The hard won, hard negotiated multi-million pound upgrade and electrification of the rail line between Swansea and Severn Tunnel Junction (and to London); is to be warmly welcomed and is proof that Plaid can deliver in government. The aging Severn Tunnel may rank pretty low among Network Rails priorities, as it will require more maintenance as time passes; but it is a vital transport link for Wales.
Last November, the Office of Rail Regulation’s settlement for Network Rail allocated £26 billion pounds - 2.4 billion less than requested; forcing Network Rail to drop a number of projects. If you read the small print, one of the dropped projects would have restored of the 12 miles of single track to double from Kemble to Swindon.
When the Severn Tunnel is closed for maintenance rail traffic from South Wales is diverted via a 12-mile single-track section of line between Swindon and Kemble in Gloucestershire. This adds an hour to passenger journeys as trains to and from Wales wait for services to pass by – imagine how bad things will get if the tunnel is shut for any prolonged period of time.
We need some original thinking to solve this potential block on our rail links; the construction of a smaller barrage or tidal fence close to the Second Severn Crossing is under consideration as part of review of the energy potential of the Severn Estuary. This could carry the main rail link from South Wales, solving the problem of the Severn Tunnel and generate sustainable energy, which we will need in the near future.
If this is not a viable option then lets seriously consider a new railway bridge on the site of the old Severn railway bridge near Lydney, which could relatively easily conect the rail lines, the old approaches are still in place. We have to do something and it is time to think different - and fix our transport problems rather than merely talk around the issue.