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North Wales Main Line

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 15 November 2022

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the strategic importance of the North Wales main line.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McVey. In securing this debate, I had two aims in mind: first, to establish the importance of the north Wales main line within the context of the manifesto commitment to levelling up; and, secondly, to set out why investment in the north Wales main line should be a priority for the UK and in Wales.

In my first words in Parliament, delivered a month after being elected to represent the people of Aberconwy, I highlighted how:

“In the past 20 years, the people of north Wales, and the people of Aberconwy, have grown used to being overlooked and underfunded”.—[Official Report, 15 January 2020; Vol. 669, c. 103.]

Members will recall that, in December 2019, constituencies and communities across north Wales had elected—if hon. Members will forgive me—a blue wall of Welsh Conservative MPs, which stretched from Clwyd South and Wrexham in the east right across to Ynys Môn in the west. Like all my Conservative colleagues in north Wales, I am determined to secure the opportunities of the levelling-up agenda, which was at the heart of the 2019 manifesto. It is inevitable, then, that much of our focus has been on the strategic north Wales coast main line. We seek investment for it as a key part of securing levelling up in north Wales.

The disparity in investment in rail infrastructure over the last two decades between north Wales and south Wales and other parts of the UK is clear. In June 2020, the electrification of the London Paddington to Cardiff line was completed. Thanks to that, it is possible to increase the capacity on that line by running a greater number of services, with new bimodal electric-diesel rolling stock. In turn, this has allowed for lower ticket fares due to economies of scale and lower running costs. Furthermore, it has improved the environmental footprint of each journey on that line.

Of course, south Wales is already benefiting too from £734 million of investment in the South Wales Metro, which is due to be completed by the end of 2023. This infrastructure project consists of the electrification of the Core Valleys lines and a further £50 million investment in the integration of the Cardiff Capital Region Metro. By contrast, across north Wales, the only investment in recent decades that we can speak of is the re-signalling between Chester and Llandudno Junction in my constituency, which was completed in 2015. In fact, the last great infrastructure investments across north Wales have been the development of the A55 road.

There was of course the construction of the Conwy tunnel in the late 1980s—admittedly, at the time it was the largest engineering project in Europe—and then the completion of the dual carriageway of the A55 across the Isle of Anglesey, or Ynys Môn, in 2000. These works removed crippling bottlenecks in Conwy and across the island, and allowed for a significant increase in capacity at the port of Holyhead. Irish Ferries’ MV Ulysses arrived, which at the time was the largest roll-on roll-off vehicle ferry in service in the world, and shortly after came the arrival of Stena Lines’ Stena Adventurer.

In recent months, we have seen more evidence of this disparity. The consequences of north Wales being overlooked and underfunded have been highlighted in two incidents: the closure by the Welsh Government of the Menai suspension bridge between Anglesey and the mainland, and the effective relegation of the north Wales coast main line to branch-line status by the withdrawal of through-train services from Holyhead to London.

For so many across north Wales, levelling up is so much more than the investment, jobs and opportunities that it promises. It is something that I have personal experience of: the chance to stay at home in our communities. I am a proud Welshman—born, raised and schooled in Bangor—but like so many of my friends and so many who I speak to today, we still have to choose to move away to pursue a career. Levelling up would mean it would not have to be that way.

Having established—I hope—an imperative for levelling up for north Wales, I turn to some of the specific impacts of investment in the north Wales main line. First, the line is a critical piece of UK infrastructure. It is essential cross-border infrastructure linking England to Wales, as identified by Sir Peter Hendy’s Union connectivity review. It runs from Holyhead via Chester to Crewe, where it joins the west coast main line and connects directly to London. It is also vital in connecting us to the island of Ireland, including connecting Northern Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom. It does so through the port of Holyhead, which is the UK’s main port to Ireland and its second-busiest roll-on roll-off port.

Secondly, investment will maximise returns on the UK Government’s investments in High Speed 2. This is a really important point. The England and Wales designation of HS2 relies on investment in the links from Crewe to north Wales. The Welsh Government have disputed that, and claimed an estimated £5 billion as a Barnett consequential for investment in England where the benefits have not been realised in Wales. That claim can be rebuffed properly based on benefits to north Wales.

