Ministers insist North Wales mainline electrification ‘a priority’
Ministers are unable to reveal how much plans to electrify North Wales’ main railway line will cost, but have insisted the project is a priority.
Rishi Sunak said that the North Wales mainline would be electrified as part of the many transport projects which would be funded after he scrapped the HS2 rail link to Manchester.
But Welsh Office ministers faced questions about how much the scheme would cost, as financial analysis was last undertaken in 2015.
In the Commons, shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens said: “The Prime Minister promised when abandoning HS2 that the North Wales mainline would be electrified at a cost of a billion pounds.
“In the past eight years, construction costs have increased by 7% a year due to the Government’s economic mismanagement so can she confirm that the last time any cost assessment was done on electrification was in 2015 and so it will now cost between £1.5 and 1.8 billion?”
Welsh Office minister Fay Jones relied: “I think what is important to recognise is that this Government is the first in many decades to commit to that project.
“I am sorry that she appears to agree with her colleagues in the Welsh Labour government in Cardiff Bay who seem to say that this is not a priority.
“This side of the House feels that electrification and economic growth in North Wales is a priority and I am sorry she can’t agree with that.”
Ms Stevens responded: “If it is such a priority, why has nothing been done since 2015 when the cost assessment was undertaken?
“Her Government promised to electrify the South Wales mainline, which they didn’t, they promised to improve journey times and connections between South Wales and London and they didn’t do that either.
“She hasn’t given an answer on whether the Government will fully fund electrification.”
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams (Arfon) meanwhile raised concerns about the decision to hike the minimum salary for skilled overseas workers to £38,700, and its impact on Wales’ public services.
The decision was announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly on Monday, and is aimed at reducing legal migration to the UK.
Mr Williams told MPs: “This is £8,000 higher than the average wage in Gwynedd, with many of my constituents earning significantly less.
“So can the minister tell me what representations she, or rather the Secretary of State, has made to the Home Secretary on the effects of the new threshold on Welsh public services?”
Ms Jones replied: “He will know that the Secretary of State has regular discussions with his Cabinet colleagues on this issue, but it is absolutely vital that we take tough measures to make sure that we sustain sensible levels of migration.”
Elsewhere in the debate, Secretary of State for Wales David Davies criticised the Labour administration in Cardiff Bay’s motoring and tourism policies.
On the 20mph speed limit, Mr Davies said: “I do call upon the Welsh Labour Government to rescind this policy of a blanket 20mph speed limit across Wales and at the same time I call upon them to rescind their policy of building no new roads ever again in Wales.
“And I call upon them to scrap their policy of bringing in road charging for using the motorway network.”
The Welsh Secretary later added: “Not only are people going to have to pay extra money to come in to Wales as a result of the Welsh Labour Government’s tourism tax but they’re going to find it a lot slower to get around as a result of the Welsh Labour Government’s speed limits.
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