The latest bout of handbags between the current Con Dem Westminster Government and the Labour in Wales Government over just exactly who is going to pay what for railway electrification in Wales (and who said what?) is depressing to say the least. There is a convenient manufactured feel about it, with both sides scoring easy political points at our expense and once again failing to get the electrification of the valley lines project started.
I suspect that but for the increasingly nominal difference in ideology then the Welsh Government in Cardiff would not even be asking Westminster to stump up the cash for electrifying the valley lines. Neither the Westminster government or the Welsh government are serving Wales well or let alone standing up for our interests being too busy having yet another convenient spat.
Plaid is actively campaigning to ensure that Wales gets its fair share of funding from the England-only HS2 project. Plaid has also successfully campaigned to make sure that the electrification programme for the Great Western region was extended beyond Bristol (the original limit for electrification as quietly proposed by the last New Labour government in Westminster).
Sadly it is now becoming clear that the Labour in Wales Government is too weak to stand up to Westminster and its failure to secure a written agreement from the UK Government that the Treasury would cover the costs of electrifying the Valley lines may suggest a more than a degree of incompetence. Until a definitive agreement is reached and signed, then the delays will continue and our country will continue to miss out on millions of pounds of funding that could transform our transport infrastructure, connect our communities, and create a rail network fit for the 21st rather than the 19thcentury.
Speaking on Tuesday Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards MP said:
“Wales historically receives only a fraction of our population share in transport infrastructure which explains why our road and rail networks are so poor. We are the only country in the whole of the European continent that does not currently have a single mile of electrified rail track, apart from Albania. This is why electrifying our existing network is so important, but in effect it would only lead to Wales catching up with other parts of the UK.
“Both the UK and Welsh governments have claimed credit for moves to electrify the Valleys lines without agreeing on how it will be paid for. The posturing by both administrations is putting the project – and the economic benefits that would follow – at risk. Once again we have Westminster taking Wales for a ride and unfortunately the Labour government is too weak to stand up and protect the interest of Wales. Labour are also guilty of gross incompetence, basing their position on a TV interview by the Prime Minister rather than the fine detail of correspondence between both Administrations.
“The truth is that, if the Labour Welsh Government got behind Plaid Cymru’s campaign for a fair share of HS2 funding for Wales – a figure which could be as high as £4bn according to some estimates – then this tiff would be academic. Instead, the Labour Government blindly follow the position of their Labour masters in London, despite independent economic assessments indicating that HS2 would hit the South Wales economy particularly hard.
“Rather than engage in tedious tit-for-tat exchanges between Westminster and Cardiff Bay, Plaid Cymru is interested in securing fair and sustainable funding for Wales’ railways in order to transform our transport infrastructure and create a network fit for purpose.
“The line between Glasgow and London was electrified forty years ago. Once again, the Westminster elite are happy to treat Wales as a second class nation.
“Carrying out rail policy on the basis of ‘doing deals’ project-by-project is a recipe for disaster, as this row has clearly shown. It is not the way rail policy is done in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where transport infrastructure is devolved where there are much better levels of rail investment.
“If the people of Wales want improved services, quicker journeys and better-connected communities, they should back Plaid Cymru’s efforts to secure fair transport funding for our nation. This Labour and Tory spat shows that the Westminster parties cannot be trusted to act in the Welsh national interest.”