Upgrades and electrification of Wales’ ageing rail infrastructure should be addressed by UK-Welsh collaboration that would improve services for customers 

The Welsh Affairs Committee has today called for a new Wales Rail Board to be in place by the Autumn – comprised of UK and Welsh government bodies – that can consider improvements and upgrades to Wales’ ageing rail network.  

Rail infrastructure in Wales is a lifeline for millions, connecting communities and central for the transportation of goods in Wales and across the UK. However, it is a Victorian system trying to support a 21st century level of service, with passengers experiencing slow services and inadequate stations. 

To enhance rail infrastructure in Wales, urgent upgrades backed up by sufficient investment is desperately needed. A new Wales Rail Board, including the UK and Welsh governments, Network Rail, the rail operators providing services in Wales, and Transport for Wales, has been recommended to identify improvements and the investment required.  

While significant rail investment has been dedicated to HS2, resulting in a supply chain that encompasses the entire UK including Wales, Wales will not benefit in the same way as Scotland and Northern Ireland from the Barnett consequentials arising from the project.

The Committee recommends that HS2 should be reclassified as an England only project. Using the Barnett formula, Wales’ funding settlement should be recalculated to apply an additional allocation based on the funding for HS2 in England. This would help to ensure that Welsh rail passengers receive the same advantage from investment in HS2 as those in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

The Committee notes that HS2 could have clearer and more direct benefits for Welsh rail passengers if it is accompanied by enhancements to the Chester and Crewe stations which, in turn, could help facilitate the electrification of the North Wales mainline. The Committee therefore recommends that the UK Government, working in partnership with the Welsh Government, should prepare a full strategic case for the upgrade and electrification of the North Wales mainline.    

Electrification of the railways can play a key role in the UK Government’s decarbonisation agenda, and the Committee has argued that the decision to cancel the electrification of the Great Western mainline from Cardiff to Swansea is short-sighted. The Committee urges the UK Government to bring forward proposals – before the end of 2021 – on new proposals for greater connectivity between Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol, which could require completing electrification of the mainline between Cardiff and Swansea.  

Suggested infrastructure enhancement projects from the MPs’ report

Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, said: “There is a compelling case for greater investment in rail infrastructure in Wales to improve journey times for passengers, strengthen connectivity with the rest of the United Kingdom and reduce carbon emissions.

“Reaching our net zero targets will require a significant investment in rail electrification. We believe that this should result in a reconsideration of the short-sighted decision to cancel the electrification of the Great Western mainline from Cardiff to Swansea.

“While there will always be voices calling for the further devolution of rail powers, it’s clear that what passengers most need is both of their governments, as well as the rail operators, working together.

“Our Committee has proposed a new Wales Rail Board, which would bring together the two governments, Network Rail and rail operators, which can be tasked with bringing forward a shared pipeline of Welsh rail projects and which should be in place by the Autumn.” 

Recommendations 

The Welsh Affairs Committee’s recommendations are: 

·         The Wales Rail Board should:  

o    establish immediate infrastructure investment priorities; 

o    consider how passenger services can be improved without inadvertently reducing freight capacity; and 

o    determine on a route by route basis what improved services will mean for passengers in terms of frequency, speed, and cost.  

Download Railway Infrastructure in Wales below: