Last week the government tried to sneak out its announcement that the mainline from Cardiff to Swansea won’t be electrified, despite numerous promises over a long period of time that it would be.
This is the latest in a long catalogue of delay, disregard and decision making that ignores Wales and our infrastructure needs.
Since being elected in 2015, I have taken every opportunity to press government ministers on rail electrification to Wales, with the need to fund improvements to Cardiff Central Station and for them to give the go ahead to the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon as this is a pathfinder (pilot) project for the Cardiff and Newport Tidal Lagoon. This world-leading marine energy scheme would not only bring thousands of new, highly skilled jobs to a generation of people in South Wales, it would also deliver clean, green energy for Wales and the rest of the UK.
It makes you wonder what the point of having a Secretary of State for Wales is. Either the case for Wales is not being made strongly enough around the UK government cabinet table, or its not being made at all.
We’ve learnt that promises from government ministers mean absolutely nothing.
Why does electrification matter?
It’s not just about getting to and from London a bit quicker, though connectivity between Cardiff and the UK capital is an important consideration for people doing business in our city. Electrification would also improve journey times between Cardiff and Swansea – a key commuter route – and electric rather than diesel powered trains would be much better for our health and the environment.
With organisations like BBC Wales moving their headquarters to Cardiff Central, and the number of high-profile events – like the Champions League Final, Rugby World Cup, test matches at the SWALEC and Ed Sheeran’s record four-night run at the stadium – on the increase, we need infrastructure fit for purpose.
I met with representatives of Arriva Trains Wales and Network Rail at Cardiff Central station last week. Huge improvements have recently been made to the signalling system around Cardiff Central, a new information centre has been built, toilets refurbished and Platform 8 has been opened, all of which help them do more than before with the existing station infrastructure.
What we need, however, is a fully redeveloped and modernised station. Cardiff Central station was not built for the kind of capacity it sees daily, never mind the peaks on event days. This isn’t just wanting the station to look better, it’s about the safety of everyone who works at, travels to and through it. Without UK Government backing and funding, redevelopment is very unlikely to happen.
When I look around the country and see the huge amounts of government money invested elsewhere, like HS2, Crossrail and redevelopment of stations such as Birmingham New Street, the inequality of infrastructure spending is stark.
This graphic, produced by Satista from UK Treasury data, shows that stark contrast in infrastructure investment between London and the other regions of England. In Wales we get even less.
This inequality further serves to show that the UK Government is focused on keeping wealth in London and the South East and away from Wales, Scotland and the English regions.
I’ll continue to champion infrastructure in Wales, and demand that Welsh Tory Ministers do what they’re there to do – make sure Wales gets fair deal.