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John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) (Lab): I rise to speak briefly in support of the Third Reading of the Bill, which I warmly welcome. I congratulate all those involved in guiding it through the House.

Unlike the hon. Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin), I am a big supporter of Cardiff international airport. I should like to place it on record that despite the reduction in services experienced earlier this year, Cardiff
 
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remains the fastest growing regional airport in the UK and is on target to reach the aviation White Paper's target of a quadrupling of throughput of passengers by 2020.

Bill Wiggin: What led the hon. Gentleman to come up with the extraordinary accusation that I am not a supporter of Cardiff airport?

John Smith: I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, but I thought that in placing on the record the decline in passenger services this year, he was attacking the growth in short-haul flights and the increase in air travel.

David T.C. Davies: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Welsh Assembly Member for South Wales West, Alun Cairns, has done a huge amount in the fight to get a bypass to Cardiff airport from the M4?

John Smith: I have campaigned on the issue of surface access to Cardiff international airport for the past 20 years, and I am completely unaware of any proposal for a bypass.

Importantly, the Bill will enable joined-up thinking on how we can tackle what is probably one of the most important transport issues affecting Wales. Its powers and provisions—the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) will support me on this issue, given his long background in campaigning for the Welsh aviation industry—will enable suitable surface access to Cardiff airport. However, the numbers will not grow in the way that I mentioned earlier if this issue is not addressed seriously and quickly. I hope that the Bill will help in that regard by bringing together all the players involved in the provision of vital access to the airport, in order to help find the quickest possible solution to this problem.

I welcome the opening earlier this year of the Vale of Glamorgan railway line, which was a huge step forward not just for my constituency but for transport policy in Wales as a whole. It provides an excellent commuter run all the way from Bridgend—my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon) is not present—to Cardiff via Barry; and, vitally, it provides a direct link to Cardiff international airport via Rhoose Point. So people will be able to travel by train nearly all the way to what is the fastest growing regional airport in the UK, and will need to take only a short bus journey from Rhoose Point station. But with the best will and according even to the most positive predictions, that line is unlikely to carry more than 10 per cent. of all the passengers using the airport. That presents a huge problem in terms of congestion on the roads surrounding the airport and people's ability to get to it. If that problem is not solved first, we will not be able to achieve the tasks set out in the White Paper.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need all possible links to Cardiff Wales airport to ensure that the numbers using it are boosted. But does he not agree that the Welsh Assembly Government should have pulled their finger out a long time ago by working with everybody to ensure the creation of that link road? Will he also carry
 
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on campaigning with Conservative Members to ensure that British Airways comes back to Cardiff Wales airport?

John Smith: It certainly is absolutely outrageous that British Airways took its regional services away from the airport. That said, I am absolutely delighted that bmibaby not only replaced those services but added to them substantially. It is British Airways that lost out by pulling out of the airport. This is a vital matter, and I agree that we must develop and enhance all routes to the airport in the interests not just of my constituency and the south Wales economy, but of all Wales.

Lembit Öpik: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is no long-term alternative to having a public transport link from the centre of Cardiff to the centre of the airport without the bus connection? Does he further agree that, although there are significant associated logistical and investment problems, in the long term the provision of such a link is the single most important thing that we can do to ensure sustainable connections to the airport?

John Smith: I want to think carefully before I answer that question. I believe that a direct link into the airport—a spur off the Porthkerry viaduct—that is integrated into the UK inter-city network would provide a huge advantage. In the longer term, that is clearly something that we should press for. Similarly, we should press for a direct link—not a bypass—from the airport through the A4232 at Five Mile lane and right through to the M4 at the Llantrisant junction. However, that is a long way off.

David T.C. Davies: Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the only thing preventing that from happening at the moment is the Welsh Assembly Administration, which is run by his colleagues in the Labour party?

John Smith: I do not want to get involved in a childish tit-for-tat on Third Reading, Madam Deputy Speaker, when we have an important Bill before us. I am not getting into the business of knocking anyone; rather, I am in the business of providing Wales with a transport network that is the envy of the world. A network that integrates our air services would provide exactly that, because there is no example in the world of a successful economy generating and regenerating itself without a first-class international airport providing scheduled business flights throughout the world. That is exactly what we all should be striving for in respect of Cardiff international airport.

On both sides of the House, we should be campaigning for a direct rail link, just as we should be striving for a direct dual carriageway link to the M4 corridor, which would get us into the UK road networks. However, that is going to take years, if not decades, and the problem is that we cannot stand still on the issue.

I hate to use the example again—there is always a danger of highlighting the problems at Cardiff international airport, when it is the fastest-growing
 
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regional airport in the UK—but it was Digby Jones as director-general of the CBI who described the existing road from the M4 corridor to the Cardiff international airport as the only such airport road in the world on which one could get stuck behind a milk float for nine miles.

Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): How can Cardiff airport be the fastest growing in Europe if passenger numbers are falling?

John Smith: I did not say in Europe, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is obviously not listening and not interested in the debate. I said that it was the fastest growing airport in the UK, as defined by growth over the last five years—not on the basis of one quartile assessment, the findings of which have been abused to bash the airport this afternoon. We must act immediately and I believe that the Bill may well help us to do so. That is why I am speaking in favour of it this evening.

Proposals have been put forward by the Welsh Assembly Government and are under consideration right now. However, it must be stressed that this is a short-term measure to try to tackle the problem that Digby Jones referred to. We are talking about a tiny road, one of the most congested junctions in the whole of south Wales, at Culverhouse Cross, and then mini-roundabouts that currently have to be negotiated all the way to the airport. We will not be able to develop our airport as long as that type of access continues.

You will be delighted to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I have it on good authority that Catherine Zeta Jones is going to be delighted. When flying into Cardiff to visit her home in Swansea, she has often complained that she cannot easily get from the airport on to the motorway. She has, in fact, been using the "Zeta Jones shortcuts"—down the Five Mile lane, cutting across through the country lanes to Pendoylan. The Welsh Assembly Government have proposed trunking the A4232, Five Mile lane, and the trunking of a short section of the A48 as an interim measure to try to tackle the problem of the congested existing road that feeds the airport.

Mr. Evans : I am devastated by the news that the hon. Gentleman has brought us about Catherine Zeta Jones. Perhaps she could ask her husband to fund the project.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Once again I remind hon. Members that we are discussing Third Reading of the Transport (Wales) Bill.


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