Thirdly, rail investment would put London within three hours of the university city of Bangor, and within two hours of north-east Wales. That would transform inward private investment and enable remote working for the majority of the population of north Wales, in particular the more deprived parts of north-west Wales. Further investment would promote the advanced manufacturing cluster, which exists across north-east Wales, Cheshire and Wirral. This leading global advanced manufacturing cluster has an economic output of £35 billion per annum. Better quality, faster access to London via rail will unlock further private sector investment and growth for this sector.

Investment will also help deliver on the promise to decarbonise our economy. The line is not as well used as it could be. Some 680,000 residents of north Wales rely on it for movements within north Wales and into England—for business, for pleasure, for contact with family and friends, and for public services. Higher service levels, line speeds and rolling stock, and lower-than-average fare levels, would result in higher usage, as they have done in south Wales. It is important that, in addition to fulfilling our manifesto commitment to levelling up, we invest to help bring us closer to our aim of decarbonising our economy.

As it stands, north Wales has one of the lowest usage rates for public transport, and rail in particular, which is perhaps evidence enough of the poor performance of public transport in comparison with road travel. Electrification of the main line would therefore make an invaluable contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of travel across north Wales. I hope I have made the clear case that not only is north Wales due a levelling up, but the impact of that levelling up is realistic and measurable. The corporate and commercial development of north Wales would benefit the entire community.

There are a couple of Back Benchers wanting to speak. I remind them that we will go to the Front Benchers no later than 5.15 pm. It would be helpful if the Minister could remember that Robin Millar has a couple of minutes to wind up too.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms McVey. As was eloquently expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Robin Millar), north Wales transport infrastructure is of strategic importance to the entire United Kingdom, and investment in it is a priority for Wales, for the UK, and for me as the MP representing the north Wales constituency of Clwyd South. My hon. Friend talked about how trains were vital to him because he grew up in north Wales. The same was true for me; I grew up just a few miles south of Clwyd South in rural Wales, where trains have been my lifeline for as long as I can remember.

This debate is also important given the need for step-free access at Ruabon station in my constituency. I am grateful for the support of the Department for Transport, which included a visit by the former Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), to Ruabon station in April last year. I am pleased that, in September this year, following the Department’s call for nominations and my written support, Ruabon was nominated for possible inclusion in the next round of the Access for All programme, covering control period 7, which I understand will begin in April 2024 and last for five years.

Sir Peter Hendy’s Union connectivity review, which was published in November 2021, highlighted the strategic significance of transport infrastructure across north Wales to the UK through its connections to Northern Ireland and the Republic via Holyhead, the busiest port in Wales and the second busiest roll-on roll-off shipping port in the United Kingdom. His report recommended the improvement of the north Wales coast main line, for faster journey times, more resilience and greater capacity. That was placed ahead of other projects in Wales, such as improving journey times and capacity between Cardiff and the midlands.

Such investment will maximise returns on the UK Government’s investments in HS2. The England and Wales designation of HS2 relies on investments in the links from Crewe to north Wales. The Welsh Government, who dispute that, have claimed an estimated £5 billion as a Barnett consequential—a claim that was rebuffed based on the benefits to north Wales.

These investments will level up north Wales by attracting investment and higher-skilled jobs. That will transform inward investment and remote working for the whole of north Wales, including my constituency of Clwyd South. It will further promote the advanced manufacturing cluster across north-east Wales, Cheshire and Wirral, which is vital to my constituents. It is one of the top 10 global advanced manufacturing clusters, and has an economic output of £35 billion per annum. Better-quality, faster rail access to London will unlock further investment and growth in that sector, as well as providing an opportunity to open up the vital north Wales tourism sector. Areas such as Clwyd South have developed an international reputation for tourism. I am pleased that Clwyd South’s successful bid to the UK Government’s levelling-up fund has further strengthened the promotion of tourism, and I am keen to see it flourish further.

Finally, such investments will deliver benefits of decarbonisation through electrification, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy said. The electrification of the north Wales line is key to reducing the carbon footprint of the traffic, and vital to our meeting our decarbonisation commitments. The infrastructure of north Wales has been overlooked and underfunded by the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff Bay for far too long. As was mentioned earlier, the last major step change was the Conwy tunnel, which opened in 1991—many years ago—and was the biggest construction project in Europe at the time.

