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Good transport links between north and south Wales ‘never been possible’ says Mark Drakeford

27 Nov 2022 2 minute read
Mark Drakeford speaking in the Senedd, left. Transport for Wales train. Picture by Jeremy Segrott (CC BY 2.0).

Good transport routes between the north and south of Wales have “never been possible”, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford was asked by Al Jazeera why people needed to travel out of Wales and into England in order to travel quickly between the north and south of the country.

The First Minister however replied that it was “in the end just the nature of our geography”.

“We’re a mountainous country. We’re a small country I sometimes read it said that if you flattened Wales out, we’d be maybe as big as France.

“It’s just that all our land is hilly up and down, and easy routes north and south have never been possible.

“So we manage. We have an effective train service, you can drive – it’s not the most straightforward of routes.

“But we’re used to it, it’s what we’ve dealt with for 2000 years.”

‘Future of Wales’

Mark Drakeford added however that while Wales’ geography had long weighed down on the nation’s economy, it was finally beginning to work in its favour.

“What am I doing is creating a new economy for Wales,” he said.

“And renewable energy means that after a period in which our geography was against us, far out on the western edge of Europe, long supply chains, expensive ways of moving goods and jobs. Now, our geography is on our side.

“We have wind because we face the Atlantic – we have rain, as you know, every now and then. We have solar and we have wave power as well.

“56% of all the electricity we use in Wales this year, will be generated from renewable sources that will be 70% by the end of this decade.

“And in those new industries, those industries that will secure energy that is safe, that is secure that deals with climate change. There is the future of Wales.”


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Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
2 months ago

There are plenty of countries across the world that had to face the obstacle of mountainous terrain but conquered it. The US has three mountain belts running north to south – they didn’t stop connection and expansion. Here in Wales everything runs west to east across the north and south of the country – all in order to rip the country of its resources by its neighbour. Unless we gain independence – that will not change.

Jonathan Gwyn Mendus Edwards
Jonathan Gwyn Mendus Edwards
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve A Duggan

The change Wales needs is a change of attitude. Roll up those sleeves. Trains Carmarthen to Aber, dual the A470? Just do it. Do the ‘green’ growth as well if you can, and any other economic growth. Absolutely true that we need a political march to Indy as well, but it all comes back to rolling up those sleeves. The real problem politically is that Plaid wouldn’t take on Labour, eg Drakeford in Cardiff W. They had the candidate to beat Drakeford but, er, not working out well is it? And Plaid and the Conservatives should vote together once in… Read more »

Carol Loughlin
Carol Loughlin
2 months ago

And how do you propose to dual the A470? Do you intend to demolish the small towns and villages along the route? Places like Llanrwst, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Rhayader would be wiped off the map. Just do it? Clearly a suggestion from someone who travels infrequently along the full length of the A470.

D Hughes
D Hughes
2 months ago
Reply to  Carol Loughlin

CAROL. BYPASS…. Simple. You know, like Llanidloes, Dolgellau, Merthyr etc etc. Dualled. Progress…

Jonathan Gwyn Mendus Edwards
Jonathan Gwyn Mendus Edwards
2 months ago
Reply to  Carol Loughlin

1.Noone travels end to end in reality, its not how highways work. 2. Many including me have done large chunks North-South all our lives, its part of being Welsh. 3, ‘Dualling the A470’ is shorthand for ‘North-South Road’ – you might use parts of the A487. 4. As D.Hughes says – ‘bypass’. I”ll use the train if they rebuild the line Carmarthen=Aber. But if I want to tow a caravan or boat or drive a bus I’ll need that road.

Dafydd Hughes
Dafydd Hughes
2 months ago

I absolutely despair at that regressive, unambitious, rambled thinking, and in the face of all road building being cancelled. In fact ‘cancelled’ is a very appropriate adjective as they call it ‘old style road building’ in their idealistic documents centred on Active Travel around Cardiff. Ohh and we are all too fat too it seems so it’s for our own good and nanny knows best! Improvements have taken 30 mins off the North South journey in past 30 years – the single track traffic light controlled section (sic) was even actually upgraded! There is still much left to do but,… Read more »

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
2 months ago
Reply to  Dafydd Hughes

Cymru is fourth world nowadays, and you’re dead right about the embarrassment of virtue plop. Bloggers now often make fun of us, being the “beacon” some of us warned against. Labour must be smashed if we are to break through and join the (third) world, and hoist our flag next to the Africans who have become independent before us.

