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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

End of the line?

Disappointing as yesterday's decision was, to stop electrification on the South Wales to London line at Cardiff, there are nevertheless a number of positives for stops west of the capital City.

Firstly, the introduction of new hybrid rolling stock is more than the Labour Government was offering and means that there will still be a seamless journey from London to Swansea. It also means that in terms of travel time the 20 minutes gained is almost exactly the same as would have been knocked off the journey if the electrification had continued the extra 40 miles. In those terms Swnsea, Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend will not lose out.

Secondly, this announcement goes further than the pledge by the last Labour Government. It commits to, and ensures funding for, electrifying the line to Cardiff, keeps open electrification to Swansea, and opens up the prospect of electrifying Valley Lines services to Cardiff.

The perception that everything stops at Cardiff in rail terms is largely down to a much earlier decision to put on half hourly inter City trains between the two capital Cities but not to extend that privilege to Swansea. I believe that the fact that trains to London from Wales' second City only run hourly contributed to the marginal business case that led to the decision not to electrify as far as Swansea. Any campaign to change that decision should also revisit the need for a half hourly service along the whole length of the line.

Finally, we should not forget that amongst all the Labour spin, that Gordon Brown announced an electrification project in 2009, saying that work would start immediately but nothing happened. Not only did Labour fail to put aside any money to pay for the project, they did not carry out the detailed technical work needed.

This announcement is not the end of the matter. Heavy lobbying by the Welsh Liberal Democrats in particular, delivered a far more favourable statement than was expected. The government has left open the prospect of further electrification to Swansea and I welcome that. It means that we can address the perception problem, no matter how well or ill-founded it is. We need to use that opening to continue to campaign for that outcome.
i know theirs a few welsh tories want 'rid of you out of Swansea'
so look out for them,
They have told me this

I hope you are re-elected
Labour was committed to an investment of £7.5 billion which would have built 1400 new trains. Yesterday's annoucement will see the building of just 500 new trains at a cost of £4.5 billion. The scheme is a PFI scheme which will see the taxpayer paying for the trains over a 30 year period. The real issue which has been forgotten about in the spin is whether or not the bi modal trains are up to the job. This is why the FT described the decision as the 'most controversial since privatisation'. It is an untried technology and lots of rail experts are concerned I understand with issues such as power and acceleration. The trains were slated by the Foster report. What if the government has got the technology wrong as governments in the past have with so many procurement projects? Trains which run on just on electricity which is a proven technology and which could have been bought off the shelf might also perhaps not have cost so much.

As far as the electrification is concerned I understand it will be paid for by Network Rail increasing its debt. With the UK coalition committed to reducing rail subsidy then it doesn't take a genius to work out that the government expects much of the cost of the new service in 2018 to probably be paid for by those who use the service.

In terms of train frequency it is also perhaps important to realise that Swansea isn't just in competition with Cardiff. Only 1 new train will run from Swansea to London compared to 4 electric trains an hour between Bristol and London. Perception is very important when it comes to investment and yesterday's decision really hasn't helped the area west of Cardiff to compete in a very competitive world.
A conservative wants to unseat a lib-dem - we live in controversial times.

As for the train decision, its just another roadblock to west-Wales competing on a level basis with other areas - all the more dissapointing given the economic results published a while ago.
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