The Cardiff Business Partnership (CBP) call for an investment of £2.5 billion over 10 years to connect Cardiff, Newport and the valleys to promote economic growth is timely and the report, well thought out and would make a real and practical difference to many of our valley communities. The CPB report, A Metro For Wales’ Capital City Region, written by transport consultant Mark Barry, points out that the proposed £2.5bn plan may well seem to be expensive but almost entirely “pales into insignificance” when it is compared to the £40 billion of public money that has been committed to the high speed rail link between London and Birmingham.
We are far 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. The Con Dem's are unlikely, no matter how well reasoned the case is and no matter how well explained the arguments are, 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. 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.
In practical terms, 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. And we don't have to do it all in one go but in relatively affordable stages. This is a real opportunity to do something practical and lasting for our Valley communities and lets look doing it now.