Crwtyn Cemais
Crwtyn Cemais
2 months ago
Reply to  Dafydd Hughes

Cytunaf cant y cant ~ I completely agree

John Davies
John Davies
2 months ago

Back in the day it was possible to travel by steam train from Swansea to Aberystwyth via Carmarthen, taking the Gwili valley line up through Lampeter. Given the tendency of secondary services in those days to dawdle and stop frequently, it probably took about three hours. If the line still existed and using modern stock with its smarter acceleration and higher top speed, it could probably be done in two hours. But to do the same journey today, one has to go round via Newport, Hereford and Shrewsbury, taking about three and a half hours. That is “progress.”

Last edited 2 months ago by John Davies
John Brooks
John Brooks
2 months ago
Reply to  John Davies

Also there was a line north from Y Trallwng but it was closed forcing passengers to travel via Shrewsbury. Then there was the line South from Y Drenewydd through Llandrindod that linked to Abertawe and Caerdydd. North/South link did exist.

George Thomas
George Thomas
2 months ago

This isn’t good enough. We need modern rail and public transport networks to allow for travel all over Wales – not old fashioned trains which cannot cope with heat or rain – and we need them as soon as possible.

It is true that this would be 100x easier if HS2 money was devolved and there may be reasons why this hasn’t been a priority, but communities lag behind where there is poor infrastructure.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago

Al Jazeera asking some very informed questions of MD, I wonder who wrote them?

Riki
Riki
2 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Yep, Al Jazeera doing something our media should be doing, oh wait! We don’t have any independent media do we? All ours come from our betters in London. After all they know best m.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Well well, his interviewer on Qatar owned Al Jazeera is an ex-pat from South Wales…

David
David
2 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Do you mean the interviewer Adrian Finnegan OR Arwel Ellis Owen?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago
Reply to  David

I’m not sure I think he said he was from Newport, hoping someone out there might help…more likely the latter…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago
Reply to  David

I can confirm that MD’s interviewer was Adrian Finnegan, ex CNN and 10 years with Al Jazeera…

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
2 months ago

🐄 💩 As a civil engineering designer of many years standing, MD’s comment is an outright LIE. There are at least three routes I can think of, off the top of my head. There is NO landscape so severe you can’t get a Trainline across it if you have the will. Norways has one which hops from small island to small island. Switzerland, Italy, Tibet and various others have them going over- and THROUGH – mountains. Cymru is a MODERATELY mountainous nation with few of the challenges mentioned. Sure it would be pricier than laying rail on the flat ….… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
2 months ago

Quite agree. In his time, the famous David Davis of Llandinam surveyed and laid railway lines through the Welsh mountains. Some are still in use. Some are not. But that was not because of the geography. That was because of the Beeching review.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago
Reply to  John Davies

Just up the road from the statue of DD Caersws has a lovely 200 year old bridge that carries Wales’ main north south highway.the A470, across Afon Hafren. This has traffic lights on it, so it will be single lane until, like the recently closed near 200 year old Menai Bridge, some time next year. A bit further up the road from Caersws is the 160 year old deep cutting of Talerddig as it parts the mountain like Moses to allow the Cambrian Express to thunder westwards to the sea. We are in the age of wimps…

Last edited 2 months ago by Mab Meirion
D Hughes
D Hughes
2 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

“We are in the age of wimps…” Bravo. Ardderchog o gryno.

Glen
Glen
2 months ago

The EU didn’t consider anywhere in the British Isle to be classed as ‘mountainous’.
Wales is just hilly.

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
2 months ago

ALSO…. If 56% of our electricity used in Cymru this year is generated from OUR renewable sources, I presume the people of Cymru will be getting cheaper Electricity bills? If we were independent we would be.

Glen
Glen
2 months ago

Renewable energy is more expensive to produce than traditional methods.
People seem to have the mistaken idea that power from wind, sun and water costs nothing.

