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Swansea rail electrification plan scrapped

The Great Western rail line is due to be electrified from London to South Wales Photo: PA, Ben Birchall

The electrification of the railway line between Cardiff and Swansea has been scrapped, the UK Government has announced.

Electrification of the stretch of line from London to Cardiff has already been delayed and ministers have been reluctant to specify a date for the scheme to reach Swansea despite earlier commitments.

Plaid Cymru has warned that if ministers renege on those commitments to electrify the line as far as Swansea there would be 'dire economic consequences' for Wales.

Meanwhile the Welsh Economy Secretary has called for the power and the funding over the scheme to be devolved to the Welsh Government.

On Monday the Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns wouldn't give me a date for electrification to Swansea despite my repeated questions.

He'd been visiting the Hitachi factory on the outskirts of Bristol where new hybrid electric/diesel trains are being made and he was keen to emphasise that the use of those new trains would mean the benefits of electrification in terms of faster journey times would be felt as soon as this year.

After delays to the project were announced in 2015, the UK Government said electrification of the line to Swansea was the 'top priority' although no completion date was confirmed. Alun Cairns, then a Wales Office minister, said this:

I'm pleased to hear the strong commitment to south Wales electrification through to Swansea from the Transport Secretary today. This project will transform the lives of people in South Wales by attracting investors, linking businesses to suppliers and connecting people to jobs.

– Alun Cairns speaking in 2015

I reported at the time that Department for Transport sources confirmed the commitment to electrifying the line all the way to Swansea but noted that the UK Government was leaving wriggle room for further delays. Those delays could now turn into cancellation.

Plaid Cymru is warning of dire economic consequences of not completing the plans and is contrasting the uncertainty with action and funding for the controversial High Speed 2 project in England.

At the same time that we're trying to fight to get meagre electrification in Wales, they're building the world's most expensive rail line to service the line between the north and south of England - HS2 - at a cost of over £100bn or £400m a mile. Now we're likely to have this announcement over the next few days that they're reneging on their promise to electrify the line to Swansea. It will leave Wales in the slow lane and there'll be dire economic consequences for this decision.

– Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru

Welsh Economy Secretary Ken Skates says if the UK Government won't do it, the Welsh Government should be given the power and the funding to finish the job.

It's also essential that if the uk government deemed electrification was not to continue through to swansea then the money would in our view still have to come to wales - it should not be spent elsewhere in wales and as i say the UK Government does not believe that it should electrify that line or modernise the entire network then give us the powers and the resource and we'll do it.

– Ken Skates AM, Economy Secretary

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