Investing in Welsh transport
As we invest billions in transport, Welsh businesses are already benefiting.
It’s an honour to be here this evening.
To speak in this magnificent building.
And alongside Carolyn Fairbairn, in her new role as the CBI’s Director-General, and at her first big event outside London.
It’s traditional at this point for politicians to point out their Welsh heritage.
I’m afraid I’m no different.
After I left school I spent a year in Wrexham training to be a Chef.
It wasn’t a great success.
Judging by tonight’s delights the quality of Wales’ food went up after I left.
In fact anyone visiting Wales would say things are on the up.
Cardiff has been deemed the best UK city in which to live.
And there’s a great sense of optimism about the whole country, too.
A sense of expectation about the future.
The challenges we faced
But it wasn’t always that way
Cast your mind back to 2010
Over 83,000 people in Wales were looking for work.
We knew we had to act.
So we took some difficult decisions.
We cut spending
We gave encouragement to the private sector.
And the result is clear.
Twenty two thousand more firms in Wales than there was in 2010.
90,000 jobs have been created.
Almost half of those in the last year alone.
Wales is creating jobs faster than almost any other part of the UK.
Business and government have worked together to make it happen.
And in Stephen Crabb, who is here tonight, you have a great advocate for Wales.
He’s been working across the party divides.
And what Wales achieved in last week’s spending review was fantastic.
It means that, during this Parliament, Wales will see a £900 million increase in capital funding.
A boost of over 16% in real terms.
And a huge opportunity on tax powers.
I share Stephen’s optimism about Wales’s future.
Yet I also share a sense of responsibility.
Because now we must deliver for Wales.
Wales needs better transport
For me, that means better transport.
This city is proof of the link between transport and economic growth.
Cardiff’s canals, railways and docks made South Wales the world’s first industrialised region.
Today, Cardiff’s booming services sector couldn’t function without the 40% of Cardiff’s workforce who use transport to commute to the city each day, and a transport system that brings rugby fans to the Millennium Stadium, opera-lovers to the Wales Millennium Centre and diners to the city’s restaurants.
But even Cardiff is testament to the fact that in recent decades, successive governments have failed to invest properly in transport.
Most of our railways date back to the Victorian age.
And our motorway network dates back to the 1960s.
The consequences are clear.
In the south, it means daily traffic jams on the M4 and a Valleys Rail Network in urgent need of improvement.
In the North, anyone who wants to get the train from Bangor to London faces a journey of well over three hours.
The great shame is that transport provides massive opportunity.
It gets people to work or education.
And allows businesses to reach new markets.
We’re getting there
We understand that opportunity.
So before the election we put infrastructure at the top of our manifesto.
And now, in government, we’re backing that commitment with £70 billion pounds to transform travel in Wales and the UK.
It starts with electrifying the Great Western Main Line right through to Swansea; the greatest upgrade of the line since Brunel built it.
You think this type of work is pretty straightforward, easy to plan and then will come in under budget.
And then you wake up.
Look, it was never going to be easy.
But we will get the job done.
I used the line this early this morning, riding up front with the driver.
I could see, whizzing past on either side, freshly driven piles which will carry the electric cables overhead.
Bridges being prepared for raising.
And Network Rail’s orange army, some starting a day of work, others clocking off after a long night shift.
It’s tough work, but it is happening.
And when it’s finished, it will cut 20 minutes off the journey to Paddington and offer passengers far greater reliability and comfort.
Successive governments should have done it years ago.
But it falls to us.
And we will get it done.
The next big opportunity is HS2
Now, there are those who say the only thing that matters is Barnett Consequentials, one-up-man-ship and squabbles over money.
It’s about so much more than that.
HS2 is an opportunity for the whole country.
It’s not just a new line but a new high speed, high capacity network linking 8 of Britain’s 10 biggest cities.
We wanted to see the benefits for North Wales to come as soon as possible.
So, on Monday, we announced that we will build the line to Crewe six years early.
From 2027, it will transform travel to and from North Wales.
Allowing passengers from North Wales to board HS2 at Crewe and travel to London in just 55 minutes, compared with today’s 90 minutes.
Benefits to businesses
That is the future.
But the benefits of HS2 can be felt right now.
Transport spending is an investment in Britain’s businesses.
An investment in skills and capacity for the future right along the supply chain.
Welsh businesses are already leading the way.
Celsa UK, based in Cardiff, has supplied over 50,000 tonnes of steel for London’s Crossrail project.
And the Airbus factory at Broughton makes wings for half the world’s commercial aircraft.
Now, we are in the process of letting the contracts for HS2.
Some of the largest contracts in construction history.
Generating tens of thousands of opportunities, sixty percent of which we expect to award to small- and medium-sized firms.
Earlier in the summer, HS2 Ltd visited Wales to engage businesses interested in working on HS2.
They met firms large and small, supplying everything from steel to surveyors, engineers to environment experts.
HS2 is a great opportunity for Welsh businesses and it will generate work for years to come.
The procurement process has only just started, so we want to keep hearing from firms in Wales.
Building the future together
Because building these projects requires collaboration with business and with devolved administrations.
To electrify the Valley Lines and modernise the commuter network into Cardiff we are working with the Welsh Government, and providing £125 million with which to do it.
We’re supporting the Welsh Government’s ambition to upgrade the M4 around Newport.
It’s been debated for a quarter of a century and the people of Wales need it.
We are plugging North Wales into the Northern Powerhouse so it can work with Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds to improve connections and grow.
We are working to devolve the Wales and Borders rail franchise to bring control of the line’s services much closer to those who use them.
We are getting on with re-signalling the North Wales Main Line to make it more reliable.
And we are working with businesses and communities to build the case for improvements in the future; we have kick-started a task-force of local authorities, local businesses and the Welsh Government to build the case for further rail modernisation in North Wales.
So there’s a huge amount to look forward to.
Wales is right to be optimistic.
With Stephen Crabb as Secretary of State, Welsh transport is finally getting the attention it’s needed for generations.
Investment on this scale is never easy.
It doesn’t always go to plan.
But we want Welsh business to succeed.
And for Wales to thrive.
So you’ve got this government’s commitment.
We will get the job done.
We will build a new transport legacy for Wales.