Westminster should hand Wales rail powers if it won’t fund infrastructure properly, says transport prof
Westminster should either devolve rail infrastructure powers to Wales or take responsibility for funding the improvements, according to Cardiff University School of Geography and Planning professor.
Mark Barry said: “The current situation where London is fully responsible for Welsh railways hasn’t worked and it needs to change.”
Commenting on plans which suggest a redesign of the High Speed 2 (HS2) network from a Y shape to an X, Barry said: “In the margins HS2 can help but in the main it does not benefit Wales.”
Commenting in the New Civil Engineer, Barry said that while the redesign would improve connectivity for the south-west and Wales, he thought that Wales had different rail priorities.
“There’s no confusion about what the priorities are for Welsh rail, but we need more detail,” Barry said. “HS2 is not a necessary condition – there are things we can do now in North Wales that would really add value in terms of getting people out of their cars.
“Similarly in South Wales, it has sub-optimum railway and doesn’t offer the necessary backbone around which you can wrap other technologies. I’m looking at Westminster to pass the powers over or fund this themselves.”
There is, according to a report from the Welsh Affairs Committee a “strong case” for spending more on transport infrastructure in Wales.
It states 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.
The report says: “On HS2, we note that, as rail infrastructure is not devolved to the Welsh government, beyond the core valleys lines, Wales will not benefit in the same way as Scotland and Northern Ireland from Barnett consequentials arising from the project spend.”
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.”
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.
However, unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales currently stands to receive no proportional payout via the Barnett formula as (HS2) is seen as delivering benefits to both ‘England and Wales’.
“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.