Welsh MP seeks assurances on Sunak’s north Wales rail electrification pledge
Plaid Cymru’s MP for Arfon, Hywel Williams has sought assurances that the Prime Minister’s announcement of plans for the electrification of the north Wales mainline will be ‘properly and fully funded’.
During the announcement about scrapping the second phase of the HS2 project during the Conservative Party Conference earlier this month, Rishi Sunak listed a series of projects that would be funded following its demise.
The allocation of £1bn for the electrification of the north Wales mainline was mentioned briefly in his speech, however Mr Sunak claimed last week that the list of projects listed in his speech was only “illustrative”.
Transport expert and government advisor Professor Stuart Cole said the £1bn figure is an underestimation, based on calculations from 2015. He said the cost of the project is likely to be closer to £1.5-1.8bn to reflect higher construction costs due to inflation.
In addition, the Welsh Government said that they had not been consulted on the plans to electrify the north Wales mainline, despite all passenger mainline services wholly within Wales being run by Transport for Wales, a company owned by the Welsh Government.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Williams said: “I was very pleased when the Prime Minister announced the electrification of the north Wales line, having been a long-term advocate of that sort of project.
“In fact, as long ago as 2003, I met the chair and chief executive of the then Strategic Rail Authority to press for it—he said no. Twenty years later, I remember the SRA’s motto, which was “Britain’s railway, properly delivered”.
“I was concerned that the Prime Minister noted a figure of £1 billion for the north Wales project; many commentators think that that is quite insufficient. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that the project will be properly delivered by being properly and fully funded?”
The UK Government’s Transport Secretary, Mark Harper MP, responded: “I am grateful for what I think was a welcome for the north Wales mainline electrification. I met Network Rail following the announcement we made, and it will now do the detailed work on delivering that scheme.
“It will announce the details, the timeframe and so forth in the usual way, and I look forward to the hon. Gentleman’s support for each stage of the project.”
After the session, Mr Williams observed: “People in north Wales are right to be sceptical about the UK Government’s announcement on electrification, which came under a cloud of chaos around the Tory conference. We have seen no evidence of a proper plan to deliver this commitment.
“Wales is still owed over £2bn in funding for spending to date on the first phase of HS2. This back of an envelope commitment does not right that wrong. The only way to resolve this saga properly is to fully devolve rail infrastructure, transferring the billions owed to Wales through the Barnett formula.”
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