Johnson challenged at PMQs over rail funding for Wales

Boris Johnson has been challenged about Wales being excluded from the biggest-ever rail infrastructure investment in the UK[1]. WalesOnline recently exposed the sheer scale to which Wales was losing out because of the UK Government’s decision to class HS2 as a Wales and England project. Wales, whose rail network has been starved of funds for years, would have been in line for around GBP5bn to spend on the rail network if it was receiving a population-based share of the GBP96bn HS2 investment in England.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are both receiving consequential spending. You can read the full investigation including everything that Wales could have built with the cash it due here[2]. Boris Johnson, whose governing Conservative Party made the decision that HS2 would provide a direct benefit to Wales, was challenged about this issue in Prime Minister’s Questions today by Newport East MP Jessica Morden.

She said: “Wales has 11% of the UK rail network yet only receives 2% of UK rail enhancement funding, and as reported in WalesOnline, will be denied billions of consequential funding from HS2. “So have under delivered on rail in the North, have underdelivered on rail in Wales, why should anyone trust this government to deliver on its promises?” Boris Johnson retorted: “I am afraid she has completely failed to look at what Sir Peter Hendy has set out in his Union Connectivity Review, a fantastic agenda for change and improvement particularly in Wales and particularly on the North Welsh corridor where I think the railway links deserve to be improved and will be improved under this government.”

The Prime Minister’s response fails to acknowledge that the real issues in Wales isn’t the ability to get to London faster. For the vast, vast, majority of rail users in Wales the issue is that their trains are old, overcrowded, sporadic, late and when they turn up they are too slow because many of our lines aren’t electrified. The Prime Minister’s point was also weakened by the fact that he referenced Sir Peter Hendy’s report.

This report explicitly pointed out that Wales’ railways needed a radical overhaul far beyond the benefits of HS2. This response echoes a response given by the DfT earlier this week when WalesOnline WalesOnline approached the Department for Transport at the UK Government to ask them to explain in detail the benefits HS2 will provide for Wales.

We asked:

  • Can you please provide a list of all the ways in which HS2 will provide a direct benefit to Wales?
  • Will these benefits come close to the benefits that GBP5bn consequential could have provided Wales?
  • Given that HS2 is primarily north/south travel why is this not treated as also benefiting Scotland?

In response, a Department for Transport spokesman said: “HS2 will provide faster and more frequent train services to North Wales. The HS2 Interchange at Crewe will bring many parts of North Wales within two and a quarter hours of London, faster than the current West Coast Main Line services to Holyhead.” You can read a breakdown of all the issues with this response here.[3]

The issue of Wales getting shafted over rail funding was also raised in the Senedd. Plaid MS Delyth Jewell called for a debate into the fund of Welsh rail infrastructure. She said: “I’d like to ask for a debate in Government time to discuss the funding of rail infrastructure in Wales.

The disastrous underfunding of our rail network has been highlighted by the UK Government’s union connectivity review, which recommends, astonishingly, improving links with England, even though it was the UK Government itself that reneged on its promise to electrify the South Wales Main Line. “Wales Governance Centre research, Trefnydd, shows we lost out on GBP0.5 billion-worth of rail funding over 10 years, due to rail infrastructure not being devolved, and HS2 will make that worse. The UK Treasury’s decision to set the comparability factor for Wales at 0 per cent means we’ll get nothing from HS2 expenditure.

Scotland will get around GBP10 billion, Wales will get zero, and this when our trains are already crammed, too often late, and unreliable.

“So, Trefnydd, I think Members across the Chamber would welcome an opportunity to discuss this crisis and what can be done about it, before we are, in the words of Will Hayward from the Western Mail, condemned to another century of second-class rail.”

To get the latest email updates from WalesOnline click here[4]

References

  1. ^ https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wales-missing-out-uks-biggest-22288606 (www.walesonline.co.uk)
  2. ^ https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wales-missing-out-uks-biggest-22288606 (www.walesonline.co.uk)
  3. ^ read a breakdown of all the issues with this response here. (www.walesonline.co.uk)
  4. ^ https://www.walesonline.co.uk/newsletter-preference-centre/ (www.walesonline.co.uk)




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