Re­vealed: Wales left £1bn short with lat­est plans for rail fund­ing

Western Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Rho­dri Clark Re­porter news­desk@waleson­

WALES will be short-changed by an­other £1bn dur­ing Net­work Rail’s next five-year fund­ing pe­riod, a new doc­u­ment has re­vealed.

The miss­ing money is ad­di­tional to the loss of £700m which the UK Gov­ern­ment had pre­vi­ously planned to spend on elec­tri­fy­ing the line from Cardiff to Swansea.

Among the ca­su­al­ties of the lat­est fund­ing short­fall is a sig­nalling re­newal scheme which would have en­abled Llan­dudno – Wales’ big­gest re­sort and a ma­jor con­fer­ence venue – to have a Sun­day train ser­vice through­out the year.

In Oc­to­ber the UK Gov­ern­ment, which has re­jected de­vo­lu­tion of Welsh rail in­fra­struc­ture, an­nounced Net­work Rail would re­ceive £48bn for op­er­at­ing, main­tain­ing, and re­new­ing the rail­ways in Con­trol Pe­riod 6 (CP6) from 2019 to 2024.

Net­work Rail’s Wales Route, which in­cludes lines in ad­join­ing coun­ties of Eng­land, would re­ceive about £2.4bn of the £48bn if the money was shared out ac­cord­ing to pop­u­la­tion, or £2.9bn ac­cord­ing to track mileage.

In­stead the Wales Route will re­ceive just £1.34bn – more than £1bn less than the pro rata share.

Net­work Rail said Wales would re­ceive a record in­vest­ment and us­ing per­cent­age terms to com­pare that with other ar­eas was a “crude mea­sure”.

The £1.34bn in­cludes fund­ing to op­er­ate and main­tain the Core Val­ley Lines, north of Cardiff, which may be

trans­ferred away from Net­work Rail.

Fol­low­ing cost over­runs on the Great West­ern elec­tri­fi­ca­tion scheme the UK Gov­ern­ment has de­cided to fund en­hance­ment schemes in­de­pen­dently of Net­work Rail’s five-year fund­ing rounds.

In its new strate­gic plan for Wales Net­work Rail warns of uncer­tainty over 14 po­ten­tial schemes which it set out in 2016. “Fol­low­ing the UK Gov­ern­ment an­nounce­ment to can­cel elec­tri­fi­ca­tion from Cardiff to Swansea in June 2017, there are cur­rently no com­mit­ted en­hance­ments within the Wales Route in CP6.”

The 14 schemes not in­cluded in the CP6 fund­ing al­lo­ca­tion in­clude clos­ing more level cross­ings, re­de­vel­op­ing Cardiff Cen­tral sta­tion to re­flect grow­ing pas­sen­ger num­bers, and in­creas­ing speed lim­its on sev­eral lines – in­clud­ing Cardiff to Swansea and the freight lines be­tween Cardiff and Sev­ern Tun­nel Junc­tion.

Prof Stu­art Cole, of the Univer­sity of South Wales, said those schemes and res­ig­nalling in north Wales and along the bor­der would be funded from Net­work Rail’s £48bn set­tle­ment if Wales re­ceived its fair share.

“Our share of Great Bri­tain ex­pen­di­ture is sup­posed to be 5%,” he said. “If we get less than that we’re not get­ting our fair share and we’ve got a lot of work to do on Welsh rail­ways – not just on en­hance­ments but on things like res­ig­nalling and traf­fic speeds – to bring them up to the stan­dards of a thor­oughly mod­ern rail­way.”

He also ar­gued Wales should get more than a pro rata share for CP6 to re­flect cur­rent and pre­vi­ous un­der­fund­ing and the chal­lenges of cli­mate change in a wet and hilly coun­try where rail­way earth­works and other struc­tures were par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to storm dam­age.

In 2013 Net­work Rail pro­posed to mod­ernise sig­nalling on the New­port to Shrews­bury line – link­ing south Wales to mid and north Wales, Crewe and Manch­ester – by 2016.

“This has now been aban­doned,” says Net­work Rail’s strate­gic plan.

Net­work Rail also pledged in 2013 to re­new sig­nalling along the north Wales main line. Phase One, Ch­ester to Llan­dudno, was due by 2015 and Phase Two, Llan­dudno Junc­tion to Holy­head, by 2020.

