One of the consequences of the Comprehensive Spending Review, may well be that the proposed £1.1 billion pound Swansea to London rail electrification project bites the dust. Plaid's Ieuan Wyn Jones successfully negotiated the multi-million pound the extension of the proposed upgrade and electrification of the rail line between Swansea and London last year. The original electrification project was (as proposed by New Labour) was only intended to extend as far as Bristol, and only after the intervention of the Plaid driven One Wales Government did they agreed to electrify the line as far as Swansea.
The silence from the ConDem Government in Westminster, in relation to the fate of this project could at best be described as evasive or at worst described as telling when it comes to committing to the extending the electrification programme into Wales - so much for Wales being a ConDem priority. There has been plenty of financial white smoke from the Treasury, but, as yet no clear answer either way.
Here are some statistics to think about:
Electrified Rail in Europe
Source: UIC Website: http://uic.asso.fr
Electrified Rail in Wales (After 13 years of New Labour Government).
I think that we are too focused on the rail link to London, which has long needed electrification, it's far too easy to end up endlessly complaining about how Wales is left out of this, fails to get that, etc. Wales is unfairly funded - fact. Let's move on, and see what we can achieve with what we have got. The Con Dem's are unlikely, no matter how well reasoned the case is and no matter how well explained the arguments are, not going to change their mind or their position in relation to fair funding for Wales.
So lets' get practical, let's give some real and serious consideration be given to electrifying the valley lines down to the coastal belt. What we are talking about is the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff (and eventually to Newport) line, the lines in Western Gwent, the lines down from Rhondda, Cynon and Taff Valleys to Cardiff and lines into Swansea and Bridgend.
Now if we use part of WAG's Annual Transport budget, which comes in at around £0.76 billion. If we make creative use of European matched funding then we could be talking about doing the business. Sion Barry (in the Western Mail 24th September 2010) estimated that some £200 million would pay for the electrification of the valley lines into Cardiff. Liverpool has long had an electrified rail link to London and has scarcely benefited from it. We can do the London link later, lets do something lasting for our Valley communities and lets look doing it now.
We also need to look at reopening old railway lines, feasibility studies into the possibilities of reopening to old railway lines (between Llangefni on Anglesey and Bangor, and between Aberdare and Hirwaun in the Cynon valley) to passenger traffic have already been called for from Network Rail. Similar feasibility studies need to be undertaken on the old railway lines between Usk via Little Mill to the main line and in the Wye Valley between Chepstow and Monmouth.
If we are serious about delivering reliable, effective and sustainable all weather communications to our communities then reopening old railway lines initially to passenger and then to rail freight is the way to go. These lines to Usk and to Monmouth via Chepstow which were originally closed by the then Conservative Government which initiated significant and damaging cuts to rail services via the Beeching review of rail transport.
If Government in both London and Cardiff is really serious about cutting carbon emissions and road congestion then reopening these lines to rail and fright traffic could provide serious economic stimulation to the local economies and provide a real opportunity for people to make use of public transport which would reduce road congestion. Let's get to work.