Today, the rolling stock on north Wales lines is ageing and struggles to deliver a reliable service. It is unreliable and frequently overcrowded. The north Wales coast line has been relegated to unofficial branch line status by a failure to provide a reliable direct service to London. Roads offer little relief: they are overwhelmed daily, and Telford’s crossing to Anglesey, the Menai bridge, is closed for three months of emergency repairs. The Welsh Government’s response has been to suspend all new road building and improvements. It is imperative that residents, communities and businesses throughout north Wales are prioritised for investment to make a step change in rail services.

It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McVey. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Robin Millar) for calling this important debate. He is an assiduous champion of his constituents. I am honoured to follow an excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes).

My dad had to leave Wales to find work, and I am determined to bring good-quality jobs to Ynys Môn so that our young people do not have to leave their community, their culture and their Welsh language. I am working hard every day to bring jobs and investment to Ynys Môn and I have been successful, bringing in over £200 million of investment and hundreds of jobs, including £4.8 million for the Holyhead hydrogen hub, £45 million for the His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs inland border facility in Holyhead, and a record £175 million in investment in RAF Valley. But I am not stopping there: I set up and chair the Anglesey freeport bidding consortium—our bid for Anglesey to be a freeport will be submitted on 24 November—and, as chair of the nuclear delivery group, I am determined to bring new nuclear to Wylfa.

As my colleagues have mentioned, Holyhead is the second busiest ro-ro port in the UK and Stena is one of the largest employers on the island, yet there is only one direct train a day to Holyhead from London. To attract the investment that Ynys Môn so desperately needs, I need to be able to offer companies good transport links. Mona airport has closed, the Menai bridge is closed for urgent repairs, and the Britannia bridge is also closed for periods at night for maintenance work. Therefore, the rail link to the island, particularly the port of Holyhead, is vital.

The UK Government are committed to levelling up, and that means attracting investment and good-quality jobs. I am so proud that Anglesey is known as energy island, with wind, wave, tidal, solar, hydrogen and hopefully new nuclear. I am so proud that Bangor University on my doorstep has been voted one of the UK’s top five universities. Ynys Môn is one of the best constituencies in the UK—once you get there.

I need the Minister’s help. Businesses and people across Anglesey need a reliable and frequent train service to Holyhead. Indeed, Sir Peter Hendy’s Union connectivity review highlighted the strategic significance of the transport infrastructure across north Wales for the UK through its connections to Northern Ireland and the Republic via Holyhead, the busiest port in Wales and the second busiest ro-ro port in the UK.

Avanti West Coast has a woeful track record and reputation in north Wales, bringing misery on a daily basis to thousands of people trying to get to work or school, or simply trying to live their lives. Like many others, I was shocked when, at the beginning of October, the UK Government awarded First Trenitalia West Coast Rail Ltd a short extension to its current contract to continue to operate the Avanti West Coast contract until 1 April 2023. That was incredibly disappointing for me, my colleagues and my constituents, who have suffered train services that are well below par for the past two and a half years. Avanti West Coast has committed to delivering around 90% of its pre-pandemic timetable from 11 December, with five direct trains a day from London to Holyhead and four at weekends. I have no faith that Avanti will be able to deliver that timetable.

The issue seems to be an overreliance on the good will of Avanti drivers volunteering to work overtime. I respectfully ask the Minister to join me in meeting Avanti train drivers to hear from them directly about their working conditions and why they are not volunteering to work overtime. I would be happy to facilitate the meeting in Holyhead, where my home is. I would be grateful to hear from the Minister in considerable detail how he plans to ensure that the north Wales service will be of an acceptable standard after 11 December, so that I can report back to the many constituents who have contacted me in frustration. I ask that Avanti’s performance is closely monitored over the next few months and that no further extension is granted on 1 April 2023 unless there is a significant improvement in its services.

