Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport
I would like to provide an update following the statement I made in the National Assembly on 17 July 2018. In that statement, I set out the Welsh Government’s strategic vision and objectives for rail in Wales and I am today publishing the Case for Investment in rail infrastructure which has been prepared by Professor Mark Barry. It is clear that there is potential to deliver in excess of £2 billion of economic benefits from an ambitious, realistic, and equitable rail investment programme in Wales’ rail infrastructure.
The Department for Transport’s current enhancements pipeline process is not serving Wales well. I agreed to engage with the new approach in order to secure much needed investment in our rail network. However, this was contingent on the UK Government using the process to invest at pace. Progress has been very slow. To date we have seen none of the business cases that the UK Government promised last year, no funding has been committed to further development, and no clarity on next steps and timescales has been given. This is unacceptable. We cannot engage in an endlessly bureaucratic process which appears to be designed to withhold the investment which is so urgently needed.
The Welsh Government, alongside our partners, has demonstrated the vision and ambition to develop and deliver investment in the rail network and - prior to full devolution - as a matter of urgency we need an appropriate financial commitment from the UK Government to undertake this work. This model has been successfully applied to develop rail enhancements in the north of England and ensures that schemes deliver local priorities, meet regional objectives, and reflect national economic and strategic goals.
It is expected that over £3 billion will be spent on HS2 in England during this financial year and the same again on enhancing the existing rail network. Substantial investment should also be made to bring journey times between London and Swansea within two hours. A fair devolution settlement for Wales would allow us over the next 10 years to fund schemes such as the re-opening of railway lines, modernisation including electrification of the south and north Wales mainlines, and new stations across the network.
Given the lack of progress made by the UK Government on the development of an enhancement programme, it is not possible for me to hold a meaningful formal public consultation this year. However, I would welcome views from Assembly Members, businesses, and the public on the Case for Investment being published today.