It’s time for the Senedd to unite to demand Wales’ fair share of HS2 funding
Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru MS for North Wales
Wales’ creaking rail infrastructure is in desperate need of fresh investment.
It has been chronically and wilfully underfunded by Westminster for decades, and because of this the people of Wales aren’t getting the rail services they need or deserve.
Wherever you look there is evidence of neglect. We have far less rail electrification than any other part of the UK. Our rail infrastructure is so bad, that to get from Cardiff to Aberystwyth by train you need to go via England.
Therefore an injection of, oh let’s say £5bn, would come in very handy. It could be used to fund the South Wales and Swansea Bay metros, transform rail infrastructure in North Wales, and connect Aberystwyth and Swansea via train. Indeed, its impact would be transformative.
But the UK Government has decided to withhold precisely that amount from Wales, and it is doing so on the most absurd of pretexts. It will be splurging an eye-watering £96bn on the controversial HS2 rail project in England. Because of this, Scotland and Northern Ireland are receiving an enormous amount of consequential funding. By rights, Wales should get this consequential funding too.
But we’re not going to receive a penny of the money we are due because the UK Government has decided to define HS2 as an England and Wales project. This is despite the fact that not a solitary metre of track will be laid in Wales.
As it stands, Wales is the only nation in the UK not to see any benefit from HS2. Not only won’t this benefit Wales, but the UK Treasury’s own analysis suggests it will actively hurt our economy to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds a year. It’s an absolute scandal.
This isn’t a one off either. It’s part of a clear pattern. This has been evidenced in a report by Cardiff University that found Wales would have received an extra £514m between 2011-12 and 2019-20, if it received funding under a population based share of the UK’s rail infrastructure spending.
The justifications wheeled out by Tory ministers for denying Wales HS2 funding belong in the realm of parody. The Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies has absurdly claimed: “It’s going to benefit Wales, it’s going to benefit people in North Wales who will benefit from better access at Crewe to London.”
If that wasn’t absurd enough to begin with, now even that fig leaf has been blown away after the UK Government announced that the Birmingham-Crewe and Crewe-Manchester sections of HS2 have been put on hold due to the spiralling cost of inflation. The project is now nothing more than a new line between London and Birmingham. Yet the UK Government persists with stubbornly refusing to disavow the risible fiction that HS2 is an England and Wales project.
But if you’re relying in an incoming Labour government to redress the situation, then think again. Keir Starmer has point blank refused to guarantee that as Prime Minister of the UK he would give Wales its fair share of HS2 funding. It is further proof, if any was needed, that whatever colour their rosette, Westminster politicians cannot be relied upon to do what’s right for Wales.
That’s why it is incumbent on Members of the Senedd to speak up and to speak out. Plaid Cymru is going to be putting forward a simple and clear motion to the Senedd that states: “To propose that the Senedd: Calls on the UK Government to redesignate HS2 as an England-only project, and provide Wales with the resultant consequentials it is rightfully owed.”
The sheer injustice of the present situation is so stark that Welsh Labour and even the Welsh Tories have already began to signal a willingness to diverge from the Westminster line to which they ordinarily cling. Well now they will have a chance to put this on the record in our national parliament.
There is an opportunity for Members of the Senedd to put on a united front, to say loudly and clearly with one voice that this is not ok and it is not something we are willing to tolerate.
By doing so we can demonstrate unequivocally that Westminster is brazenly defying the democratic will of the people of Wales. We cannot sit idly by while our citizens are short-changed. We have to demand the infrastructure funding to which we’re entitled if we are going to put our rail services back on track.
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