Sunak announces electrification of north Wales railway line
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has dropped a major surprise into his Tory conference speech by announcing the electrification of the main railway line in north Wales.
Speaking in Manchester on Wednesday (October 4), Mr Sunak said he is 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 said he would divert £36bn of rail infrastructure investment to “the north”.
£1bn of the investment will be earmarked for the north Wales main railway line.
The Prime Minister confirmed HS2 will still run to Euston in central London but said there must be some “accountability” for the mistakes made “for the mismanagement of the project”.
He said the decision and stance he has taken on HS2 will be “attacked” and people in his own party may oppose it and say it signals a “lack of ambition”.
“There is nothing ambitious about simply pouring more and more money into the wrong project,” he said.
Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies said: “Today’s announcement will unlock North Wales’ unique potential by transforming its economy and infrastructure.
“For too long the people of north Wales have been ignored by an incompetent Labour Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay – but the UK Government is correcting that wrong.
“Under the Conservatives, north Wales is being given the attention it righty deserves.”
The announcement comes after years of controversy following a decision to classify the HS2 high speed line in England as an “England and Wales” project.
Opposition politicians have 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.
The inconsistency has become a serious political grievance. Earlier this week Welsh Conservative Senedd group leader Andrew RT Davies was ridiculed by Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts when he said the issue of the rail funding lost by Wales was “above (his) pay grade.
The announcement of significant rail investment in north Wales is intended to boost support for the Tories in the region in advance of the general election.
There are a number of marginal seats, including Ynys Mon, currently held by the Conservative MP Virginia Crosbie.
It is understood that Andrew RT Davies was given little advance warning of the north Wales announcement.
Wales Office Minister Dr James Davies said: “This is the culmination of many years of effective campaigning by myself and my Parliamentary colleagues, ably supported by Growth Track 360 (North Wales Mersey Dee Rail Taskforce).
“The investment will transform north Wales’ public transport infrastructure and provide substantial economic and social benefits.
“The North Wales Main Line is a vital part of the UK’s strategic transport network. That is why I’m warmly welcome today’s huge announcement.”
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