(Title Image: © Copyright N Chadwick and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-2.0)
Yesterday, Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) updated the Senedd on the three metro projects.
Big plans, bigger bill
- The next phase of the South Wales Metro project has started, focusing on electrification, new trains and improved service frequency. Control over the Valley Lines will be transferred to the Welsh Government by the end of March 2020.
- The Borderlands Line between Wrexham and The Wirral will form the “spine” of the North Wales Metro to provide through-services between Wrexham and Liverpool (up to four-per-hour). The proposals include an integrated bus service – including a long-distance, possibly segregated, bus rapid transit route between Deeside and Rhyl – a new station at Deeside Industrial Park and “co-locating activities” in and around Wrexham General station.
- Transport for Wales is working on measures in Swansea Bay, with the Minister suggesting passenger services will be introduced on the Swansea District Line. Again, this will include an integrated bus service.
While there was a lot the Welsh Government can do with its own funding, many levers and budgets remain with the UK Government.
“Plans by the UK Government to increase spending on infrastructure in this Parliament are very welcome, and Wales’s share of this will amount to some £3.7 billion. With this funding, and a fair share of the HS2 spend over the next 10 years, we will deliver our plans to transform urban and inter-city connectivity in Wales.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates
Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), was keen to know what progress has been made? The north Wales metro was announced three years ago, so would there be a proper timetable for these projects?
While Plaid Cymru agreed with the Minister that there was clearly an issue with historic underfunding by the UK Government, Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) and the Minister got into a bit of an argument over High Speed 2 and who was first to stake Wales’ claim for a fair proportion of funding relating to it.
Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms E. & Dinefwr) later added that the Welsh Government had reneged on a budget agreement promise to undertake a feasibility study on integrating the Swansea, Neath and Gwendraeth valleys into the Swansea Bay metro.
David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) hoped there was a consultation on business needs, particularly the requirement for speedy transport under a “just in time” supply system. Meanwhile, Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) welcomed the proposals in Flintshire, he hoped that more rural towns and villages away from the Borderlands Line wouldn’t be left out.
Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) thought there could be better linking in with decarbonisation policies as only two double chargers are being provided at the Deeside park and ride.
In response to a question from Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) on the UK Government’s “reverse Beeching fund”, the Minister was keen to point out that the £500million earmarked for that (in England) wouldn’t go any way to delivering much.