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Scrapped electrification cash 'should go on new Welsh schemes'

MPs have called for money saved from scrapping electrification schemes in Wales to be put towards new rail projects in the country.

A Welsh affairs committee report into the cancellation of the Cardiff-to-Swansea electrification demanded the government spend the £433m saved on new Welsh rail schemes, including the proposed Swansea Bay metro line.

Last year transport secretary Chris Grayling revealed he would be scrapping plans to electrify the Great Western Main Line between Cardiff and Swansea due to budget concerns.

The committee report called on the government and Network Rail to work with the Welsh Government to identify and scope out cost-effective transport projects on which the money saved could be spent.

These include the £1bn Swansea Bay Metro proposal drawn up last year, which would see the reopening of a number of old lines through the Neath Valley to improve connections in south Wales.

Welsh affairs committee chair David Davies said: “It is calculated that the cancellation of the rail electrification between Cardiff and Swansea has saved the government hundreds of millions of pounds, and this money can’t simply go back in the pot.”

“The money saved must be spent here in Wales.”

The electrification of the line from Cardiff to Swansea was initially expected to cost £156m in 2012, but by 2016 those expected costs had risen to £433m.

The report was highly critical of the government and Network Rail’s management of the Great Western electrification.

It said Network Rail’s poor planning had failed to anticipate which bridges along the route would need to be raised for the electrical infrastructure.

The committee was also critical of the Department for Transport’s failure to develop a business case until a year after Great Western work had begun.

Mr Davies said: “Projected costs and benefits were completely out of sync with reality. Delays and watered-down proposals mean that even the introduction of much-needed new rolling stock has left a sour taste.”

The scrapping of electrification from Cardiff to Swansea was one of three such schemes to be cancelled last July.

London-Sheffield’s Midland Main Line north of Kettering and the Oxenholme to Windermere line in the Lake District were also axed.

The report slammed “the stark gap in funding” in Welsh rail when compared with other parts of the country.

It found that, while Wales made up 11 per cent of the network, it received 1.5 per cent of funding spent on rail enhancements.

The report said that failure to invest in transport schemes was already having an impact on investment in south Wales, citing Virgin Media’s decision to move a number of jobs from Swansea to Manchester.

Mr Davies said: “These decisions have a demonstrable economic cost to the areas affected. 

“When HS2 will see the journey time from Manchester to London slashed to only one hour eight minutes, while Swansea to London will be 2 hours 45 minutes, it comes as no surprise.”

A DfT spokesman said: ”We are investing in the most significant upgrade of our rail network since Victorian times to improve journeys for passengers across the country, including in South Wales.

“Thanks to this investment passengers travelling to South Wales on the Great Western Mainline are already benefitting from modern faster trains with more space and better facilities like Wi Fi.

“We will respond to the report in due course.”

Network Rail has been contacted for comment.

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