The Welsh Labour Government has still not instructed Network Rail to start work on the Valleys Line Electrification project, despite an agreement over funding being reached in November.
In a meeting with Welsh Lib Dem AM Eluned Parrott, Network Rail confirmed that they have not been given the go-ahead to start work on Valleys Lines Electrification. This is despite the funding disagreement between the Welsh Government and UK Government being resolved in November.
The project has reportedly been frozen on the second stage of Network Rail’s 8-stage “GRIP” planning process now for two years. This is causing concern within the rail industry, because the Valleys Lines Electrification project is expected to be a complicated engineering job.
The Welsh Government’s Outline Business Case for the project made it clear that, to ensure savings are made, work on the Valleys Line Electrification programme must happen at the same time as work on the Great Western Main Line. Work on Main Line bridges has now reached Wales, but Valleys Lines Electrification .
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Transport said:
“As always: it is dither and delay from this languid Welsh Labour Government. Given the fanfare that greeted the announcement that funding issues had been resolved, it is astonishing that Network Rail officials are still waiting on the go-ahead from the Welsh Government five months later.
“While there has been much aspirational talk in recent months about the South Wales Metro and the potential for new electric trains, these things simply aren’t possible unless the infrastructure work gets moving. After all, you can’t run an electric train if you haven’t electrified the track.
“Commuters in South-East Wales want to know when they are going to see improvements to the overcrowding issues that blight their journeys every day.
“The unseemly wrangling between the Welsh Government and the UK Government over who should fund the project led to the whole project being put on hold a year ago – but despite those issues being resolved back in November, on hold it stays to this day.
“The Welsh Government has the money and the power to get on with the job, so when will the go-ahead for detailed planning work be given?
“Years of underinvestment from both Labour and Conservative governments over the last fifty years have led to Wales being one of the only countries in Europe without a single mile of electrified track. The Coalition Government has put that right with the electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Swansea and the funding to electrify the Valleys Lines too.
“Work on that main line electrification project is already progressing, as people living along the route will have seen. To deliver the Valleys Lines electrification at the cost set out in the Welsh Government’s Business Case it must happen at the same time. If the Welsh Government doesn’t give the order to go ahead soon, I’m worried that the whole project could be put at risk.”