Cross-border Transport

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 29th November 2006.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Labour, Wrexham 11:30 am, 29th November 2006

What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on cross-border transport links in north-east Wales.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

I regularly meet Cabinet colleagues to discuss issues affecting Wales, including transport links.

Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Labour, Wrexham

Strong economic growth in north-east Wales is leading increasingly to congestion problems. Rail improvements, such as the Wrexham-London line, the Wrexham-Liverpool electrification project and improvements to the Chester-Wrexham line provide a sustainable alternative to road traffic in north-east Wales. Will my right hon. Friend have discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport to explore the availability of funding from the transport innovation fund to ensure a dynamic, non-congested local economy in north-east Wales?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

I will be happy to make representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport as my hon. Friend suggests, and I will keep him in touch on that. I pay tribute to him for his tireless work in lobbying for improved rail services in Wrexham, and particularly for the way in which he has been able to secure, with the Welsh Assembly Government, funding for a new depot at Wrexham, which will create more than 55 new permanent jobs and pave the way for a regular service between Wrexham and London Marylebone. His point about shifting traffic off the roads and on to rail in that fashion is absolutely right.


This is untrue. When the initial Wxm-London rail link was first raised by a local councillor and RMT branch secretary, Lucas was not supportive. Furthermore, Labour in the Assembly voted down a proposal to provide funding for the service, putting the entire scheme in jeopardy. It was only after the opposition parties in the Assembly voted down the Labour budget that Labour...

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Transport)

Two days ago, I took Ian Lucas—and I echo the Secretary of State's congratulations on landing the money—to see the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mr. Harris, to discuss the Wrexham-Shropshire-Marylebone railway project, which is an open access agreement. That project was planned to start next June and is now drifting because of bureaucratic delays. Will the Secretary of State undertake to work closely with the Department for Transport in Marsham street to ensure that the project stays on track, as it will be of huge benefit to those on both sides of the border?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

We have already had meetings on that point, and we will pursue it. I remind the hon. Gentleman that I do not think that anyone ever took my hon. Friend Ian Lucas anywhere, certainly not him. I also remind him that the Government are spending £110 million every week in the United Kingdom to improve our railways, which is a massive advance on the terrible record of the Tory Government he supported.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

My right hon. Friend is right that rail depots are important for the maintenance of cross-border trains between England and Wales. He will be aware of the Virgin Trains proposal for a rail maintenance depot in my constituency to meet the 2008 timetable, although there is a bit of slippage on that. Will he use his good offices to bring together the Welsh Assembly Government, the Department for Transport and Virgin Trains to ensure that that happens on time, providing proper maintenance and increased jobs in north-west Wales?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

Yes, indeed. I shall be happy to do that. My hon. Friend has worked hard to ensure that these matters are addressed, and Holyhead's ferry port is booming and prosperity and job opportunities are improving as a result. Nevertheless, there is a great deal more to be done, and my hon. Friend is right to press me on that.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Affairs, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Welsh Affairs

I welcome Mrs. Gillan back to the Chamber following her recent illness. It is good to see her again. We also send our best wishes to the Secretary of State's wife following her recent unfortunate car accident.

The Minister will know of the appalling delays and cancellations on the Arriva Trains service on the Mid Wales line. My constituent Eleanor Cruz is consistently late for work in Shrewsbury as a direct result of them, and her problems typify those of many users. Given that not everyone can fly with my air service, will the Secretary of State support the re-establishment of a dual rail track from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth to improve the frequency and reliability of the service, and ensure that these horrendous delays become a thing of the past?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Gentleman's air service is mentioned in the House so often that the issue of "Flights for Questions" may arise. I understand that the Assembly Government, Network Rail and Arriva Trains Wales are undertaking a feasibility study to consider setting up an hourly train service between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury.

I join the hon. Gentleman in welcoming Mrs. Gillan back to her seat—to have a go at me later, I hope. The hon. Lady is an extremely dutiful Member: she even went through the Lobby in her wheelchair to vote for a Plaid Cymru motion on Iraq, while Mr. Llwyd was enjoying tapas and vino tinto in Madrid.