Posted: Thu 5th Oct 2023

Rishi Sunak’s £1 billion figure for North Wales Mainline electrification “back of a fag packet stuff” says minister

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 5th, 2023

Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething says no development has gone into the government’s North Wales Mainline electrification plan.

The figure of £1b announced for it by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak yesterday was “real back of a fag packet stuff

Rishi Sunak confirmed the termination of the remaining phases of the High-Speed Rail 2 (HS2), stopping the link between Birmingham and Manchester during a keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference in the city on Wednesday.

Despite HS2 not touching Welsh soil it had been argued that the improvements in the north west of England would benefit travellers and commuters in north Wales. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

Mr Sunak announced that funding for the second leg of HS2 would instead be diverted into hundreds of other projects – including a potential £1 billion for the electrification of the North Wales Mainline between Chester and Holyhead. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

Despite this seemingly positive news for Wales, the announcement has been met with scepticism.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething highlighted the lack of detailed planning and questioned whether the £1 billion would be sufficient.

Speaking on BBC Newsnight on Wednesday he said: “If there really is going to be significant investment in the rail network across North Wales, that is good news. The difficulty is the credibility of this plan. Because the one billion pound figure is real back of a fag packet stuff.”

“There’s no development work that has gone into that to understand how the costs come out.”

“HS2, for all of its challenges on cost, actually had a cost of benefit ratio with their business plan around it.”

“In announcing what looks like a big investment in North Wales, they haven’t learnt any of the lessons of HS2 and controlling costs. If you don’t have that development work done, you can’t control costs, they don’t really know if a billion pounds will do it.”

Prof Stewart Cole, from the University of South Wales and a Welsh government adviser on transport, echoed these sentiments.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales this morning, he pointed out that the £1bn figure might be outdated, suggesting that with construction costs increasing annually, the real cost might be closer to £1.5 billion or more.

He said the £1bn figure “presumably includes signalling and straightening the truck”.

“However, the figure he used was based on the study in 2015, and construction costs increased by about 7% per annum, so we’re now really talking about £1.5bn or more,” he said.

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies acknowledged the uncertainty around the exact figure, stating that while the strategic outline might begin with a specific sum, costs tend to rise as projects progress.

A point noted by Flintshire-based Senedd Mmebers Carolyn Thomas who posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Adding to the chorus of critics, another Welsh Government minister described the proposed electrification as “no more than an election promise with no numbers behind it.”

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, also weighed in, urging the UK Government to ensure that Wales receives its fair share of funding, especially in light of the HS2’s second leg cancellation.

 

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