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Rail Connectivity

Volume 604: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2016

We are investing in the most ambitious rail upgrade programme since Victorian times. We are committed to electrifying the Great Western main line to Swansea and have agreed to contribute £125 million towards electrifying the Vale of Glamorgan and valleys lines. That will increase services and reduce journey times for passengers across south Wales.

Blaenau Gwent needs good rail links down to Cardiff and across to Bristol for jobs. The flourishing Ebbw Vale to Cardiff line must be part of the core metro system for that to happen. How will the Minister help make sure that south-east Wales gets the modern transport infrastructure it so badly needs?

The hon. Gentleman has been a strong champion of investment in the Ebbw Vale railway line, including in the new station at Ebbw Vale and the UK Government’s investment at Pye Corner, which has improved access to Newport. The scope of the valleys lines upgrade is a matter for the Welsh Government, but the Department for Transport has made £125 million available specifically for that purpose. To my mind, the valleys lines upgrade stretches from Ebbw Vale to Maesteg and down to the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Government’s investment in the rail network is crucial to businesses and people across Wales and, in particular, in my constituency of Gower. Despite the negativity surrounding electrification from Opposition Members, will the Minister take this opportunity to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to the electrification of the line to Swansea?

The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Wales have confirmed that. Only last week, the Chancellor was in Cardiff and restated our position once again. We will electrify the Great Western main line the whole way to Swansea.

Given that UK commuters spend up to six times as much on rail fares as European passengers, has the Secretary of State made any assessment of the impact of the recent rail fare increases on the Welsh economy?

The hon. Lady should know that there were limits to the recent increases. We need to contrast that with the £3 billion that is being spent on improving rail services to and within Wales, as well as our efforts to ensure that Wales benefits from the national project of HS2 by making Crewe a central hub so that north Wales benefits too.

Does the Minister accept that this investment will revolutionise connectivity in the valleys and on the main line to Swansea? Will he share with the House what assessments have been made of the impact it will have on job creation and passenger journeys?

My right hon. Friend makes a very important point about the economic prospects that will be brought by the significant capital investment that we are bringing forward. It is worth remembering that the last Labour Government left Wales as one of only three countries in Europe, along with Moldova and Albania, without a single mile of electrified track.