Tory Transport Secretary dismisses call to devolve railways to Wales
The UK Government’s Transport Secretary has dismissed a call to fully devolve power over the railways to Wales.
Grant Shapps was responding to Plaid Cymru MP, Hywel Williams, who asked for the Welsh Government to get “full control” of them in order to spend more money to improve “the often dire service”.
Shapps also suggested that figures that show the Welsh railways to be underfunded because they’re under Westminster control are “hotly contested”.
This follows an announcement that a new body, Great British Railways, will take over responsibility for both tracks and trains in 2023.
It means that Wales will have to support one national network, one website and app, and include the UK Government’s chosen branding as a new Great British Railways body takes over the rail network.
In a question in the House of Commons, Williams cited a report by the Welsh Government that showed that Wales has 11% of the UK’s rail network but only receives 1% of the rail investment.
He also mentioned that Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre had come to the same conclusion. A report by it said that the Welsh railways would receive £500m more a year were it to be devolved.
‘Work very poorly’
Hywel Williams MP said: “Welsh rail services too often don’t work at all or work very poorly indeed.
“That’s unsurprising given that, as Prof. Mark Barry of Cardiff University says in a Welsh Government report – in Wales we have 11% of the UK rail network but get 1% of rail investment.
“This White Paper as far as I can see unfortunately offers not a lot which is new or useful to address this.
“Is the Secretary of State aware that the respected Wales Governance Centre, also at Cardiff University, reports a very straightforward conclusion?
“They say – rail enhancement spending to improve the often dire service that local people endure in Wales would be higher under a fully devolved system.
“So will he ensure that the Welsh Government gets full control of rail in Wales?”
Grant Shapps replied: “I should point out that actually the railways have not been some sort of money spinner for the Treasury this last year.
“They’ve spent £12bn including on the Welsh services, so I’m not sure that anyone would’ve welcomed the cost of the lines.
“Of course, I have devolved the core Valley Lines to Wales. In general though the infrastructure is as I say is run by at the moment Network Rail. It will be run by Great British Railways.
“I do just want to challenge him a little bit on that figure because I don’t want it to go uncommented on.
“But the 11%, 1% I’m sure he’s aware is a hotly disputed figure due to the fact that it doesn’t look at passenger numbers and the geography is different in different parts of Great Britain.
“But nonetheless on the main thrust of wanting to see those services developed, I entirely in support of that and I’ll do whatever I can whilst as the name suggests Great British Railways will of course cover the whole of Great Britain.”