Electrification opportunity ‘goes west’

02 March 2011

ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman said today that the government’s electrification plans had ‘gone west’ – by failing to go far enough in that direction. ‘By stopping electrification at Cardiff they have spurned a golden opportunity for the railways and for Wales,’ Keith said. ‘It is a severe setback to the development of Welsh commerce and industry.’

Keith said the opportunity to take electrification of rail further into Wales ‘will not present itself again for a generation’.

ASLEF joined the Welsh Assembly in urging the Department for Transport to reconsider its decision not to electrify the rail line as far as Swansea at least.

The coalition government announced yesterday that the £1bn electrification of the Great Western line from London would halt at Cardiff. ‘They gave west Wales a poke in the eye to mark St David’s Day 2011,’ Keith declared.

The union says the move will benefit south east Wales at the expense of developing the south west. The government, however, says there is ‘no demand’, and intends to leave trains to switch to diesel power to the west of Cardiff from 2017.

Philip Hammond Transport Secretary said, ‘I regret to say that there is not, at present, a viable business case for electrification of the main line between Cardiff and Swansea’ – but Keith Norman says this is irrelevant. ‘The point is to encourage and build up business in the west. Instead, it has been abandoned.

‘If it’s good for Cardiff, then it’s good for Swansea. I don’t understand their logic – probably because there is none. There is just a balance sheet.’

The union also stressed the environmental advantages that have been lost by the decision. ‘It is desperately disappointing to see how far down the government’s priority list climate change comes,’ Keith said.

Andrew Davies, Labour Assembly Member for Swansea West, said that Swansea will start to be perceived as ‘somewhere beyond the end of the line’. He said the decision was ‘a kick in the teeth’ and ‘another broken promise’ by the government.

Keith pledged that ASLEF will campaign with transport groups and the Welsh Assembly to urge the government to extend electrification of the network to the west.

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