5. What steps he is taking to electrify the rail network to Swansea and further west. (900455)
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her election to this House. Electrification work is continuing on the Great Western main line, but the good news for her constituents and others in south Wales is that the new generation of electric trains will arrive in Cardiff and Swansea this autumn, providing more seats and better journey experiences. That is good news for rail users in south Wales and the west country.
It has been reported that the Secretary of State is preparing to announce yet further delays to the Great Western main line electrification programme, and my constituents in Gower are fed up with the contempt that the Government continue to show them on investment. The Secretary of State has said that the programme will happen, but will he promise that it will not be delayed any further? We need to make Swansea the gateway to west Wales.
I appreciate the importance of transport to Swansea, and that is precisely why I am doing what the hon. Lady’s constituents will want, which is to deliver them a better journey experience not in several years’ time but this autumn. They will have a new generation of trains that will provide much better journeys to London, which is exactly the kind of service they want. When the first new train comes to Swansea, I hope that she will be there to see it and will realise what a difference it will make to her constituents’ rail journeys in south Wales and elsewhere.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on moving ahead with the electrification of the rail line into south Wales and through Swansea. I remind him that the electrification of the railway as far as Swansea was announced by a Conservative Secretary of State, and that the Labour Government did not electrify a single inch of the rail lines in Wales to improve the Welsh economy.
If I remember rightly, the Labour Government electrified only 10 miles in 13 years. My right hon. Friend will understand that we have to ensure first and foremost that we are delivering better journeys for passengers, and I am pleased that this autumn’s changes and the new trains arriving in Swansea and other parts of south Wales will lead to an immediate improvement in passengers’ journeys. That is what they really want.
In order to make the most of the benefits of electrification in south Wales, we need new stations to take advantage of capacity on the line. The proposals for St Mellon’s parkway in the east of Cardiff are good, and they are backed by the private sector, the Welsh Government and Cardiff Council and have cross-party support. When can we expect a decision about money from the new stations fund?
I also think that that is an interesting proposal, and it does not actually need quite the same mechanism of approval as a station built with public funding. I am happy to see the project go ahead. The real issue is ensuring that it can work with the timetables, so that trains can stop and the service can work. As a private sector-funded project, if it is practical, I can see no reason why any of us would do anything other than support it.