Skip to main content

Rail Electrification: Swansea

Volume 637: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2018

3. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the effect on the Welsh economy of the decision not to electrify the mainline to Swansea. (904276)

5. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the effect on the Welsh economy of the decision not to electrify the mainline to Swansea. (904278)

The UK Government’s record investment in Wales’s rail infrastructure is focused on maximising the benefits to passengers while delivering the best value for taxpayers. The £5.7 billion fleet of modern, intercity express programme trains running on the great western main line to Swansea brings significant time savings to and from London and tangible benefits to passengers in terms of speed, comfort and reliability, without the need for a costly, disruptive programme of electrification.

The failure to fully electrify the line to Swansea means that more people will use their cars. Following the removal of the tolls on the Severn bridge, the Department for Transport said in response to my written parliamentary question:

“No further modelling was undertaken”

on the increase in cars. Has the Minister’s Department assessed the potential further gridlock in north Bristol?

I simply do not accept that not electrifying the line to Swansea will not bring benefits—it will. The train journey times to London from those areas will be reduced by 15 minutes. We have to recognise that the costs have gone up significantly. The benefit-to-cost ratio was extremely low and even the Public Accounts Committee recommended looking at the issue again.

Does the Secretary of State agree that his Government’s broken promises on rail electrification, both in Wales and the wider UK, including Hull, and their unwillingness to provide funding for rail enhancements will damage connectivity and therefore hinder our opportunities for economic growth and development?

I find it very hard to accept a Labour Member talking about rail investment when that party electrified probably only 10 miles of line in 13 years. We are bringing record investment all over the country, particularly in Wales, and we are proud of our achievements.

Is my hon. Friend aware of press reports suggesting that the Welsh Labour Government are now cancelling electrification projects in the valleys? Does he agree that if they were serious about improving transport links, they would get on with building the M4 relief road?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is this Government who have being bringing in the investment in our rail infrastructure, and the M4 corridor really does need solving. Many people and businesses across south Wales have been calling for that for a very long time and, frankly, it is time that the Welsh Government got on with it.

May I urge my hon. Friend to look at the evidence received by the Select Committee on Transport? We heard that the new bi-mode class 800 trains will run to the same timetable, whether they operate on diesel power or on electric, so there will be no loss of service by not having the lines electrified.

My hon. Friend is a great expert in transport matters and he is absolutely right that having those lines above the train will not improve performance. What passengers want is to be able to get to their destination reliably, and that is what we are going to bring back.

Diolch. As we heard from the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), the Labour Government yesterday cancelled the electrification of the line to Ebbw Vale using exactly the same arguments as the Secretary of State for cancelling the electrification of the main line to Swansea—I do not know whether they swapped press releases or not. Is it not the case that when it comes to the Welsh railways, the Welsh people have been let down by the Governments at both ends of the M4?

I would not accept that. The fact is that we are investing in the railway. Let us not forget that some of the investment in England will benefit passengers in north Wales. For example, the Halton curve helps passengers from north Wales to get to Liverpool and the north-west of England.