On 21st July, the Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, slipped out a written statement in Parliament on the last day before the summer break cancelling electrification of the mainline between Cardiff and Swansea. The Government have tried to present this as ‘good’ news on the basis there will be no disruption for passengers and residents living near the line as a result of electrification works.
The continued neglect of rail transport infrastructure in Wales by the UK government and this disgraceful broken promise on electrification is in stark contrast to the money that they are happy to pump into London and the South East, never mind their £1 billion bung to the DUP to prop up their minority government.
Wales has 11% of the UK’s total railway lines but we get only 1.5% of UK Government investment in the railways. This recent announcement forms part of a series of failures to provide adequate funding for transport in Wales. The failure to provide funding for basic maintenance and upgrades, such as safety and highway improvements connected to electrification, has allowed our railways to fall behind other UK regions. Most recently, the government’s failure to confirm vital funding for the new Wales and Border franchise agreement, which has cast doubt upon the future of the new South Wales Metro project, is very concerning. The UK government’s unwillingness to work constructively with the Welsh Government to fill the £1 billion funding gap is counterproductive and is letting rail passengers across South Wales down.
All 22 South Wales Labour MPs wrote to the Transport Secretary and the Welsh Secretary urging the Government to reconsider the decision to renege on electrification to Swansea, which would include the funding of safety improvements, highway upgrades, and commit £1 billion to secure a sustainable new Wales and Border franchise agreement. In the light of the Government’s recent commitment to the £30 billion Crossrail 2 project it is difficult to justify their decision to end investment in rail infrastructure across South Wales. Similarly, if the HS2 rail project goes ahead as planned in England, Wales is owed £2 billion as a Barnett consequential, which would go a long way in helping to deliver the infrastructure improvements required that includes the redevelopment of Cardiff Central railway station.