Welsh minister for economy, transport and North Wales, Mr Ken Skates, says the Union Connectivity Review announced by British prime minister, Mr Boris Johnson, in June should be used as an opportunity to “put right” the neglect of Welsh railways.
The review will consider how the quality and availability of transport infrastructure between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can support quality of life in communities across Britain while also aiding economic recovery. This will in turn lead to recommendations on whether and how best to improve connections, and whether the British government needs to invest in additional infrastructure.
The Welsh government has previously called for the full devolution of rail and a fair funding settlement for the network.
Using figures released on November 23, the Welsh government calculates that under current spending plans, the Welsh network has been underfunded by £2.4-5.1bn between 2001 and 2029.
A document setting out the calculations has been published by the Welsh government, alongside a strategic case outlining how investment would benefit main lines in North and South Wales.
The report follows the release of Wales’ draft 20-year transport strategy last week, which aims to reduce transport emissions by 2040 and reshape travel options by embracing a new sustainable transport hierarchy that prioritises public transport over roads and favours investment in greener transport options.
Rail’s share of commuter traffic rose by 212% between 2003 and 2017, but still only accounts for 4% of traffic. The average travel time for commuters also increased by 7 minutes over the period.
“The UK Government has to demonstrate its sincerity to level up our country by addressing their failure to invest fairly in Wales’ rail, broadband and aviation connectivity,” Skates says. “It has refused to devolve these powers and funding, whilst also failing to take our connectivity seriously. The Union Connectivity Review is an opportunity for the UK government to reflect on historic underinvestment and to focus on putting things right.”