Some 138 million journeys take place each year across the long and highly porous border between England and Wales, be it commuters, business people, freight or leisure seekers. The Welsh and English economies and geographies are highly integrated and good transport connections to Englandparticularly to London, Birmingham and the cities in the North Westare extremely important for the Welsh economy. Passenger numbers on some cross-border routes have increased in recent years, and further growth is forecast.
Responsibility for transport is shared between the UK Government and Welsh Government. There have been some encouraging recent examples of joint working between the two governments to secure improvements to strategic cross-border routes. Wales will benefit, directly or indirectly, from almost £2 billion of rail investment and much of this will be spent on improving cross-border services. We welcome the extension of the electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) from Cardiff to Swansea, and the plan to electrify the Valley lines into Cardiff. The announcement of a new rail link from the GWML to Heathrow Airport, improving connections between South Wales and Heathrow, is very welcome. We are also pleased to note that early progress has been made on developing a business case for electrification of cross-border lines in North Wales.
But, in other areas, more needs to be done to ensure the Welsh economy does not suffer due to inadequate transport links across the border. The UK Government and Welsh Government must work together to ensure that essential improvements to the M4 are funded. We reiterate our concerns that the high level of the tolls on the Severn Crossings hampers the development of businesses in Wales and deters inward investment to Wales. It is disappointing that the Department for Transport (DfT) has not agreed to reduce the level of tolls at the end of the Concession.
The UK Government's current proposals for High Speed Two (HS2) could have a serious adverse effect on the economy of South Wales. The construction of HS2 will be one of the most significant additions to the UK's transport infrastructure in many years. If Wales is not part of the UK's high speed rail network, the Welsh economy will suffer.
Our key recommendations are as follows:
- the Department for Transport and Wales Office should support the Welsh Government in developing the business case for electrification of the North Wales Main Line so that it can considered as part of the next round of rail investment;
- the UK Government should work with the Welsh Government to identify attainable funding solutions for essential improvements to the M4;
- the UK Government should bring forward proposals for the future of the Severn Crossings and tolling regime after they revert to public ownership, and
- the UK and Welsh Governments should work together to assess the economic impact of HS2 on Wales, and identify how any adverse effects can be mitigated.
In this report, conclusions are printed in bold and recommendations are printed in bold italics.