Welsh train system needs urgent upgrades and electrification, MPs say
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A new board should be set up forthe Welsh railway system to oversee improvements and upgrades and a new programme of electrification, MPs on the Welsh Affairs Committee have said.
In a report, it said the Victorian system is failing to live up to modern expectations, with passengers experiencing slow services and inadequate stations.
It believes urgent upgrades should be made, backed up by sufficient investment from central Government.
In particular, a full strategic case for the upgrade and electrification of the North Wales main line should be prepared.
Electrification of the railways is expected to play a key role in the UK Government’s transport decarbonisation agenda, which was announced today. In March, MPs called for 30-year rolling programme of electrification across the UK as a matter of priority.
The Committee said the decision to cancel the electrification of the Great Western main line from Cardiff to Swansea was “short-sighted” and urged the UK Government to bring forward proposals for greater connectivity between Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol before the end of the year. These could require completing electrification of the mainline between Cardiff and Swansea.
The report also found that while significant rail investment has been dedicated to HS2, resulting in a supply chain that encompasses the entire UK including Wales, the country will not benefit in the same way as Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Committee recommended that HS2 should be reclassified as an England-only project in order to boost funding to the Welsh system using the Barnett consequentials formula, which attempts to allocate equal funding to the four different countries that constitute the UK.
Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Stephen Crabb MP, said: “There is a compelling case for greater investment in rail infrastructure in Wales to improve journey times for passengers, strengthen connectivity with the rest of the United Kingdom and reduce carbon emissions.
“Reaching our net zero targets will require a significant investment in rail electrification. We believe that this should result in a reconsideration of the short-sighted decision to cancel the electrification of the Great Western mainline from Cardiff to Swansea.
“While there will always be voices calling for the further devolution of rail powers, it’s clear that what passengers most need is both of their governments, as well as the rail operators, working together. Our Committee has proposed a new Wales Rail Board, which would bring together the two governments, Network Rail and rail operators, which can be tasked with bringing forward a shared pipeline of Welsh rail projects and which should be in place by the autumn.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are accelerating Britain’s recovery from coronavirus by investing in vital infrastructure across the UK, helping get businesses back on their feet, creating jobs and levelling up our country.
“We have already committed a record £1.5bn to the Welsh railways in recent years and the recently announced Union Connectivity Review will look at how best to enhance transport links across the United Kingdom to improve connectivity.”
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