Last edited 2 months ago by Glen
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
2 months ago
Reply to  Glen

As mentioned above. <<< Civil engineering designer. Not a wind turbine designed but we have those. CapEx (capital expenditure – installation costs and operational costs) for wind is WAY lower than nuclear and fossil fuels electric generation

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
2 months ago

Google Jeremy Clarkson’s video: “In Britain We’re Doomed”, regarding terrain.
This shows the very provincial doormat Drakeford, that he is yesterdays man.

Last edited 2 months ago by I.Humphrys
CWL
CWL
2 months ago

Electric planes will eventually provide a fast, direct and green connection between north and south Wales. Devolving and zero rating APD for electric planes could promote their early adoption here.

John Davies
John Davies
2 months ago
Reply to  CWL

Aircraft carry comparatively small numbers of people. Also they are much affected by weather and we have a lot of that in Wales. Take off from Cardiff in strong winds and heavy rain, get bounced around over the Cambrian Mountains in turbulence with everyone filling their sick bags then make a let-down into, say, Hawarden in zero-zero conditions, continued turbulence and a nasty crosswind? No thank you.

Riki
Riki
2 months ago

Why are our Leaders so Anti Wales and lacking of any Ambition? Seems They serve no one but their “betters” in London. Switzerland are able to do what MD says We can’t, strange that! They are trying their best to Carve us up as if we are Korea.

Last edited 2 months ago by Riki
DAI Ponty
DAI Ponty
2 months ago

Not IF CYMRU BECOMES INDEPENDENT BUT WHEN we will have to have decent transport links from North to south not go over the border into a foreign country England if you go by train i would not be surprised if the London based governments have done this delibretly

Riki
Riki
2 months ago
Reply to  DAI Ponty

Of course it’s done deliberately, designed to Ties us down to England and foster resentment and rivalry between South and North of the country.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Riki

This is spot on! The Welsh Government have time and time again scuppered plans to have a decent north to south rail link. They want north Wales to be connected to Liverpool and Chester and the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and south Wales to be connected to Bristol. Never ever forget that they are a unionist government. The territorial integrity of the country is of no concern to them whatsoever.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
1 month ago
Reply to  DAI Ponty

Yes, it is deliberate. All our major transport links are designed to benefit England, not us. That is why you have “entry” (or should I say “extraction” points) in the Northeast and South Wales. The A5 was originally designed to transport goods to London from Dublin for example.

Same reason Westminster made Cardiff capital and not Machynlleth and decimated our rail services in the 1960s.

Geraint
Geraint
2 months ago

Good job Mark Drakeford has not been primeminister of Norway. There would be none of their bridges over fjords, tunnels to islands and amazing roads hugging their coast lines. To be fair to the Norwegians they went for independence from Sweden a little over four generations ago. Shows what you can do if you want to.

Riki
Riki
2 months ago
Reply to  Geraint

Yeah, Because our taxes go to England, too much to ask for it to be spent on Welsh Infrastructure. How dare we expect what others have. I think we should know our place. Could to totally see Norway putting up with their hard earned expenses going to Sweden or Denmark. Lol

Argol fawr!
Argol fawr!
2 months ago

Drakeford’s beginning to remind me of Pivac. Or it may be the other way around.

AntonJacques
AntonJacques
2 months ago

I don’t understand the purpose of this line of argument though.

There are numerous examples of countries running very effective train lines with mountains, Switzerland is a prime example. Unless Mark is being deliberately contrarian to almost challenge people to argue with him for more railways in Wales.

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
2 months ago

This just shows yet again how little MD thinks of North Wales- politically he does not need our support as all the power is in southeast Wales. If we ever became independent us plebs in N Wales would be thought of in no better terms than we are by Westminister now

Riki
Riki
2 months ago

No, that would never happen. You’re coming to a conclusion that the English are hoping for. Divide and Conquer! Used better here than anywhere else on the planet. Except for maybe Korea.

