Union Connectivity Review Chair claims England-only HS2 rail investment benefits Wales
The Chair of the Union Connectivity Review has claimed that investments in the England-only HS2 rail project will benefit Wales.
Sir Peter Hendy, who is also the Chair of Network Rail, told MPs at the Welsh Affairs Committee that this is because the project includes building a new station in Crewe.
He argued that this will “enable much much faster journey times to north Wales” from the Cheshire town, which he described as a “huge benefit”.
The UK Government has refused to class HS2 as an England-only rail project despite recommendation by the cross-party Welsh Affairs Committee that it should do so because none of the investment is going into Wales’ rail network.
The report also notes that Wales will not benefit in the same way as Scotland and Northern Ireland from additional rail funding as a result of the HS2 project.
“This is despite the fact that UK Government’s own analysis has concluded that HS2 will produce an economic disbenefit for Wales,” the report says.
With the estimated cost of HS2 being around £100 billion, the Welsh Government would expect to receive around £5 billion in additional funds via the Barnett formula if the project was reclassified.
Hendy was appointed by the UK Government to produce the report in the UK transport network, with the aim of “binding” Wales, England and the other nations of the UK “closer together”.
But Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts has said his report aimed to make Wales an “extension of the West of England”.
During the session of the Welsh Affairs Commitee, Conservative MP for Aberconwy, Robin Millar said: “We talked about the impact of investments in England which benefit north Wales, and some station improvements in Crewe, Chester etcetera, which would have an impact on the north Wales main line. So what is you assessment of the UK Government’s argument that HS2 will provide significant benefits to north Wales please?”
Hendy replied: “So the recent announcement about the integrated rail plan confirmed that the government intends to bring forward a bill to get HS2 to Crewe, to Manchester, from the Midlands, and I think that’s very significant for north Wales because interrail will include a new station at Crewe or a station that to all reasonable effect is new and that will enable much much faster journey times to north Wales, which I think is a huge benefit.”
‘One of the things that is central’
“And one of the things that is central to the proposition about looking at the connectivity of the four nations of the United Kingdom that is expenditure in one of the nations can greatly benefit others.
“So HS2 doesn’t itself tough Wales, but the result of HS2 and the result of the investment at Crewe will produce a great benefit for north Wales. It may produce actually produce a reasonable benefit even for central Wales as a consequence of the connection between Crewe and Shrewsbury and the Cambria main line, and although you didn’t ask it actually HS2 to Crewe and north of Crewe will also produce a huge potential benefit for Scotland and you’ll read in my report some recommendations about that.
“So I think the central part of your premise is right which is that you know the UK transport system is a network. It’a a network of roads it’s a network of railways, and investment in one place can produce benefits in another, which is actually the purpose of me I think doing this work”.
Millar replied: “Yes it is . It is the underpinning concept of the union I suppose in many respects.”
The Welsh Affairs Committee report stated: “We recommend that HS2 should be reclassified as an England only project. Using the Barnett Formula, Wales’ funding settlement should be recalculated to apply an additional allocation based on the funding for HS2 in England.
“We suggest that such a reclassification would help to ensure that Welsh rail passengers receive the same advantage from investment in HS2 as those in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”
HS2 is a high-speed railway that aims to improve links between London, the midlands and the north of England with routes to Birmingham and Leeds.