(Title Image: New Civil Engineer)
At this week’s Economy Questions, Shadow Economy Secretary, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), focused on proposed rail service improvements in the south Wales Valleys and what discussions the Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates AM (Lab, Clwyd South) had with Transport for Wales.
The Secretary confirmed he had discussions on service enhancements and a number of other issues on which he would update AMs in due course.
“You will understand, of course, that passengers are disappointed and frustrated that the same old trains are still in operation now, even though the new franchise era has begun. Can I ask you to make crystal clear when the new trains will finally arrive?”
– Shadow Economy Secretary, Russell George AM
Ken confirmed that new trains will be delivered from 2021 and that £40million has been committed to upgrading the stock inherited from Arriva Trains Wales. Every train will be replaced by 2023. He also offered to provide AMs with a detailed timetable for new trains and station upgrades.
£1.25 billion a mile
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) said HS2 was not being categorised as an EnglandandWales project, meaning Wales was set to lose out on at least £750million due to the impact on the Barnett Formula.
The Secretary acknowledged that while HS2 was expected to have a positive impact on north-east Wales – depending on the options for a hub at Crewe – the potential negative impact on the south required mitigation.
“To give some perspective about the costs we’re talking about here, the first 6.6 miles north out of London is projected to cost £8.25 billion. That’s £1.25 billion per mile. You could fully fund the reopening of Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line, electrify Cardiff to Swansea, reopen the Gaerwen to Amlwch rail line in my constituency for the cost of a single mile of HS2 and still have enough change left for a lifetime of sandwiches, no doubt, on a new Transport for Wales buffet trolley.”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM
Ken Skates said Wales had already received some funding as a consequence of HS2 and the Welsh Government were making a case for further consequentials. However, he warned Rhun – who he accused of being “uncomradely” – that he shouldn’t commit money to projects that would otherwise be the responsibility of the UK Government, such as Cardiff-Swansea electrification.
Treading the Boards
Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) asked about Welsh Government support for the theatre industry, particularly supporting a redevelopment of Theatr Clwyd – though there are concerns over the costs:
“….in total, they’re going to need £15 million-£22 million over three years to complete the project, and they tell me that if they can’t deliver the capital programme now, the building will have to be closed. What involvement are you and your department having to support them, to give them the confidence to know that they can access that level of funding, to ensure that the biggest producing theatre in Wales will continue to prosper and grow?”
– Mark Isherwood AM
The Culture Minister, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) assured Mark that the theatre would continue as a live theatre and any redevelopment would take place gradually over a period of time. He went on to describe it as a “high priority project”.