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Welsh minister calls for rail infrastructure powers

Words: Roger Milne
Cardiff Station / Flickr_4700012405_49349c6131_o

Proposals for powers over rail infrastructure to be devolved to Welsh ministers should be expedited, economy secretary Ken Skates has insisted.

His call came in the wake of the decision by the UK Government to pull funding for rail electrification between Cardiff and Swansea.

In a letter to UK transport secretary Chris Grayling, Skates described the decision as “extremely disappointing” and demanded answers on how and when Welsh communities would see the money promised for electrification of the mainline between Cardiff and Swansea.

Ken Skates wrote: “Funding and delivery of electrification to Swansea was announced in 2012, and restated in 2014 by the then prime minister. There was a commitment for £105 million for the delivery of the Cardiff-Bridgend section of the main line electrification scheme, part of a wider investment estimated at £700 million to electrify the line to Swansea.

“The scheme would have delivered important journey time, reliability, efficiency and emissions benefits, promoting economic growth across South Wales. For the UK Government to announce the cancellation of this scheme at this stage and through the press, with no warning, was hugely disappointing."

Skates said the situation is damaging to the Welsh economy and to its communities.

"Either urgent investment is needed to correct historical underinvestment and the £700 million shortfall, or the long-awaited proposals to devolve powers to Welsh ministers over rail infrastructure should be progressed with immediate effect, alongside a fair and proportionate funding settlement.”

Electrifying the 60 miles of track between Wales’s two biggest cities was originally mooted in 2012 under David Cameron’s government, but cost estimates have since risen sharply, with the latest putting the price tag at £500 million.

Swansea councillors were due this week to back an emergency motion urging the Welsh administration to fund the project.

Image credit | Flickr