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North Wales ‘left behind’ on rail improvements

A NORTH Wales MP has said that the north of the country has been ‘left behind’ when it comes to investment in rail infrastructure.

Rob Roberts, MP for Delyn, said that the Welsh Government ‘seems to forget that Wales exists north of Newport’.

The Welsh Government’s Minister for the Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates MS, said that was due to rail infrastructure being the responsibility of the UK Government.

Speaking at the Welsh Affairs Committee on Thursday, February 25, the minister added that they were calling for up to £100million to be spent on improvements to the Wrexham to Bidston line and that they were asking for new stations across the north of Wales.

Mr Skates also said in the meeting that between 2021 and 2029, there will have been an under investment of £2.4billion when compared to what was being spent in England.

He described that as ‘astonishing’ but hoped that a ‘levelling up’ agenda would address that issue.

Ken Skates said: “I’ve already outlined the figures which are pretty astonishing, I think, the under investment in Wales and this is reflected in many other parts of the United Kingdom which I hope the levelling up agenda will address.

“We estimate that between 2021 and 2029 based on the investment that’s taken place in England on rail infrastructure, under investment to the tune of £2.4billion will be experienced in Wales.

“To put that into context, we’re spending £750m on the South Wales Metro, enhancing the core valley lines so you could essentially carry out that programme of work almost four times with the under investment that we’ve seen in Wales.

Rob Roberts, MP for Delyn, said: “You mentioned the South Wales Metro, about a tenth of that seems to be being spent on the North Wales Metro and there is general feeling in our constituency of being a little bit left behind and that the Welsh Government seems to forget that Wales exists north of Newport as well as in Cardiff Bay so could you comment on the North Wales Metro as well.”

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Ken Skates said: “That is because, unfortunately, rail infrastructure is still in the hands of the UK Government and we’ve seen huge under investment in rail infrastructure in north Wales for example we have not seen the upgrade to the main north Wales line we should have seen by now. We’ve not seen electrification of the north Wales main line.

“We’re calling, along with Steve Rotherham, Mayor of Liverpool, for £100million to be spent upgrading the Wrexham-Bidston line so that we can run four trains an hour from Wrexham direct into Liverpool. That will cost £100million, it’s not a significant sum of money in my view.

“We’re calling for new stations in Greenfield and potentially in Broughton to serve Airbus, we’re calling for new stations elsewhere across north Wales, particularly in the Metro area that’s focussed largely on north east Wales and we’re also calling for upgrades to stations across north Wales as well.

“All of the responsibility, all of the decisions for investing in those areas currently reside with the UK Government and for decades we’ve seen huge under investment in that infrastructure in Wales so Welsh Government has stepped in repeatedly, in terms of providing financial support for rail infrastructure.

“To deliver the vision of the metro, we really do rely on the UK Government injecting a significant sum of money into rail infrastructure in north Wales. We are spending tens of millions of pounds upgrading bus infrastructure but essentially it comes down to the UK Government spending more money on infrastructure in north Wales.”

The session comes at a critical juncture for rail investment.

Although the UK Government is undertaking the Union Connectivity Review, led by Sir Peter Hendy, to examine how transport infrastructure can drive economic growth across the UK, uncertainties remain over the impact coronavirus will have on investment and passenger trends.

The UK Government has resumed its Railway Infrastructure in Wales inquiry which will look at where responsibility lies for the management of rail infrastructure in Wales, how funding is allocated to rail infrastructure projects across the UK and the share of investment Wales has received since 1994.