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Borderlands Line Rail Franchise

Volume 597: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2015

4. How the views of English rail passengers will be taken into account after the transfer of responsibility for the Borderlands Line rail franchise to the Welsh Government. (900273)

I have met the Under-Secretary of State for Transport to discuss aspirations to upgrade north Wales’ rail infrastructure. On the franchise, the Wales Office is working closely with the Department for Transport and the Welsh Government to agree which services will be devolved. Specific proposals will be consulted on in due course and I hope the hon. Gentleman will play his part.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He has highlighted the difficulties in implementing some of the practicalities of devolution. Will he meet me and interested bodies from both sides of the border to discuss the practicalities, and how my constituents can be best represented during this process?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question; he makes an important point. Rail passengers just want smooth services on both sides of the border. Administrative boundaries should be there to support rather than to hinder. I look forward to the hon. Gentleman’s involvement in any discussions.

Many Welsh passengers use railway lines, such as the Great Western line, that are under the control of the UK Government. They are concerned about suggestions that the Government are going to break up and privatise parts of Network Rail. Will the Minister rule that out?

That is, of course, a matter for the Department for Transport, but I will take no lessons from the Labour party on electrification. When the Labour party was in government it left Wales languishing with Moldova and Albania as one of only three nations in Europe without a single track of electrified railway. Some £1.5 billion has been invested in the electrification of the main line right the way through to Swansea. I would hope that the hon. Lady welcomed that.

The new franchise offers a golden opportunity for extra routes connecting north Wales with England and the Republic of Ireland. Does the Minister agree that it is important that we look at the new European structural funds, so that we can have trans-European networks going from Dublin to London, via north Wales?

The hon. Gentleman makes a constructive point. There is a need to develop a project board in north Wales that brings in the Welsh Government, potential European funding and Department for Transport support to develop the best possible, strongest case.