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Wales will not benefit from HS2 and needs better north-south rail links, says Westminster committee

14 Jul 2021 5 minutes Read
HS2 artists’ impression

Wales will not benefit from HS2 and it should be classified as an England-only project so that Wales’s “Victorian” rail infrastructure can be “substantially enhanced,” according to a Westminster committee.

According to the Welsh Affairs Committee, of which the majority of members were elected as Conservative MPs, there is a “strong case” for spending more on transport infrastructure in Wales.

Describing Wales’ rail infrastructure as “Victorian” they call for “improving connectivity within Wales, such as more efficient rail links between North and South Wales, as well as between Wales and the rest of the UK”.

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.

“We recommend that HS2 should be reclassified as an England-only project. This would help to ensure that Welsh rail passengers receive the same advantage from investment in HS2 as those in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

The report adds that “improving transport infrastructure within Wales must be a priority and should focus on how infrastructure initiatives can remedy deprivation, boost the Welsh economy and contribute to meeting decarbonisation targets”.

‘Slow’

The report also argues that upgrades and electrification of Wales’ ageing rail infrastructure should be addressed by UK-Welsh collaboration.

The committee call for a Wales Rail Board to be in place by the Autumn – comprised of UK and Welsh government bodies – that can consider improvements and upgrades to Wales’ ageing rail network.

“However, it is a Victorian system trying to support a 21st century level of service, with passengers experiencing slow services and inadequate stations,” they said.

The Committee urges the UK Government to bring forward proposals – before the end of 2021 – on new proposals for greater connectivity between Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol, which could require completing electrification of the mainline between Cardiff and Swansea.

Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, said: “There is a compelling case for greater investment in rail infrastructure in Wales to improve journey times for passengers, strengthen connectivity with the rest of the United Kingdom and reduce carbon emissions.

“Reaching our net zero targets will require a significant investment in rail electrification. We believe that this should result in a reconsideration of the short-sighted decision to cancel the electrification of the Great Western mainline from Cardiff to Swansea.

“While there will always be voices calling for the further devolution of rail powers, it’s clear that what passengers most need is both of their governments, as well as the rail operators, working together.

“Our Committee has proposed a new Wales Rail Board, which would bring together the two governments, Network Rail and rail operators, which can be tasked with bringing forward a shared pipeline of Welsh rail projects and which should be in place by the Autumn.”

‘Uner-funding’

In March a Cardiff University report concluded that the Welsh Government will receive less money to spend on transport “for decades” thanks to HS2.

HS2 was designated as an England and Wales project despite the fact that no part of the track is included in Wales.

The decisions excluded Wales from receiving the additional funding that will flow to Scotland and Northern Ireland over the lifespan of the project, researchers at Cardiff University said.

“For the remainder of the HS2 project’s lifetime – likely to be several decades – the Welsh Government will now receive a much smaller share from any increase in the Department for Transport’s budget,” they said.

It was part of what they called “historic under-funding” that was “being baked into the system” in Wales.

The Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre report also reveals that railway infrastructure investment in Wales would have been significantly higher if it had been devolved.

‘Double whammy’

The Cardiff University report found that under a fully devolved system, Wales could have received an extra £514m investment in its rail infrastructure between 2011-12 and 2019-20.

As well as perpetuating underinvestment in Wales’ rail infrastructure, the researchers warn the non-devolved system will also lead to a funding squeeze on the Welsh Government’s future budget.

These amounts can be compared to the cost of several major Welsh rail infrastructure projects that have been estimated by external sources, including:

  • The Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line (£620-775 million)
  • Electrification of the North Wales Coast mainline (£764 million)
  • Electrification of the South Wales mainline between Cardiff and Swansea (£433 million)

Wales Fiscal Analysis researcher, Guto Ifan, commented at the time: “When it comes to the Welsh railways, the evidence is clear that funding would have been substantially higher under a fully devolved system – to the tune of £500m since 2011, when spending data for Wales was first made available. That funding over the course of eight years would have enabled significant improvement projects to take place.

“Wales is also set to lose out on transport funding when the Treasury next sets multi-year budgets, due to technical changes in Barnett formula calculations. This is a double whammy for Wales, with the historic under-funding being baked in to the system.

“It is now clear that only full devolution of rail infrastructure – similar to Scotland – will address the underfunding of Welsh railways.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
17 days ago

No mention of the old Cambrian Line at all!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
17 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

One could mention the Talyrddig Gap, Barmouth Viaduct and Y Friog Cliffs just for starters!

