Welsh Government give £1bn Metro plan update – £50m so far for North Wales is a ‘kick in the teeth’
Labour ministers have been accused of “neglecting and ignoring” North Wales with their plans for the Metro by the Welsh Conservatives, however the reason given for the large differential is that the South Wales projects are at a far more advanced stage than local plans.
The criticism comes after a Welsh Government said that “delivering the £1bn Welsh Metro project will be one of the most ambitious and complex programmes we’ve ever undertaken”, with the detail released noting £50 million allocated for the North Wales Metro project.
Speaking a week before the Welsh Government publishes its Net Zero plans in the run up to COP26, Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters said the project would “deliver on plans set out in Llwybr Newydd, the Wales Transport Strategy, by creating a modern, integrated and sustainable transport network that supports modern lifestyles”
Welsh Government say the Metro will make it the easier choice for people to use their cars less and public transport and active travel more, to significantly reduce environmental impact and help Wales reach its Net Zero carbon target by 2050.
New maps “illustrate the ambitious short and longer term plans that the programme will deliver, to help people make the right choice” – one map for North Wales is above, and the other is below:
Taking questions on the update in the Senedd, Deputy Minister Waters said, “For medium and long-term journeys, rail has an important part to play. We need to see the £5 billion shortfall in rail investment from the UK Government made up in order to modernise our network. For our part, we have taken the Wales and borders franchise under public control and are working hard to stabilise it after the collapse in passenger numbers during COVID. As we plan the rail recovery, we must do it in tandem with the other sustainable modes, so that people can make their whole journey, door to door, by sustainable transport.”
“The Burns commission in south-east Wales has set a blueprint for how that can be done, and we want to scale that approach to other parts of Wales. In particular, I want to emulate the model where the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales have formed a single joint delivery unit with the local authorities, and an independent delivery board set up to drive performance and ensure progress. I’m pleased that Simon Gibson and Dr Lynn Sloman, both noted for their delivery focus, are serving as chair and vice-chair of the delivery board in south-east Wales.”
“I can announce that I have tasked my officials with creating a similar collaborative approach in north Wales too. We will create a north Wales metro delivery board, and I will be advertising for an independent chair and vice-chair to make sure we are being as ambitious as possible and to hold delivery partners to account, ourselves included. I would also like to see this model of partnership, co-design and shared leadership adopted by the four corporate joint committees across Wales as they take up their responsibility for regional transport planning over the course of this Senedd term.”
“In north Wales, we’ve put in place the foundations for a significantly improved rail and bus service and active travel through our £50 million of Welsh Government funding announcement. I recently saw for myself the plans at Wrexham General station to make it easier to change between rail and bus, helping connections between the north Wales coast and the more frequent Borderlands line services from next year at Shotton, alongside a new station at Deeside industrial park.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar MS, responded to the statement in the Senedd, “I wish to put on record that the Welsh Conservatives do fully support the metro projects across Wales, but I do want to also just put in there that we don’t think it’s going to be a fully fledged solution to the environmental crisis. We do share your hope that it’ll make it easier for people to use their cars less and use public transport more.”
“However, we do have concerns that your Government is relying too much on the metro as an immediate transport solution for south Wales. I know you mentioned £750 million was being spent on south Wales and, as someone from south Wales, that’s great, but just in comparison, £50 million for north Wales is a bit of a kick in the teeth for those people who live in north Wales.”
On the difference in money, Mr Waters replied “In terms of the different levels of investment in different parts of Wales, as I made clear, we are in different stages of development. The south Wales metro has been in gestation for a very long time. We now need to make sure that it’s matched across the rest of Wales.
“I hope she would have welcomed the announcement we made today of a delivery board for north Wales, with an independent chair, to challenge us all—local authorities, Welsh Government and Transport for Wales—to increase our ambition and increase our pace. Because, if, unlike her, I am sincere in delivering our net-zero commitments, we do need to shift resources from road building to public transport, and that’s why we announced the roads review.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for North Wales, Darren Millar MS, said: “Minister, you made reference earlier on to the need for Wales to have its population share. What about the population share of investment within Wales? You’ve referred to £1 billion having being invested or earmarked to date for these three metro projects, yet, of that £1,000 million, only £50 million has been allocated to north Wales. That’s a gross disparity in investment by your Welsh Labour Government. What are you going to do to make sure that there’s a fair share of investment coming to north Wales, rather than the insulting and paltry amount that you’ve suggested is going there today?”
Mr Waters started his reply by saying “Well, Darren Millar never misses an opportunity to sow division and try and create a sense of grievance…” to which Mr Millar interjected “This is your division that you’ve sown.”
Mr Waters continued, “It’s the first time I’ve heard him make a case for rail investment in north Wales. As I say, he’s normally obsessed with putting money into road-building schemes, despite then going on to plead for the plight of the red squirrel, which—by the way, if we don’t tackle change, biodiversity will be threatened. So, there’s a disconnect in his argument and his thinking too.
“As I said, the state of the metros in different parts of Wales are different. We have to raise ambition and delivery right across Wales. That’s what our Wales transport strategy is about, which he hasn’t supported. That’s what our investment in the metro is about, which he hasn’t supported. And that’s what the announcement today about the delivery board for north Wales is about. I’d be grateful if he’d support that.”
Later, after a question from Alyn and Deeside MS Jack Sargeant Mr Waters noted some more improvements planned and underway, “In terms of infrastructure, in terms of rail—trains, rather—on the north Wales network, we are currently progressing the class 230 trains for the Wrexham and Bidston line later this year, and we’ve introduced refurbished InterCity trains on services between north and south Wales, with increased capacity and better customer services. We’re trailing the testing of new trains around north Wales at the moment, and I’d be happy to write the Member with further details of what plans we have.”
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