Secretary of State with officials at Cardiff Central Station, courtesy of Matthew Horwood photography
Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan has today joined Cabinet colleagues in announcing UK Government plans to electrify the rail network from Cardiff to Swansea and in the South Wales Valleys.
As part of its High Level Output Specification (HLOS), which sets out what the Government wants to achieve from the rail network over the period 2014 -2019, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that lines including Ebbw Vale, Maesteg, Merthyr Tydfil and the Vale of Glamorgan, as well as the mainline between Cardiff and Swansea will be electrified.
Welcoming today’s announcement, she said:
“It will see over £350million directly invested into the Welsh railway infrastructure, and arrives on the back of the £1billion investment into the electrification of the Great Western Mainline from London to Cardiff, and the £500million investment into the western link to Heathrow.
“In total, Wales is set to benefit directly and indirectly from almost £2billion from the UK Government programme to modernise the rail network, and is the most significant infrastructure announcement for Wales for decades.”
The investment will also fund smaller schemes which will improve access at stations, the freight network and passenger journey times. The electrification of the Swansea and Valley train lines also means that two thirds of the population of Wales will be on an electrified train route.
The electrification of the lines will also reduce the long term operational costs of running the railway, bring environmental benefits, faster journeys, more capacity and support economic regeneration and jobs growth in South Wales.
Today’s announcement follows detailed discussions between the DfT, the Wales Office and the Welsh Government.
Marking the announcement at Swansea train station, Mrs Gillan said:
“Successive governments have failed to invest significantly in our railways. Today’s decision marks a significant change. I repeatedly said that the case for electrification to Swansea and the Valleys was unfinished business, and this announcement underlines my determination to ensure a modern efficient railway system in Wales which is fit for the 21st century.
“My focus goes beyond single nations. Our decision last week to build the Western extension to Heathrow will for the first time connect South Wales to the UK’s main air hub, international destinations and ensure even faster journey times between London and Cardiff. This is as clear a sign possible of our commitment to investment in our transport infrastructure, bridging the divide between parts of the UK and building on our Growth agenda.”
Electrification of the valley lines, combined with improvements on the Great Western Mainline, is set to widen the potential catchment area for businesses seeking to invest in Wales.
Not only will it provide better access to work opportunities and educational centres in Cardiff and beyond for some of the most severely disadvantaged areas of Wales, it will also make the Valleys themselves more attractive for new investment by combining a modern, fit for purpose, transport system with a large available workforce and competitively priced office space.
Mrs Gillan added:
“We want passengers, investors and businesses to reap the benefits of this substantial investment, not only in its railways but in its workforce.
“Electrification in the Valleys is a major component to creating an integrated labour market within South Wales and potentially across the wider Severn-side economy.
“We need to create the right conditions for business in Wales to prosper and this investment sends out a clear message that Wales is open for business. It underlines the significant and positive opportunities for economic development in Wales which I have made in my regular discussions with the Transport Secretary.
“On St David’s Day last year, we announced a £1billion investment into the electrification of the Great Western Mainline from London to Cardiff and today’s investment will, I hope, bring a renewed sense of pride and confidence for the people of Wales in its infrastructure.
“Electrifying the rail line to Wales’ second city and to the South Wales Valleys will give people in these areas a chance to fulfil their potential by improving connectivity to labour markets and opening up prospects for jobs and investment. It means the valley communities can look forward to a bright and vibrant future
“Improved rail connectivity is a vital component for delivering a successful Welsh economy and we can now look forward to a modern and efficient rail system in Wales.”