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BLOG: Lawrence Bailey says electrification is the connection we need

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: June 03, 2014

The design for First Great Western's new trains

Comments (4)

EVERY so often a no-brainer of a proposition comes along where the only criticism to be heard is why someone didn't come up with it sooner.

In fairness, calls to electrify the rail line between Swansea and Paddington go back decades. The campaign only gained real momentum in the last year or so however, thanks to considerable local pressure from public and private sector interest groups.

Those involved in that campaign were clear that the arguments in favour of an upgrade had been accepted by civil servants. OK, there remains a bit of official ''confusion'' between UK and Welsh governments over who pays for what, but that was always to be expected.

The West Wales Regional Business Forum has been urging the respective governments to get a move on. I'm sure that First Great Western, who were recently showcasing their new trains, have been making very similar noises.

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What will now add new impetus to these calls is the worrying statement by UK rail minister Stephen Hammond who has been asking the rail-travelling public about their priorities.

While his consultation paper talks about a "complete upgrade" for the London-Cardiff line by 2025 as part of the £7.5bn project, the minister slipped in that it is only 'anticipated' that the service will extend to Swansea and that this could happen around the same time as the Cardiff Metro scheme.

Pardon me but that situation is just plain unacceptable.

As I said, the business case for electrification has already been made and won. As far as anyone in the Swansea Bay area is concerned, the "on-going discussions" between governments on financial responsibilities means just that — not some vague phasing arrangement.

A key point was clearly put during the campaign but I will make it here again. Electrification is not just an aspiration on our part to keep up with the neighbours. Connecting Swansea to London is practical statement to all comers that investment in Wales reaches way beyond Cardiff.

Many people who represent communities and businesses stretching from Pembrokeshire to Port Talbot share that same perspective. That is why the Swansea Bay City Region has come together as a collaboration designed to fight our economic corner.

I know that senior politicians are already beating a path to the minister's door but they should not be left to make representations on their own. My view is that the cross-sector campaign group who successfully brought us this far should reconvene as soon as possible. We need to make ourselves heard again.

Read more from Lawrence Bailey in tonight's South Wales Evening Post.Lawrence Bailey

Read more from South Wales Evening Post

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  • Garrich  |  June 06 2014, 4:23PM

    Point 9. Somehow the Swansea to Paddington line is going to get re-directed with a new bridge spanning the River Nedd to Llandarcy and then back again? I don't think so. I do wish people with clever ideas would check their maps.

  • Gowercitizen  |  June 05 2014, 8:59AM

    (1) I understand that Neath Port Talbot Council was in favour. (2) The stretch from Swansea to Port Talbot takes up a whole third of the hour's journey to Cardiff (3) Businessmen drive to Port Talbot, Cardiff or even Newport to catch London trains because it is so much quicker. (4) A Llandarcy Parkway would have obviated stops at Neath and Port Talbot, making the journey quicker. (5) It would have captured more traffic from Llanelli and West, giving support from the start for electrification as far as Swansea (6) Swansea City Centre is increasingly a no-enter area for private cars (7) In many cases returning home by car (especially in the evening) from Llandarcy would be far quicker than staying in the train and stopping at Port Talbot, Neath and then getting off in High Street. (7) It has taken a great campaign (congratulations due to all those who supported it) to ensure electrification will now extend to Swansea but it was a close run thing. (8) High Street remains an awful start to Swansea for new arrivals at the station.

  • Lawrence_B  |  June 04 2014, 10:43AM

    Maybe our recollections are different but the suggestion of a Llandarcy Parkway came from a firm of developers seeking to regenerate the former oil refinery site. The proposal never had government or Network Rail backing. So I'm not sure how a rejection "nearly destroyed" the case for electrification. Just to add that the plan also entailed closing the Neath and Swansea stations to inter-city trains. This would have created even greater congestion problems at M4 J43 than we see today. If either station had remained open then the proposal would have actually added to overall train journey times. Either way I don't believe that it was ever a practical proposition or a desirable one.

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  • Gowercitizen  |  June 04 2014, 8:38AM

    The case for electrification was nearly destroyed by Swansea's then Labour Council which objected to a scheme to put a Swansea Bay Parkway station at Llandarcy. It would have boosted the rail network immeasurably and allowed faster journey times to Cardiff. Neath/Port Talbot were in favour but Swansea not.

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