I believe that Avanti West Coast does not have the capacity or competence to provide the sort of service that my constituents and people across north Wales expect, and I very much hope that the Minister will heed these representations. I have applied for a Backbench Business debate so that we can have a proper, cross-party, three-hour debate on the Floor of the House to share the frustrations of our constituents and push the Government for assurances that Avanti will deliver the reliable and frequent service our constituents demand and deserve.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms McVey. I welcome the new Rail Minister to his place. This is the first time we are meeting across the Dispatch Box, so to speak, but given his track record as a very capable Chairman of the Transport Committee, he will no doubt look very carefully at all these various issues. I know that we will work together where possible for the betterment of our railways and our nation. I congratulate the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Robin Millar)—I will go so far as to call him my hon. Friend—on bringing forward this important debate so that we can discuss and address the strategic importance of the north Wales main line.

We face the longest recession for 100 years. Unemployment is set to double. The UK is the only leading economy that is shrinking. The Conservative party’s kamikaze mini-Budget cost the country at least £30 billion and counting. Given that bleak context, we look to the Government to boost growth.

The Welsh Government get it. Wales’s leaders understand the economic need to keep the railways running and to invest where possible, committing £800 million to rail and ensuring that 95% of rail journeys in Wales and its borders are on new trains, with more than half of those trains assembled in Wales and delivered by a publicly owned train operating company. When the Chancellor gets to his feet on Thursday, he must commit to linking our nations and regions, speeding up journey times, modernising stations and boosting growth.

As was eloquently highlighted by the hon. Members for Aberconwy, for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes) and for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie), the north Wales main line drives growth and sees significant cross-border travel, yet Ministers treat it like a neglected branch line and take its passengers for fools.

I recently met the Growth Track 360 partnership in the north-west, which is made up of businesses and local authority leaders from north Wales, the Wirral, Cheshire and Chester. Alongside more investment for the Mersey Dee Alliance, the partnership has been calling for electrification. Where is it? It is important not just for connectivity but for the climate. Can the Government explain why they completed just 2 km of track electrification in that area last year? At the rate they are going, they will not meet their own net zero rail target until past the year 2100—almost 50 years late.

What about HS2? Ministers have thrown the project into utter chaos. As cuts loom, there is considerable concern that the number of trains per hour planned to run from north Wales to Crewe will be drastically reduced. As I am sure the hon. Member for Aberconwy would agree, we cannot stand idly by and let that happen. We need answers now. I hope the Minister can clarify that such cuts will not take place in preparation for the Chancellor’s autumn statement this Thursday.

Finally, let me turn to the Avanti in the room, as highlighted by the hon. Member for Ynys Môn. It is astonishing that Ministers have rewarded Avanti with an extension to its franchise. Ask any Avanti passenger who has waited for trains that never come, been stranded miles from home, or been rammed like cattle into carriages, corridors and toilets, “Should Avanti be rewarded with more public money?” and they will say, “Of course not.” With the fewest trains on time, failure to train new drivers and more complaints than any other operator in our nation, Avanti has stripped back services to and from north Wales to virtually nothing. Some days, there is just one train to London. To call it a skeleton service is an insult to skeletons. Why on earth was such failure rewarded?

I thank the hon. Member for his speech, much of which I support entirely. Will he join me in urging the Minister, as I have done before in this place, to consider, at some suitable point in the future, rebranding the franchise as the north Wales and west coast main line service? That would properly reflect the strategic importance of the north Wales part of the franchise.

That suggestion definitely needs to be looked at. At the moment, the franchise is an absolute disaster. Having recently visited the area on a family holiday to Snowdonia, I can attest to the fact that many of the good people of north Wales feel that they are being neglected, so if that is what it takes, then that is what needs to happen. At the moment, Avanti is doing a huge disservice to the good people of north Wales.

Does the Minister agree that if Avanti continues to fail passengers in December, it must be stripped of its franchise immediately? The people of north Wales cannot endure more months of Avanti’s failure. They deserve a world-class railway. Today, on this Government’s watch, they are getting a third-class shambles.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms McVey, as it was to serve as your Parliamentary Private Secretary all those years ago—now look what has happened. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Robin Millar) for securing this important debate on the strategic importance of the north Wales main line, and for the passionate manner in which he made his case.

I thank my hon. Friends the Member for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes) and for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie) for their contributions. I also thank the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Dr Davies), who is unable to speak due to his ministerial position but has been speaking to me and representing his constituents. I thank the hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi), for whom I have always had a warm regard—I hope that continues, notwithstanding our various positions—for his kind welcome. I hope that we continue to work well.

