(Title Image: Jeremy Segrott via Flickr, Creative Commons Licence CC-BY-2.0)
Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s Economy Questions.
Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) said that to properly diversify the Welsh economy, we need to take advantage of emerging infrastructure, such as 5G internet. Large parts of Wales still struggle to get 3G signals.
“According to the UK Government’s research, the impact of 5G is estimated at £198 billion per annum by 2030, with a 10-year gross domestic product impact of £173 billion between 2020 and 2030. So, we must have an ambition to take a portion of that, and it’s been suggested that Wales aims for a 10% share of this, which would mean an uplift in GDP of £17.3 billion from 2020 to 2030.”
– Bethan Sayed AM
Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), said that in many respects the Welsh economy was already more diverse than other parts of the UK, with manufacturing playing a bigger role in Wales and there being less reliance on service industries.
Bethan Sayed suggested Transport for Wales could be an avenue to explore this further and the Minister agreed, with Transport for Wales being asked to look at using railway stations as bases for electric charging points.
The Newport M4 Commission
Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), was somewhat sceptical that the Commission established in light of the scrapping of the Newport bypass would be any better at looking at the alternatives than the public inquiry. Was there actually anything new to consider?
He also questioned why there was a sudden change of heart within the Welsh Government on the project’s environmental impact when their own legal and technical advice said the project would be carbon neutral and compatible with the Future Generations Act?
Firstly, the Minister was confident the Commission would come back with solid recommendations within six months, while the cost of the initial work represented only a fraction of the total projected cost of the bypass. On the environmental change of heart, there was an obvious answer:
“Since we presented a very compelling case, of course, there’s been a declaration of climate emergency, a greater understanding and appreciation that we need to act now, that we need to be more responsive and responsible and, therefore, the bar has been raised. Whilst I don’t think that the (Future Generations Act) requires amending, I do think it necessitates a very careful consideration within Government of how we take forward, not just transport infrastructure but all infrastructure….”
– Minister for Economy & Transport, Ken Skates
Ebbw Vale-Newport rail services “from 2021”
There were a number of questions and follow-up questions relating to public transport in Gwent. Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) asked about the importance of public transport links to the new Grange University Hospital near Cwmbran, Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East) asked about frequency of bus services and David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) asked about rail services between Ebbw Vale and Newport.
The Minister has already been in discussions with the health department on public transport links to the Grange Hospital and called on local authorities in the region to prioritise bus spending wisely.
On Ebbw Vale-Newport rail services, the Minister had good news:
“….we are committed to taking forward plans to introduce four trains per hour as soon as we possibly can do on the Ebbw Vale line….we are (also) committed to introducing an hourly service between Ebbw Vale Town and Newport from 2021. I’m also pleased to say brand-new trains will be introduced on the services through Blaenau Gwent during 2022, and this will provide, obviously, increased capacity (425 seats vs 292 at present) and level boarding.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates