April 22, 2024

Timescale unclear on ‘unprecedented’ £1bn UK government rail investment in Wales

A huge £1bn plan to upgrade the North Wales main line has been hailed as ‘unprecedented’ by UK transport secretary Mark Harper but no date has been set for when the work will start.

The government is planning to use the money to make big improvements to the North Wales Main Line, which is a key part of the UK’s transport network. This will include making the line electric, something long asked for by people who want better transport in the area.

The idea is to make journeys quicker and more reliable on the 126-mile route between Crewe, Warrington, Wrexham and Holyhead. Making the line electric will also help to cut down on pollution, officials say.

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MP Dr James Davies, who has been pushing for better train services in North Wales, has said it will help get “more people off the roads and onto trains.” The money for the upgrade is coming from savings made when plans to extend HS2 north of Birmingham were cancelled over cost concerns.

Mr Harper met with local MPs, councillors and business leaders at the Welsh Conservative conference in Llandudno, Conwy, on Friday to talk about how the project will help the area. Lots of tractors were parked outside the Venue Cymru conference centre as part of ongoing protests by farmers about Welsh Government policy plans.

The cabinet minister shared that there is support from all parties for the North Wales rail project, calling it a “big investment” for the area. He said: “It’s an unprecedented investment in this part of the world. People very much welcome it.”

However, when questioned about the timeline for the North Wales Main Line project, Mr Harper stated it was “too early” to set dates. He mentioned: “I’m not going to pluck a figure out of the air.”

Previously there were issues with the Great Western railway line’s electrification between London and south Wales, which went far above its roughly £900 million budget and the part between Cardiff and Swansea was never completed.

But Mr Harper said he was confident that those problems won’t happen again. He explained: “We talked this morning about the lessons learned from electrification elsewhere. We’ve learned a lot from the electrification of the Great Western line.”

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