FMQs: Labour’s infrastructure record criticised following further A465 project delay

“It’s never your fault, First Minister”

With news that A465 dualling between Gilwern and Brynmawr has been delayed again – and the First Minister blaming the UK Government for leaving funding gaps – the Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) gave it both barrels:

“It’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it, First Minister? You need to take some responsibility…. Your party’s manifesto in 2016 claims that you will already have delivered the Heads of the Valleys road dualling, and yet, the completion date….has been pushed back for the second time this year and at an eye-watering overspend, it’s hardly something for you to be championing, is it, First Minister? And, let’s look at the other proposals for infrastructure in your manifesto. Improvements to the A55 in north Wales: whilst repairs have been made, I think you’ll find it hard pushed to find anyone who would agree that significant improvements have been made. Improving the A40 in west Wales….and the M4 relief road.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies

The First Minister said a delay to A465 dualling to an indeterminate date in 2020 has been on the cards since April this year. There’ve been clear environmental reasons why the project through the Clydach Gorge is taking longer than expected – and he won’t take any lessons on infrastructure delays and cost overruns from a Conservative party and government that’s responsible for the chaos of England’s High Speed 2.

Train trouble

Substituting for Adam Price, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn), moved away from roads and to the railways. The situation wasn’t acceptable with regular overcrowding and reports that some people have to watch four or more trains pass before being able to get on one. The situation could be about to get worse in the new year too:

“I’m sure you’ll understand the alarm at recent reports that if Transport for Wales don’t get the go-ahead from the (UK) Department for Transport to continue using old non-compliant Pacer trains before the end of the year, when new accessibility requirements kick in, the train operator will lose up to 30 trains or 60 carriages. This is half of their rolling stock on Valleys lines services.”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

The First Minister confirmed discussions with the Department of Transport are ongoing and TfW wasn’t the only train operator finding itself in this position (Northern Rail is facing a similar problem as they use large numbers of “Pacer” trains too).

Rhun asked why this request for dispensation has been left till the last minute when a Senedd committee warned about possible rolling stock problems as far back as 2013? The Mayor of Greater Manchester and others have called for fare reductions to compensate passengers – will the Welsh Government consider this?

The First Minister told AMs the Welsh Government couldn’t follow the 2013 advice because Wales didn’t have powers over the rail franchise at the time. Fare reductions are due to come in any way across the Transport for Wales network from January 2020.

Mark Reckless “abuses opportunity” of FMQs

Having been denied the opportunity to ask questions on the spying scandal earlier, Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) decided to use FMQs to do it instead – except he didn’t ask a question, simply reading (what appeared to be) transcripts about a complaint involving the Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower), and comments made about unethical relationship in the legal profession. He also accused the Llywydd of bias (again) – a comment he withdrew.

The First Minister considered the comments an abuse of opportunity:

“Llywydd, every week the Member has an opportunity to ask me questions about the many responsibilities that I exercise as head of the Government. Week after week he chooses to ask me things that are not part of my responsibilities as head of the Government at all. The choices that Members make in their individual AM capacities are for them to make, and where they have complaints to make, it is absolutely right that they should pursue those complaints, and should do it without any sense of being answerable to the Welsh Government.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

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