Westminster’s rail investment is ‘focused’ on south-east of England, says Drakeford
Westminster’s plan for rail investment in the UK is “still focused” on the south-east of England, according to Mark Drakeford.
The First Minister took aim at the Conservative government’s record on investing in Wales’ rail infrastructure during a debate in the Senedd.
He was asked a question on the subject by Labour MS Jenny Rathbone, who represents Cardiff Central, who said she hoped that “there’s full understanding” in Westminster “that Wales is entitled to a modernised railway system just like the rest of the United Kingdom”.
She pointed out that it has been four years since the UK Government cancelled the electrification of the main line to Swansea.
In response Drakeford said the “current system simply doesn’t work for Wales”, adding that the Welsh Government has “no control over it”.
He also criticised the Tory government’s decision to give Scotland and Northern Ireland extra cash as a result of HS2, but to not give anything to Wales.
Jenny Rathbone said: “Well, that’s excellent news, First Minister, because it is now four years since the UK Government decided to cancel the electrification of the main line to Swansea.
“How long does it take for the UK Government to come up with their alternative plan for modernising Wales’s rail network?
“And I hope that, in your discussions, and Lee Water’s discussions with the UK Government, there’s full understanding that Wales is entitled to a modernised railway system just like the rest of the United Kingdom.
The First Minister replied: “Well, I thank Jenny Rathbone for that. Of course those are the points we make repeatedly to the UK Government. The current system simply doesn’t work for Wales. The rail network enhancement pipeline is still focused on investment in the south-east of England.
“We have no control over it. We have no say over the process, and the process itself is opaque, it’s bureaucratic and it’s slow, as Jenny Rathbone has said.
“And then the playing field simply isn’t level here. HS2 we talk about here in the Chamber often. With the HS2 programme, the comparability factor, which drives money through the Barnett formula for Scotland, is 100 per cent.
“For Northern Ireland, it is 100 per cent. For Wales, it’s 0 per cent, despite the fact that HS2 does not enter Wales at any point, and the UK Government’s own analysis shows that it is more likely to do economic damage to Wales than to do economic good.”
‘Point out the fact’
He added: “And Jenny Rathbone, Llywydd, is absolutely right to point to the fact that when the electrification of the south Wales main line was cancelled by the Conservative Government as far back as 2017, the Secretary of State for Wales at the time made a great deal of the fact that there would be a series of business cases coming through to improve journey times along that line. Not a single one of those business cases, four years later, has been completed.”
Conservative MS Natasha Asghar said: First Minister, having met with some of the colleagues that we have in the Westminster Parliament, the UK Government does recognise, in improving transport connections, as do you, that they are an important part of helping people access job opportunities and supporting business growth all across Wales.
“And I completely agree with you—levelling up is very important to them, as much as it is to all of us. That is why they are actually investing record amounts in Wales’s railway infrastructure, including more than £1.5 billion in the Wales route from 2019 to 2024, £5.7 billion on new InterCity express trains on the Great Western main line, £125 million on the Wales Valleys lines upgrades, and £50 million on resignalling on the north Wales coast main line.”
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