Civils contractors today welcomed the publication of a report by the House of Commons Welsh affairs committee which calls for the foundation of a new Wales Rail Board to make the case for investment by the end of this year.
The committee's report, Railway Infrastructure in Wales, calls for the UK government to establish a Wales Rail Board, consisting of itself, the Welsh government, Network Rail, the rail operators providing services in Wales and Transport for Wales. The board would be tasked with identifying and developing a prioritised set of proposals for rail infrastructure improvement and investment in Wales.
Commenting on the committee’s proposals, Ed Evans, director of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association Wales, said: “There is a clear case for increasing investment in the Welsh railways which are based on a Victorian system that is struggling to cope with 21st century requirements. The establishment of a new body would provide an impetus to identifying where investment can best be allocated to improve passenger experience and cut carbon emissions.
“We hope the UK government adopts the committee’s recommendations without delay, to ensure that infrastructure investment can level up all parts of the UK by driving growth, creating jobs, and delivering the projects that businesses and communities rely upon.”
The committee says that electrification of the railways can play a key role in the UK government’s decarbonisation agenda and has argued that the decision to cancel the electrification of the Great Western mainline from Cardiff to Swansea is short-sighted. Chair of the Welsh affairs committee, Stephen Crabb MP, commented: “There is a compelling case for greater investment in rail infrastructure in Wales to improve journey times for passengers, strengthen connectivity with the rest of the United Kingdom and reduce carbon emissions. Reaching our net zero targets will require a significant investment in rail electrification. We believe that this should result in a reconsideration of the short-sighted decision to cancel the electrification of the Great Western mainline from Cardiff to Swansea.
“While there will always be voices calling for the further devolution of rail powers, it’s clear that what passengers most need is both of their governments, as well as the rail operators, working together. Our committee has proposed a new Wales Rail Board, which would bring together the two governments, Network Rail and rail operators, which can be tasked with bringing forward a shared pipeline of Welsh rail projects and which should be in place by the autumn.”