Cai Edwards
Cai Edwards
2 months ago

Hi please visit www,trawslinkcymru.org.uk and lend your support to the campaign to reinstate rail links between south and north Wales.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago
Reply to  Cai Edwards

You’ve made me think of the branch from Blaenau to Traws power station, the old Bala line as it was…

The first nuclear heritage railway…perhaps the Ffestiniog Railway could run it…

I will do as you ask by the way…

Maglocunos
Maglocunos
2 months ago
Reply to  Cai Edwards

Dyma’r ddolen gywir: Here’s the correct link:

https://trawslinkcymru.org.uk/

Gareth
Gareth
2 months ago

When one looks around the world, and can see what engineering has achieved transport wise, the excuses use by Mr Drakeford for the lack of investment by his union in our country, is like the excuses I would use to desuade my children when asking for something, that I did not want to buy them. It may have fooled my children, but as they grew up, they could see through my pathetic excuses, but now it’s too late.

Rhod
Rhod
2 months ago

You can drive, although Welsh Government bans building roads

Martin Owen
Martin Owen
2 months ago

I wonder how frequently those commenting here actually want to go from Ynys Mon to Cardiff? In my working life in Wales and England I resented having to go to Cardiff or London because that is where the power was. At last I can work across the globe and stay within my own community. travel now is something I have for personal and cultural enrichment- and shouldn’t need digging tunnels and environment destroying concrete.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Owen

I am the opposite. Following the pandemic, I travel to Cardiff more frequently than I did before and given the choice, I would prefer to put more money into our own economy, even if it is a 5-hour car journey. Drakeford is making excuses. He knows rail links in Wales have been decimated over the decades by Westminster and knows it could be a lot better now. However, acknowledging that means having to confirm the shortcomings of his beloved Westminster Government and their deliberate meddling and underinvestment in Wales, and that, he will not do. I actually resent the fact… Read more »

max wallis
max wallis
2 months ago

The future is our renewable power resources – so why has Labour been so slow to develop them (compare Scotland) and why go along with Tory plans for new nuclear power??

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 months ago

What a load of utter crap from Mark Drakeford & Welsh Labour. No wonder Wales has stagnated under their rule. No aspiration. Typical Unionist mindset. Watch Wales crumble while England feather’s it’s nest with billions spent upgrading their road & rail network to our detriment. Both Switzerland & Austria have better interconnectivity than Wales and they have rail & motorways tunneled through Alpine mountain ranges. Time we purged our Labour ball & chain otherwise we’ll always be the poor relation.

Maglocunos
Maglocunos
2 months ago

Amser am newid, yntydy? Twnel rheilffordd o Gyffordd Llandudno i Ferthyr via Blaenau Ffestiniog, Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Caerfyrddin.

Time for change then, isn’t it? An underground rail link from Cyffordd Llandudno to Merthyr via Blaenau Ffestiniog, Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Caerfyrddin.

John Davies
John Davies
2 months ago

There are two questions that have to be considered when planning a railway. The first is a matter of engineering. Can it be driven through the terrain? The second is one of economics. Who is going to use it? What will its traffic receipts be? Railways can be driven through most of Wales’ terrain and indeed in the past were. Many were closed in the Beeching review. Questions of engineering are a great deal less difficult than Drakeford suggests. Questions of economics are more intractable. Most of Wales’ population is in the South, with a few smallish towns up in… Read more »

Hywel
Hywel
2 months ago
Reply to  John Davies

See Traws Link Cymru’s study A New Strategic Rail Corridor for West Wales: https://trawslinkcymru.org.uk/en/studies-section/#dearflip-df_259/21/, pages 16-17 specifically, for an interesting analysis on the economic prospects of a line thought to be “comparatively unused” using the Scottish 50 km-long Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank which was re-opened in 2015 as an example.

Last edited 2 months ago by Hywel
Maglocunos
Maglocunos
2 months ago
Reply to  John Davies

I would go to the south much more often if I could for culture and travel and I’m sure there are plenty of folks in south Wales who would love to be able to travel easily to the Gogledd for relaxation and refreshment and to re-connect with family and friends.

It will take imagination, and investment and risk to be sure, but we need someone with vision. It took visionaries like Mazzini and Garibaldi to unify Italy. Where are our revolutionary visionaries?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago
Reply to  Maglocunos

Wrecsam AFC if you ask me..

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