Column: The Welsh Great Train Robbery

Sioned Williams MS writes about the £4 billion being denied to Wales from Westminster’s HS2 project

An image showing the article written by Sioned Williams MS on HS2, as it appears in the South Wales Evening Post

This article was published in the South Wales Evening post on Thursday 20 June 2024.

 

The Welsh Great Train Robbery

Imagine if you read about a country that was paying towards a fancy new train line for its neighbouring nation when at the same time it’s being starved of funding for its own transport infrastructure.

You don’t have to go far to find such an example, because that’s what’s happening in Wales right now. A new high speed rail line is being built between Birmingham and London, where all the track is within England and the nearest point to Wales is over 60 miles away. Yet due to a stitch up in project classification, we’re losing out on £4 billion.

To explain what’s going on here, you need to know one important point: When the Westminster Government allocate new spending on projects in England only, they need to give additional funding to the devolved nations. This is because all four nations pay tax into the central Treasury, and this payment back is only right.

The HS2 line, running as it does between Birmingham and London has no inch of track in any of Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. As you might expect, Northern Ireland and Scotland were given an additional chunk of money. Wales, however, was not. This is because the Westminster Government classed it as an ‘England and Wales’ project and as such, according to the rules, Wales was to be effectively robbed of this money.

It’s been calculated that we’re losing out on £4,000,000,000 and put simply, that amount of money could revolutionise our public transport. We could increase services west of Swansea, speed up the Swansea Bay Metro project and we could better support our bus services so that crucial routes up the valleys don’t have to run on a limited service. We could even look to re-open lines closing under Beeching, electrify the train line west of Cardiff and look to introduce trams or light rail in those valleys that currently don’t have a train line.

It’s not just me that thinks we’re owed this money – the Senedd has voted in favour of this on multiple occasions. However, neither Labour or Tories in the UK will commit to reclassifying this project, despite their colleagues in the Senedd calling for it.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been let down by Westminster when it comes to our rail service – who remembers the cancellation of the project to electrify the line to Swansea? Only this week the current Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, admitted it was because the line was “too wiggly.” Try telling that to Switzerland, which enjoys a fully electrified Swiss railway network.

This is not just an argument about a railway line, it signals how little regard Westminster has for Wales, the Senedd, and ultimately our citizens. I, and Plaid Cymru, will continue to fight for the £4bn robbed from us.

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