In responding to the debate, I will speak first about Welsh investment and what is being done to invest in north Wales. I will then speak to the situation with Avanti. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn asked me to give some detail about that, and I hope that I can do so.

On Welsh investment, during the current railway investment control period, which covers 2019 to 2024, a record £2 billion will be spent in Wales by Network Rail. Of that, nearly £1.2 billion will be spent on renewing and upgrading the infrastructure to meet current and future needs. In addition, through the rail network enhancements pipeline, we continue to deliver ambitious enhancements to the rail network, investing in key priorities with an unrelenting focus on levelling up our nation and ensuring that all communities have the connections they need to support growth and prosperity.

By way of example, Network Rail is currently finalising an outline business case for upgrading the north Wales main line between Chester and Holyhead, and improving journey times between north Wales, the north-west of England and other major UK centres. We have this year delivered an upgrade to the digital signalling system on the Cambrian line, supporting the transformation of passenger experience and enabling the operation of state-of-the-art new trains. Those trains are currently undergoing testing and will soon be introduced on the line, as well as on other routes across Wales. We expect to be in a position to publish an update to RNEP, confirming the status of all enhancement schemes, very shortly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy has highlighted the findings of Sir Peter Hendy’s Union connectivity Review. The Government are grateful to Sir Peter for his work, and we are considering his 19 recommendations carefully. As Sir Peter has highlighted, in most cases his report does not contain new detailed infrastructure proposals. Instead, he points the way to further work, which should better identify where, when and what to invest in for the best results for people across the United Kingdom.

In anticipation of Sir Peter’s recommendations, the Government set aside further funding at spending review 2021 to add to the £20 million previously allocated to take forward some of this essential development work. The funding will set us on the right path to developing the best infrastructure development options to strengthen our main transport arteries for people and businesses across the UK.

We have been discussing Sir Peter’s recommendations and the opportunities for development funding with the devolved Administrations to identify the solutions that work best for the people of the UK. We are pleased that the Welsh Government agree with Sir Peter’s recommendations and we are discussing with them how we can best support his work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South mentioned the impact of HS2 on north Wales. HS2 will free up capacity on the existing west coast main line and enable faster journey times from the rest of Great Britain to both north and south Wales via new interchange opportunities. Journey times from many places in north Wales to London could be reduced to about two hours and 15 minutes, changing at Crewe station.

Hon. Members have ably addressed the reduction in Avanti services. I share and recognise their frustration, but want to be clear about the reasons behind the reduction and the action the Government have taken to mitigate the effects on passengers where possible. It is long-standing practice for rail operators to use a degree of rest-day working to operate the normal timetable, to the mutual benefit of companies and staff. It gives companies a degree of flexibility to cover for things such as staff sicknesses and holidays, and it gives staff the opportunity to earn additional money should they wish.

Avanti, in common with many other companies in the rail sector and beyond, has experienced a range of difficulties in responding to the pandemic. Each rail operator is unique and the impacts fell differently across them all. In Avanti’s case, they included a higher than expected retirement rate, restrictions on training that required two people in a cab and a number of drivers who needed retraining when they returned from an extended period of shielding. Approximately 15% of Avanti’s driver workforce were unable to work for varying degrees of time during the pandemic due to being clinically extremely vulnerable and requiring partial or full retraining on returning to work. That contributed to a position where the company was relatively dependent on rest-day working, as has been pointed out.

None of that explanation is to exclude the operator’s responsibility to manage its operation effectively, but it is important that we hold it to account for what it is responsible for, and do not seek to hold it to account for matters outside its control. The Department is considering that carefully, under the terms of the contract.

On 30 July this year, Avanti experienced immediate and near-total cessation of drivers volunteering to work passenger trains on rest days. That left Avanti unable to operate its full timetable and facing a choice of whether to try, day by day, to run what it could, with the inevitable short-notice cancellations, or to reduce the timetable to a level operable without overtime.

That was a difficult and invidious choice, but I am sure that Members will appreciate that the impact of short-notice cancellations is particularly bad for passengers. It is not possible for passengers to plan around them as they do not know in advance what will be cancelled, so it leads to late journeys and overcrowded trains. While that is bad for anyone, it is particularly bad for passengers who may have booked assistance, be unable to stand or be travelling with children, for example.

