Chris Grayling MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
Dear Secretary of State for Transport,
We are writing to express our utter dismay regarding the content of your letter dated 20th July in which you state that “the new bi-mode trains mean we no longer need to electrify the stretch of track from Cardiff to Swansea.”
This news came as a great shock to everyone in South West Wales, especially since, as recently as 13th July, you told Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi in Parliament that she could look forward to electric trains arriving in Swansea in the Autumn. This is at best disingenuous and at worst an out and out lie as you failed to point out that these trains would in fact be powered by diesel.
Perhaps it should come as less of a surprise, as Wales has consistently been denied proper investment in our railway infrastructure.
It is this investment in our infrastructure that is essential to drive and support economic growth in the area. The Prime Minister signed off on a billion and a half Swansea Bay City region deal but then the same Government decides not to electrify the railway to Swansea – this sends out completely the wrong message to new businesses and investors.
Electrification would have delivered a more reliable, more modern service for Swansea commuters, it could have done much to attract new business into the area and it could have helped to enhance the image of Swansea in the wider region.
This decision will also have long-term repercussions for the line, restricting the types of rolling stock that can be used in the future, both for inter-city services, and for the Wales and Borders franchise.
Secretary, you state in your letter that ‘passengers can receive anticipated improvements more quickly while being spared the disruption caused by electrification works...’ but you neglect to take in to account the effects of continuing diesel operated trains will have on air quality, noise, carbon emissions and not least greater long term operation and maintenance costs.
The greatest technical complexity and disruption will be the Severn tunnel. Non electrification of Cardiff to Swansea removes any pressure to upgrade the line. Also, if you were to travel by train to Swansea you would see that the infrastructure is ready, the buildings are up and the pylons are in. All that is needed is the overhead line carrying the current. The electric depot at Swansea was completed back in October 2015.
There is also the factor that the bi-mode trains in order to cross to the non-electric line to Swansea will need to lug two heavy Diesel engines and a fuel supply all the way from London to Cardiff - a dead weight affecting acceleration between stations and pointlessly consuming more energy.
The environmental cost on South Wales should also be taken into consideration with electrification a huge boost to the environment - it cuts use of petroleum, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps address respiratory diseases caused by particulates.
Consecutive Conservative Governments have promised to deliver electrification all the way to Swansea and it appears that the people of Swansea and the South West of Wales are being punished for Conservative Governments’ mismanagement of the budget. We would like to know how you have allowed the Department for Transport to, in turn, let Network Rail go over budget from £874 million to £2.8 billion, thus curtailing the electrification project to Cardiff?
Passengers and businesses of South West Wales have the right to feel betrayed - they were promised and desperately need the UK Government to deliver the commitment it first made in 2012, and help build the modern railway we need across Wales.
Potential investors considering coming west of Cardiff will assume that if the British Government is not prepared to invest, why should they?
We urge you to reconsider your decision and recommit to electrifying the main line to Swansea and deliver the investment and rail infrastructure the people of South West Wales deserve.
Rebecca Evans AM
Julie James AM
Mike Hedges AM