Hywel
Hywel
17 days ago

So we hear from Westminster that Wales needs better North-South rail links, meanwhile our own Transport for Wales argues against having a line such as this running through Wales (see: https://news.tfw.wales/blog/connecting-north-and-south-wales) on the basis that “our geography is too difficult” and the old track lines are too “meandering”.

TFW aspirations here seem blinkered, and in many ways typical of the ‘can’t do’ attittude we have compared to our bigger neighbour. In fact, I wish our illustrious PM’s ‘Yes we can’ Bob the Builder attitude had more traction here, we might just get something done.

Last edited 17 days ago by Hywel
Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
17 days ago
Reply to  Hywel

There is no economic case for a direct rail link. Wrexham, the only town over 50,000, is best served by rail that runs along the English side of a topographically challenging border.

As for Boris and his “can do” attitude. He only just managed to build a ski lift across the Thames that nobody uses and costs London ratepayers a fortune so you are on the right track with a railway to nowhere.

Hywel
Hywel
17 days ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

You’re right, I perhaps shouldn’t have invoked Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson’s example, it was mostly in jest.

I realise with the way things are done, the “economic case” is usually the be all and end all of these exploits. However surely there are factors in favour, it is a bit cynical, and I would say, lazy even to dismiss the many other local and national implications a transport infrastructure such as this would have.

Bruce
Bruce
17 days ago

Quote from article: “According to the Welsh Affairs Committee, of which the majority of members were elected as Conservative MPs,”
So most members of the Welsh Affairs Committee are Tory? And I thought that most of the MPs in Wales were Labour.

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
17 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

The Welsh Affairs Select Committee has 5 Conservative MPs, 1 formerly Conservative MP now sitting as an independent, 4 Labour MPs and 1 Plaid Cymru MP.

Labour hold 55% of the Welsh constituencies in Westminster but only 36.4% of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee positions.

Last edited 17 days ago by Hannergylch
Charles Evans
Charles Evans
17 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

Yes, they are, though every member of the Committee represents a Welsh constituency (Preseli Pembrokeshire, Gower, Clwyd South, Ynys Mon, Swansea West, Newport West, Ceredigion, Aberconwy, Delyn, Bridgend, Cynon Valley)

Chris
Chris
17 days ago

Wow. We’ve known this for ages now. Nice to see that at a time when the UKBIN is as fractured as it has been since the time of the Marcher Thieves, the One Nation Victorian jingoists are now suddenly considerate of the needs of Cymru. I am entertained that a UKBIN government wanting to take us back to twisted Victorian false morality criticises our Victorian infrastructure, along with Transport for Wales repeating the Victorian lie that “our geography is too difficult”. Norway manage to run trains between Islands. Switzerland runs trains through mountains. Tibet threads trains through the highest mountain… Read more »

Chris
Chris
17 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Apparently our “geography” prevents North to South train lines https://www.colorado.com/articles/complete-guide-colorado-train-trips

hdavies15
hdavies15
17 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Once you start looking beyond the feeble excuses and witness what people were able to do in places like Colorado and in Alpine Europe over 120 years ago, clever engineering combined with hard graft, it becomes a source of anger that the idle minds in government can’t be moved to at least match the energy of that era.

Chris
Chris
17 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Yeah, gentle rolling hills between North and South are just impassable eh? https://matadornetwork.com/view/best-train-ride-europe-glacier-express/

Quornby
Quornby
17 days ago

The fact that the Welsh devolution settlement is worse than Scotland and even Northern Ireland was and remains a national humiliation. The HST2 rip off was and remains an indictment of colonial rapine. That Tory MPs recognize this is tantamount to a guilty plea. That “Welsh” Labour have tolerated this abuse is damning.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
17 days ago

Tory thieves confirm that Welsh taxpayers’ £6Bn contribution to HS2 is indeed theft.

Stands back in amazement!

hdavies15
hdavies15
17 days ago

Took a long time for that penny to drop ! Maybe they’ll address it with an immediate adjustment to the annual settlement. Better still set up a timetable for separation.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
17 days ago

We’ve had numerous committies stating Wales is underfunded in one form or another for years and what has been done about it? Bugger all ! Zilch ! Nada ! Nothing ! Extra funding is not going to happen, full stop. The only way our services will get the funding required – is through independence.

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