Local politicians and business welcome report recommending urgent rail infrastructure improvements
North Wales politicians have welcomed a report which recommends urgent improvements in rail infrastructure across the region.
The publication of the cross-party Welsh Affairs Committee’s report also calls for the re-classification of HS2 as an England-only scheme – which former Welsh Government Transport Minister Ken Skates believes ‘could in turn generate huge consequential funds for Wales’.
Fellow Members of the Senedd Jack Sargeant and Carolyn Thomas have also called on the UK Government to implement the recommendations as soon as possible.
The report recommends that the UK Government should prepare a full strategic case for the upgrade and electrification of the North Wales mainline and also concludes that HS2 should incorporate improvements around Crewe and Chester to enable Wales to benefit.
Clwyd South MS Mr Skates said: “While transport is devolved to Wales, responsibility for track, station infrastructure and signalling remains with Westminster. Over the past 20 years, Wales has had less than 2% of the £102bn that the UK Government has spent on improvements, despite us having 5% of the population and 11% of the track miles.
“I welcome the publication of this cross-party report and its recommendations, and look forward to the UK Government moving to implement them as quickly as possible.”
Mr Sargeant, MS for Alyn and Deeside, said: “The recommendations of this cross-party report would mean much better funding for Wales through the Barnett formula.”
“As rail infrastructure is not currently devolved to the Welsh Government, Wales will therefore not benefit from HS2 in the same way as Scotland and Northern Ireland. I hope this will now change and we will see long-overdue investment in North Wales infrastructure to bring it into the 21st century.”
North Wales MS Ms Thomas added: “North Wales has a number of key cross-border routes, such as the Wrexham to Bidston and Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury/Birmingham lines.”
“This report clearly states that there is a strong environmental and economic case for substantially enhancing the rail infrastructure that serves Wales and that ‘the passenger experience of slow services and inadequate stations only underlines the need for an upgraded network”.
“This investment is desperately needed and we need the UK Government to give it the green light.”
The Welsh Affairs Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales, including relations with the Welsh Parliament.
The report was commissioned to focus on the case for upgrading rail infrastructure in Wales; management of rail infrastructure; funding and the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another key finding is that the UK Government’s Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) is ‘too slow and hampers, rather than helps, the evaluation of infrastructure proposals’ – recommending that Westminster should set out its plans to reform it ‘with a view to accelerating the delivery of projects in Wales’.
Business and local authority leaders from North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester in the Growth Track 360 partnership have also welcomed the report.
Growth Track 360 was one of seventeen organisations and individuals who submitted written evidence to the Committee’s inquiry.
Its 19 recommendations include the following of direct benefit to North Wales and the Mersey-Dee cross-border region:
- Enhancements should include a focus on improving connectivity within Wales as well as between Wales and the rest of the UK (2).
- A number of potential upgrades are cross-border in nature such as between Wrexham and Merseyside, reflecting the level of socio-economic integration between border communities in Wales and England which is unique within the UK, so enhancing these connections should be central to the Union Connectivity Review (3).
- The Union Connectivity Review should improve the experience of passengers for whom cross-border travel is simply local commuting, and it is critical that a complementary approach is adopted by the UK and Welsh governments in the development of Welsh rail projects (4).
- The UK Government should establish by this autumn a Wales Rail Board with the Welsh Government, train operators, Network Rail and Transport for Wales to develop a shared vision and project pipeline for rail in Wales (8& 12).
- HS2 should be reclassified as an England-only project to increase the allocation of funds to Wales under the Barnett Formula (15); and
- HS2 should be accompanied by enhancements to the North Wales mainline including upgrades at Crewe and Chester stations and preparation of a full strategic case for electrification (16).
Growth Track 360 Vice Chair and Leader of Flintshire Council, Councillor Ian Roberts, said:
“The House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee recommendations prove that political and business leaders in our cross-border region are literally on the right track when it comes to urging the need for rail investment.”
“Flintshire Council’s recent bid to the UK Levelling Up Fund for £30 million of investment in the Wrexham-Liverpool railway exactly chimes with the Committee’s views and the recent interim report from Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review, so we look forward to all of these factors being joined up when the UK Department for Transport is evaluating our proposals.”