Rail Electrification

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th November 1989.

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Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham 12:00 am, 6th November 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he has had any discussions with British Rail regarding electrification of the Crewe to Holyhead line or the Western main line from Paddington to Swansea.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

My right hon. Friend discussed electrification when he met the chairman of British Rail on 12 December 1988.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham

I have been told that the Welsh Office favours electrification of the line from Paddington to south Wales, as opposed to electrification of the line from Crewe to Holyhead. If that is not the case, I should welcome the Minister's assurance to that effect and I should like him to say unequivocally that he will press British Rail—if in its wisdom it wishes to do it—for electrification of either line. One should not precede the other, for both are important to the industrial development of the Principality.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. There is no justification for saying that the Welsh Office has pressed the case for one line as opposed to the other. I must warn the hon. Gentleman that the case for electrification is weak on both economic and financial grounds for both lines. There is a tendency to regard electrification as magical. We are really interested in improved journey times and I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that British Rail is considering improving the north Wales line so that the maximum speed could be 90 mph rather than 70 mph, as at present.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Sayeed Mr Jonathan Sayeed , Bristol East

On the journey between Paddington and Swansea, the train passes through a number of English and Welsh constituencies. As my hon. Friend will know, the average size of an English constituency is 69,533 electors, whereas a Welsh constituency has an average of 57,753 electors. Will my hon. Friend tell us why a Welsh vote is worth 20 per cent. more than an English vote?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

I suppose that the simple answer is that we are. My hon. Friend will be aware of the different sizes of constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales, and of the three, Scotland is the most favoured.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Ceredigion and Pembroke North

Is the Minister aware that there are two important lines going through mid-Wales, one from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and one from Shrewsbury through Llandrindod Wells to Swansea. Will the Minister have a word with the chairman of British Rail and try to persuade him to spend more money on those important routes?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

The hon. Gentleman will concede that there have been considerable improvements to rail services in different parts of Wales, including mid-Wales. There is an improved frequency of services in north Wales, as a result of the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. There are extra trains and coaches on the south Wales line and improvements in mid-Wales as well.