative MP Jacob Young (Redcar) asked Mr Davies: “One key way of supporting rail infrastructure across the country is HS2. Does the minister agree with me that HS2 will have a truly nationwide benefit in places like Port Talbot and in Deeside if we use UK steel in its construction?”
Mr Davies replied: “Of course, there will be many companies in Wales who will be tendering for work on the HS2 project so, of course, there will be huge benefits to Wales, huge benefits for the railway industry and, of course, huge benefits for the whole of the UK because HS2 is also about getting people off the roads and onto the railways, which is something that anyone who supports getting Britain to net zero by 2050 should be in support of.”
We asked Andrew RT Davies to respond to the comments of Liz Saville Roberts, but he has not done so.
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