Transport Infrastructure

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th September 2017.

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Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central 12:00 am, 6th September 2017

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on transport infrastructure in Wales in the last 12 months.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I hold regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues and the Welsh Government on improving transport infrastructure in Wales. The UK Government are investing significant sums in infrastructure, delivering improved journey times for passengers on the latest trains. This will provide tangible benefits to people and businesses in south Wales and boost access to jobs and new opportunities.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

Has the Secretary of State specifically discussed with his Cabinet colleagues funding for the redevelopment of Cardiff Central station in my constituency? Will there be redevelopment funding—yes or no?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the question. Yes, I have discussed with Cabinet colleagues the need for investment in new stations in Wales. There is the prospect for new stations, and there is the prospect for further investment. I have met Cardiff Council to talk about that. I have spoken about it to the Welsh Government. I am keen to explore the opportunities that exist there, and also the opportunity to attract private investment, so I have also spoken to the private developer around that site.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire

Returning to the subject of electrification, it is true that the bi-mode trains are good, but they are a second-best solution. However, looking to the future and further rail infrastructure investment in Wales, does my right hon. Friend agree that there are major questions to be asked about Network Rail’s ability to deliver projects on time and control its costs? What more can be done to create a more competitive and cost-effective environment for rail infrastructure investment in Wales?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

My right hon. Friend makes an important point about the efficiency of Network Rail. Earlier this year, the Public Accounts Committee called on the Government to reassess the case for electrification on a section-by-section basis, partly as a result of the increased costs that have been delivered by Network Rail. However, to improve rail access to west Wales—to Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and other places—we have the opportunity to explore opportunities for new stations, which could well deliver bimodal trains on a regular basis to parts of Wales that do not access fast trains at the moment.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West

Following a delegation I led in 2014 of four councils, two universities, many AMs and MPs, industry and Admiral, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, pledged to extend electrification to Swansea, saying it would have a huge economic impact on developing employment in an area of neglected infrastructure, so will the Secretary of State stand up to the Prime Minister, as the previous Secretary of State did, and deliver the promises of the previous Prime Minister on electrification, which we so urgently need?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I hope the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the new, most modern trains will be available and in service in Swansea within a few weeks’ time. Swansea will benefit from the latest, most modern trains and from 15 minutes of saved journey time when the project is complete. There would be no time saving—in fact, there would be significant disruption to Swansea—if we continued with the electric-only model he seems to be advocating.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Is it not the case that Swansea’s connectivity will be improved by the new Kingsway project, which is creating a digital district? Is it not a shame that Opposition Members do not recognise this important move? Perhaps they do not know what a digital district is.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend has great expertise in all things Welsh, but particularly in relation to digital projects and the Kingsway project he talked about. The Swansea Bay city deal is an exciting project that will complement the private activity that is taking place, and that will improve connectivity by digital means, as well as rail connectivity, with new trains in operation very soon.

Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I love the new haircut and the tie. You look great.

Before the summer recess, the Transport Secretary—the Secretary of State’s Cabinet colleague—sneaked out news that the UK Government would break their promise to electrify the main line from Cardiff to Swansea. People in Wales are now rightly asking whether the Government can even be trusted to deliver electrification as far as Cardiff. Will the Secretary of State promise that that electrification will go ahead and not join the ever-growing list of broken promises the Government have made to the people of Wales?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Lady will be well aware that work is under way on electrifying to Cardiff. The bimodal trains will affect service times and when the project is completed it will be of major benefit not only to Cardiff, but to Swansea. The major advantage of the bimodal trains means that we can take the latest rolling stock further in west Wales, whereas the electric-only project would have meant that any benefits stopped in Swansea.