GWR and Network Performance — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:24 am on 5th February 2019.

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Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West 10:24 am, 5th February 2019

Briefly, we are, in the first instance, talking about problems with the trains. On the new trains there are problems with the toilets. When someone washes their hands in the sink, water goes all over the floor, and in fact water starts to seep out of the back of the toilet; that is to do with the way they are manufactured. There are fewer toilets and some carriages do not have them. I do not mean to be preoccupied with toilets, but some trains have arrived at Bristol without any carriage with a toilet.

There are issues with wi-fi not working, and with plug sockets between the seats. I found myself in a situation where there was a sleeping woman in the neighbouring seat, and fiddling around to plug a device in can be slightly embarrassing. There is no buffet car and the buffet trolley cannot get down. There are problems of cost, punctuality and cancelled trains. There were eight carriages in the old trains, and now there are two lots of five. Sometimes one of the fives is cancelled at short notice, so that people who have booked particular seats are affected. Families cannot sit together and people with disabilities have to stand up. Those are appalling standards for customers.

As to more strategic issues, as I mentioned earlier, Wales has 5% of the population, about 1.5% of the investment and 11% of the track, so we have been grotesquely underfunded. Since 2011 we have had about £198 million and we should have had £600 million. Electrification to Swansea was cancelled—that was another £700 million; and Network Rail cancelled a further £1 billion. The chronic under-investment has meant that standards simply are not up to scratch. The service to Swansea from Paddington is often only hourly, and it takes three hours. On High Speed 2, people will be able to get to Manchester within an hour. I could compare the Leeds and Manchester area with the Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea area—which is 3 million people. We get two trains per hour on the Bristol to Cardiff bit, and fewer to Swansea, as I have said. In the Leeds and Manchester area there are six trains per hour, and of course an investment of £3 billion is being made in the trans-Pennine upgrade—on top of the £52 billion for HS2. We are grotesquely underfunded, and our economy suffers massively.

Trains run at 125 mph in England, but when they get to Wales their speed goes down to 60, 70 or 80 mph, because we have not had the investment in the track. That is not a western powerhouse, but more of a 19th century infrastructure. After years of under-investment it is time for change and investment. What we do not need is the Secretary of State for Wales coming along with his penny-farthing idea of an extra little Swansea parkway station, hoping that he can pat us on the head and give us a Brexit bung so that we will vote the right way.

We need investment in a Swansea metro, strategic infrastructure and connectivity between the Bristol conurbation, Cardiff and Swansea, so that we can grow a regional hub for the future. I hope that some of the leadership for that can be taken by Transport for Wales—the UK Government obviously have other things to think about—and that with the right money and the right governance we will get the right result. As we approach the appalling disaster of Brexit, we need investment in our infrastructure now, to give us a fighting chance of building prosperity in south Wales. That requires investment, planning and UK money, and it requires the Welsh Government to be given the steering wheel.