Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru
Anyone who has ever tried to get around Wales by train knows that what we have now is a crumbling, 19th-century rail system that simply isn’t fit for purpose.
We have about 5% of the UK’s population and yet we get just 1% of rail investment. We have cancelled electrification, and meanwhile the vanity project that is HS2 presses ahead. Never mind a high-speed rail link north to south, Wales doesn’t even have a low-speed rail link north to south.
The rail transport system throughout Wales is almost quite literally going nowhere.
Today, I will be travelling to Ynys Môn to join the campaign trail with our formidable Plaid Cymru candidate for the island, Aled ap Dafydd. Due to there being no easy direct north-south rail link, my journey north will take just shy of five hours and will include six train stations in England.
This unworkable rail infrastructure is a direct result of years of underinvestment in Welsh rail from an apathetic Tory government and is illustrative of the institutionalised negligence from Westminster that we have become accustomed to here in Wales.
The Labour Welsh Government’s Transport for Wales got off to a shaky start and has been off the rails ever since. There have been countless issues – from old stock and pacer trains, frequently cancelled journeys, and delays in making trains accessible to those with disabilities, not to mention a complete lack of development of new lines throughout Wales.
What we need in this country is a rail revolution, and that’s what Plaid Cymru is proposing through our Green Jobs Revolution.
Raising that bar of ambition can reconnect our country, north to south and east to west, for the first time in fifty years since Dr Beeching wielded Westminster’s axe.
We will build a Trans-Wales Railway from Swansea through Carmarthen to Aberystwyth and Bangor and on to Ynys Môn – not just a transport corridor along our western seaboard, but a national expressway of people and ideas, knowledge and opportunity, linking business and four universities along its path, with flourishing science and business parks at each one of its nodes.
They’ve begun to do it in along the Trans-Pennine Express so let’s get the Heart of Wales pumping too, the lifeblood of the 21st century: connectivity.
In the former coalfield, getting from one Valley requires the heroism of Odysseus and, soon, a bladder the size of an elephant. The tracks were put there to extract the coal not connect communities.
Well, let’s put that right.
London is slated to have its second Crossrail, and now the north of England is going to get one too. Well, this is Wales’ time.
Time to build a Crossrail for the Valleys. A Plaid Cymru Government will create a new 50 km rapid transit service from Treherbert to Pontypool. Connecting the East and the West pf the former coalfield end to end in a hour and ten minutes, allowing cross-valley travel, for the first time in 50 years.
If we want to change the Valleys then this is the level of ambition we need.
Connecting a quarter of a million people with new opportunities.
Creating a real metro not Labour’s scaled-down pretend one.
We’ll take people out of their cars by giving them a real alternative. And give a massive new impetus to the economies of Pontypridd, Blackwood, Ystrad Mynach, Pontllanffraith and the Rhondda.
Creating a new tourist offer the length and breadth of the Valleys Regional Park.
Of course this is ambitious. It would take some years to build. And there would be challenges. We’d have to cross the Ebbw Valley at Crumlin. But over a century ago we succeeded in building the world’s highest railway viaduct. If we did it then we can do it again.
Let the world to come to Ebbw Vale – and show them that Yes Wales Can.
And we’ll know what we’ll call the Heads of the Valleys Railways – Llinell Steffan, Steffan’s Line.
We’ll get it all up and running by 2028. But who knows with our Minister for the Future, Delyth Jewell, we may get there sooner.
Contrast that to what’s on offer from Labour.
The feasibility study for the Swansea Bay and Western Valleys Metro – yes, you’ve guessed it, leaves the Western Valleys out. Well, I’m pleased to announce that under the next Plaid Cymru Government, no valley will be left behind. The next Plaid Cymru Government will commit to reopening railway passenger services for the Amman, the Swansea, the Neath and Dulas Valleys.
And we’ll electrify all main train routes.
Under successive governments of the two big Westminster parties, Wales’ rail infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and disrepute.
We have seen failure after failure from Labour in Wales, with projects designed to improve transport links resulting in disruption and delays for commuters.
Plaid Cymru is presenting real solutions to the real problems facing transport in Wales and for a modern railway system fit for a 21st-century country, it’s us.