The Phase One scheme was short­ened to end at Col­wyn Bay and will be com­pleted this spring. The strate­gic plan for 2019-24 omits Phase Two. This leaves the short branch line to Llan­dudno re­liant on two old sig­nal boxes, whose staffing costs are deemed pro­hib­i­tive on Sun­days from Septem­ber to April – de­spite Llan­dudno’s year-round tourism and con­fer­ence trade.

It could also thwart the Welsh Gov­ern­ment’s am­bi­tion of re­open­ing the sta­tion at Llangefni, An­gle­sey’s county town. The re­quired sig­nalling and track al­ter­ations at Gaer­wen would have been sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper as part of the over­all scheme than if done sep­a­rately.

The UK Gov­ern­ment said the shar­ing out of the £48bn was a mat­ter for Net­work Rail.

A Net­work Rail spokes­woman said the strate­gic busi­ness plan would drive eco­nomic growth, help­ing to con­nect peo­ple, busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties, and was sup­ported by stake­hold­ers across Wales and Borders. It in­cluded works to Bar­mouth viaduct and fur­ther res­ig­nalling around Port Tal­bot.

“Our pro­posed record in­vest­ment of £1.34bn across Wales and Borders is a re­flec­tion of the cur­rent con­di­tion of our in­fra­struc­ture and the level of main­te­nance and re­newals re­quired as well as the cost of day to day op­er­a­tions,” she said.

“Com­par­ing spend against the size of the route in sim­ple per­cent­age terms is a crude mea­sure. We be­lieve our plan sup­ports our mis­sion to run a safe, re­li­able, af­ford­able and grow­ing rail­way that bet­ter meets the needs of our cus­tomers and pro­vides max­i­mum value for tax­pay­ers and our fun­ders.”

Plaid Cymru trans­port spokesman Jonathan Ed­wards said: “Wales is be­ing short-changed by West­min­ster who are happy to use Welsh tax­pay­ers’ money to fund rail up­grades in Eng­land but refuse to let us in­vest in our own creak­ing rail in­fra­struc­ture.

“They can’t even be both­ered to elec­trify the rail­way line be­tween Wales’ two largest cities and now they are break­ing their prom­ise of up­grad­ing sig­nalling in north Wales.

“Mean­while Welsh tax­pay­ers’ money is be­ing used to fund the most ex­pen­sive rail­way line in the world in HS2 and a £45bn Cross­rail up­grade for one of the most well con­nected cities in the world.

“Why should the peo­ple of Wales put up with be­ing told we can’t build a ba­sic rail net­work for our own coun­try when we have to pay for Eng­land’s ex­ces­sive lux­u­ries? It is a farce that in or­der to travel from the north to the south of Wales we have to leave the coun­try first and come back in.

“If West­min­ster is so re­luc­tant to in­vest in Welsh rail­ways then they must give us the tools to do it our­selves. De­volv­ing rail in­fra­struc­ture would de­liver an im­me­di­ate boost of £1bn – enough to elec­trify the Cardiff-Swansea line twice with hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds left over.”

A UK Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “The UK Gov­ern­ment is in­vest­ing in the big­gest mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme of our rail­ways since Vic­to­rian times to de­liver the im­prove­ments pas­sen­gers want to see – more fre­quent ser­vices and faster and more com­fort­able jour­neys.

“This draft plan by Net­work Rail sets out how it in­tends to im­prove the ser­vice for pas­sen­gers over the next five-year in­vest­ment pe­riod 2019-24 and will now be scru­ti­nised by the Trans­port Sec­re­tary and the in­de­pen­dent reg­u­la­tor to en­sure the plans are ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive, and of­fer value for money.

“With bil­lions of pounds be­ing in­vested in our trans­port net­work it is vi­tal we con­tinue to drive ef­fi­ciency and in­no­va­tion. Net­work Rail is not the only rail in­fra­struc­ture man­ager ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing big en­hance­ment projects and we will look to use ex­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions where they can de­liver bet­ter value for both pas­sen­gers and tax­pay­ers.”

Last night a Welsh Gov­ern­ment spokesper­son said: “We have set out our ex­pec­ta­tions of the busi­ness plan­ning process and we will con­tinue to work with Net­work Rail Wales and reg­u­la­tors to make the case for a fair al­lo­ca­tion of fund­ing for rail in­fra­struc­ture in Wales”

Robert Parry-Jones

> The re­de­vel­op­ment of Cardiff Cen­tral train sta­tion is not in­cluded in the new fund­ing plan

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