Posts Tagged ‘rail electrification’

The buzz (sorry for the pun) around Westminster amongst Welsh MPs is that they’ve been told to expect an important statement from the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond tomorrow (Thursday).  I haven’t yet had confirmation from the Department for Transport that this is the case, but I gather the MPs have been told it will affect Wales.  Is this the long-awaited announcement about the electrification or otherwise of the rail line from London to South Wales?


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I’ve reported enough about the row over plans to electrify the rail line from London to Swansea – plans that are on hold while a decision is being made by the UK Government.

Today Plaid Cymru came up with plans to electrify more of our railways.

The party says it wants to electrify the Valleys lines in the south – and will look at the potential of electrifying lines in the North.

I asked Plaid’s Deputy leader, Helen Mary Jones, about the likely cost of this. She said it’s not fully costed yet but is likely to be in the region of £500m, with the majority of the bill being picked up by Network Rail.

Proposals for the north are much vaguer and remain a ‘potential’ at this stage.

I wondered if either of these ideas were dependent on the UK government electrifying the line from London. They’re not.

In what’s becoming a habit, I asked Helen Mary Jones what the status of any such a pledge would be – in other words, would it survive coalition talks?

This one isn’t even a manifesto pledge yet, but she said if it were left up to her, any pledge on electrification would be a red line in coalition negotiations.

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It’s a Sharp End day today so a lot of my time and attention is being taken up with that, but there are a couple of strands to pick up on briefly.

Electrification of the London to Swansea rail line.

* The Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones has been at Swansea railway station today stating as clearly as possible how important the Assembly Government sees electrification.  It’s a move clearly designed to put pressure on the Department for Transport to make the decision to electrify the line all the way to Swansea.

Countering the view that it wouldn’t make a massive amount of difference other than simply shortening journey times, Mr Jones said:

Electrification of the rail line all the way from London through to Swansea is essential to Wales. It is not simply just about shortening journey times. Electrification is an issue of vital strategic importance – it would boost Wales’ economy, help achieve our ambitions for the environment and benefit perceptions of us as a nation.

* Meanwhile according to a Whitehall source, the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan has held high-level talks about electrification with the Prime Minister and Deputy Minister. She’s said to have told David Cameron and Nick Clegg in ‘no uncertain terms’ how important the project is to Wales.

* The Department for Transport says the final decision is still yet to be made. The prediction is though that it will ‘go right down to the wire.’

My colleague Esyllt Carr will have more on this story in Wales Tonight at 6pm ITV1 Wales.

Powers Referendum

We’re in uncharted territory with this now. Last night’s decision by the No campaigners, True Wales, not to seek the status of official No campaign has completely changed the dynamics of the pre-campaign.

The Electoral Commission’s rules mean that if there’s no official lead No campaign, there can’t be an official lead Yes campaign either. That’s the scenario we’re left with now.

But there’s a complication. The blogger Miserable Old Fart had applied to be the official No campaign in order to make the point that he doesn’t think what’s on offer in the referendum goes far enough. It’s highly unlikely that he could be designated as the lead campaign but the Electoral Commission is obliged to give his application due consideration.

It means we won’t get a final answer until some time next week.

In the meantime the Commission has published a list of registered groups who are permitted to take part in the campaign. So far they are Yes For Wales, Tomorrow’s Wales, Unison, Plaid Cymru and the Monster Raving Loony party’s Mark Beech (who’s the sole registered No group so far).

True Wales and Welsh Labour’s Yes campaign are expected to join that list.

Sharp End

In tonight’s programme we’ll look at what’s going on – or not going on – in the referendum campaign. Esyllt Carr reports on what effect the Westminster coalition is having on the Lib Dems and the Conservatives here in Wales. And I talk to Dafydd Wigley as he prepares to clad himself in ermine and join the House of Lords.

My guests are the former Labour MP for Pontypridd, Kim Howells; the Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, Jenny Willott and the Western Mail’s Senedd Correspondent, Matt Withers.

Join me for Sharp End, 1035pm ITV1 Wales.

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Further to my earlier post, here are two statements issued by the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan following the Transport Secretary’s announcement of the go ahead for a high speed rail line between London and Birmingham.

On the possibility of her resigning that I mentioned in the earlier post, her spokesman has reiterated that, while she’s disappointed, that there’s a long way to go yet in terms of consultation.

When it comes to electrification of the line to South Wales, well read her statement for yourself.

The first is issued by the Wales Office, the second is in her capacity as MP for Chesham and Amersham.

Statement 1

Commenting on today’s announcement of the preferred route for a new high speed rail line from London to Birmingham and the north of England, Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan MP said:
“I have already written to both the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary underlining the importance of electrifying the Great Western main line from London to south Wales given the Government’s commitment to developing a high speed route north of London.

“I will continue to press the case for electrification with Cabinet colleagues and remind them that Welsh economic interests and transport infrastructure risk being left behind if the project does not go ahead.”

Statement 2

I welcome the announcement today which now finally clarifies the position but naturally I am disappointed that a decision has been taken to confirm Route 3, which passes through the heart of Chesham and Amersham, as the “preferred” route for consideration during the forthcoming consultation on HS2. I understand around 50% of the “preferred” route has been amended from the original proposals. I will study these in detail particularly as this “preferred” route is not yet the final route.

To date I have made numerous personal representations and representations on behalf of constituents who are opposed to this route. In addition to my own submission to the consultation next year, I will also ensure that all constituents’ views are fed into the process. Attendance at the road-shows to be held in the constituency will be vital.

The Secretary of State for Transport has confirmed that the consultation will cover a) alternative route corridors, b) the overall strategic case and c) the detail of the line of route and that his department will be approaching this with an open mind.

We now need to respond to the consultation in such a way that we have the best chance of protecting our environment in Chesham and Amersham.

I have written today to key campaigners in Chesham and Amersham inviting them to a meeting at the start of the New Year so that I can ensure that I am able to make the strongest possible case on behalf of the constituency.

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This morning’s Telegraph has further details on claims that the Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan would be willing to resign over plans to build a high-speed rail link through her Buckinghamshire constituency. She’s quoted as telling Andrew Gilligan, “I would defy the party whip – be very, very sure of that. My constituency comes first in all instances. The impact on the whole area would be absolutely phenomenal.”

Gilligan explains how this becomes a resigning matter:

“For a minister or whip to break party discipline and vote against the Government is automatically a resigning matter. The three MPs are understood to hope that it will not come to that and are lobbying colleagues to change their minds. Sources close to Miss Gillan said the Prime Minister had stressed that the precise route had yet to be fixed.”

Expect Cheryl Gillan’s political opponents to use this row to call for her to show similar determination when it comes to another controversial rail project: electrification of the Paddington to Swansea line. According to the IWA’s website, Click on Wales, which quotes Rail Engineer magazine, the official announcement on Tuesday is likely to be that the line will be electrified as far as Cardiff, leaving it up to the Assembly Government to pay for the rest if it wants.

UPDATE: I gather the announcement on electrification won’t be made tomorrow (Tuesday) but is likely to come on Thursday.

UPDATE 2: A source close Cheryl Gillan points out that the only published route so far for the new High Speed rail link was drawn up by the last UK government and Mrs Gillan’s views on that have been made abundantly clear. But the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government has made no such announcement on a preferred route and even when it does there would be a lengthy consultation.

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