The alternative—reducing the timetable—is also highly disruptive, and that case has been made, but it is honest with passengers and gives them a chance to try to make alternative plans. That approach has reduced cancellations of about 25% of the service in late July and early August to about 5% today.

Members in today’s debate have made the point that the impact on north Wales has been particularly severe because the majority of through trains to London have been replaced by a shuttle to Crewe. Avanti has sought to mitigate the situation by adding more stops at Crewe on its other services to improve the interchange, but I acknowledge the point and the particular impact the situation has had on passengers travelling to and from north Wales.

Will the Minister take me up on my offer of coming to Holyhead, having a panad and sitting down with the train drivers to hear at first hand about how their working practices impact them on a daily basis?

I assure my hon. Friend that I had not forgotten that ask—I will answer it now instead of later. I am keen in my new role to meet as many members of the rail workforce as I can, as far across the nation as I can. I will be delighted to join her in Holyhead, meet those drivers and have a look around her constituency to see the impact she has so ably described. I look forward to having a good, honest conversation with the drivers. I always worked well with the rail force in my previous role, and hope I can do so again in my current one.

Let me turn to service restoration plans. Nearly 100 drivers will have entered service with Avanti between April and December this year, comprising new recruits and those who have completed the required retraining. As they have become available to work, Avanti started to introduce additional services where they are most needed, and where train crew resources allow. So far, those have been focused on London to Birmingham and London to Manchester. Avanti plans a further increase in December, at the next major timetable change. That will see the majority of direct north Wales services restored, with five trains a day in each direction between Holyhead and London, which I know Members and their constituents will welcome.

I want to see Avanti’s plan to increase services succeed, so that passengers travelling to and from north Wales get the experience they deserve. My officials are holding weekly meetings with Avanti senior management, and are reviewing Avanti’s progress against the plan and handling of risks. They are reporting to the Secretary of State and to me as Rail Minister.

I have also met Steve Montgomery, who is managing director for rail at FirstGroup, the ultimate parent company. The Office of Rail and Road—the independent regulator—and Network Rail’s programme management office have both reviewed Avanti’s plans, and are content. I hope that independence gives hon. Members some reassurance.

It is important to be clear that many of these factors are not in Avanti’s control. Crucially, this improvement will require the support of the trade unions. It is important to modernise the railway to phase out old-fashioned ways of working, improve people’s journeys, help make trains more reliable and create savings that can provide funding towards a pay rise for staff.

Finally, I turn to the contract that Avanti has with the Department, which I know has been a matter of interest for many across the House. On 7 October, the Department entered into a short-term extension of six months to 1 April 2023. That short-term extension will allow the Avanti side of the business to roll out its recovery plan. The Department will consider Avanti’s performance, while officials finalise a national rail contract for consideration.

I conclude by thanking you, Ms McVey, and all hon. Members. I hope they have been reassured by the updates I have been able to give them. I look forward to working with all my colleagues across the House and in north Wales, so that we can give them the rail services they need.

I beg your indulgence, Ms McVey, to make a point in response to the Minister. I should have welcomed him to his new place—as gamekeeper, not poacher. I thank him for his comments. This has been a brief but pointed debate. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes) and for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie) for highlighting the impact that investment would have on rural communities and tourism, as well as the Energy Island programme on Ynys Môn and the benefits it will bring to businesses there.

I make the point to the Minister that Wales works on an east-west basis. Money spent in one part of Wales does not always benefit the whole of Wales. North and south Wales are very distinct and different parts. Sir Peter Hendy in his review prioritised investment in the north Wales main line. Realising the benefits of HS2 and avoiding an expensive bill from the Welsh Government only underline the importance of priority investment in the north Wales main line. The positive impacts on residents, visitors, students, business and the environment have all been set out for that investment.

I note what the Minister said about the control period, the £1.2 billion additional investment in infrastructure, and the work on the RNEP. I welcome the development of a business case for Chester to Holyhead, and look forward to the update of the RNEP.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the strategic importance of the North Wales main line.

Sitting adjourned.