Wales needs a rail revolution – and Plaid Cymru will deliver it
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.
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Such fanciful aspirations are just that. It shows just how little is known about railways. Practicalities such as geography, cost and actual demand aren’t important are they? Let’s make our country bankrupt shall we?
Such fanciful comments are just that too – firmly entrenched in the 1960s despite the evolution of society, the change in demographics and reduction in real terms of costs and expenses over the last 50 years. I’m surprised that you aren’t calling for the return of the sedan chair
Yeah! Tell the Swiss that!
Right now we are more at risk of being bankrupted by funding AngloBrit vanity projects – Cross rail, HS2, Trident etc – that bring sweet F.A. to Wales. I’m not as enthusiastic as some others about a “new rail era” but can see how some rail-based solutions can play a key part in hugely improving access to and from various parts of Wales. In addition we will need to upgrade roads as electric, hybrid and next generation clean energy ( whatever that turns out to be !) will enable people to use public transport, cars, vans etc without clogging our… Read more »
Absolutely right. At the moment although there is technically a rail route from Pwllheli to Aberystwyth, the hour long change in Machynlleth makes it completely impractical. In addition there are frequent delays to allow trains from the opposite direction to pass. And dont get me on to the quality of the rolling stock!
Thus is may be, that we indeed need a rail revolution.
But Plaid Cymru have not expanded the territory they can hold beyond 1 election westwards in 90 years. You will not deliver any revolution because demographics are against you. This is not Scotland, you cannot gain your independence this way – you must physically change demographics to enlarge your territory. That is the only way.
Otherwise you shall shrink into oblivion. It has been seen.
Or maybe convince English voters living in Wales to vote for Plaid?
Today’s Wrexham 9:02 train took over half an hour to reach Chester. It is meant to take about 12 or so minutes. Now I am standing on the platform with over 30 people who all missed their connections thanks to a combination of faulty signals and clapped out old rebranded second or third hand trains. The funny part is when some poor soul has to apologise for the train running at a reduced speed when in fact it is not moving at all. The last time I took a train to Cardiff the proper “unit” had broken down the day… Read more »
OK, no question Wales has been hard done by. But I’ve got to ask, how long is this 2nd age of the train predicted to last? Electrification would not be my priority. You could reconnect a hell of lot of Welsh communities to the rail network for the 5-10 billion conventional electrification of the current network would cost. If Wales is going to do any of this, it needs to get on with it pdq or the Welsh will be waiting for trains while everyone else is warping around the universe.
Yes because it takes twice as long to get to North and South and alongside that communities in Wales are completely disconnected from train travels leaving them out the loop, not xenophobic at all. Bit of a cliche swipe if you ask me and boring to hear the same old dribble pumped out.
It matters to those of us in the middle who might like to get to Bangor or Cardiff without having to go to Shrewsbury. It’s not all about travelling the entire line.
Rob Xenophobes and other assorted dimwits can still be found asking seriously dull questions like “why would anyone need or want to travel from bits of Pembrokeshire to say Ynys Mon or Llandudno ?” That is so typical of morons whose entire thinking revolves around commuting to or visiting London or other major English metropolitan areas. Yet some of those same morons were busting a gut to get away from those areas to create their new little england in mainly rural parts of Wales. Could be diagnosed as a form of madness ? .
Geography is the answer to that.
Heart of Wales line links south Wales with mid Wales, and onwards in to England, where the traveller can either take a train to North Wales of via Hereford to Cwmbran and Newport.
The notion that having to go through bits of Herefordshire and Shropshire is a problem is lunacy.
I agree, Wales faces far greater problems than this, but people want the most direct and shortest route possible; a proper north-south route would also give many Mid-Wales people better access to a railway line. Money wasted on the Third Sector would be much better spent on improving the country’s rail infrastructure, but unfortunately Plaid Cymru won’t give up its love affair with that sector, and I can’t see these much-need improvements coming soon. If Plaid win in 2021 then a start can be made, but the bulk of the job may have to wait until after independence. I hope… Read more »
Battery-powered trains with charging stations are far more practical these days, as Keolis-Amey for the Cardiff system. Except that’s forced to go hybrid and costly in the transition. Avoids the costly construction and maintenance of overhead power lines, and the eyesore. It’s a pity if ambitions for the west coast line are stymied because of Adam’s fanciful other projects.,
Yes, battery technology would be my choice over electrification. My strategy would be to get more lines and stations open asap, with priority to the west coast route. Run whatever rolling stock is available initially, then replace conventional diesel-electric power plants in those trains with the latest battery (or supercapacitor) technology. I would also look very seriously at avoiding having to use line-side signalling technology by using entirely cabin to control room radio communications and pilot drones which provide the driver with real-time info about what’s happening ahead of him/her.