Crossing the border: road and rail links between England and Wales - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents


Conclusions and recommendations


Conclusions

1.  We welcome the Government's decision to extend the electrification of the Great Western Main Line from Cardiff to Swansea, and to electrify the Valley lines into Cardiff. These are both issues that we have pursued with vigour in recent years. These improvements will allow passengers to benefit from shorter journey times and longer and newer trains, and we believe will increase economic and employment opportunities throughout Wales. (Paragraph 15)

2.  The collaborative working between the Wales Office, Department for Transport, Welsh Government, and other key stakeholders to secure further electrification in South Wales is hugely welcome. This demonstrates what can be achieved by all parties working together. We trust that the lessons learned from this experience can be applied in the future, not only for other strategic cross-border transport decisions, but more broadly on issues where interests should be aligned, such as economic growth. (Paragraph 17)

3.  Rail connectivity between North or Mid Wales and England has been overlooked for too long. Good rail connections between North East Wales and North West England will be increasingly important in the future following the creation of the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone in the North West of England, and the Deeside and Anglesey Enterprise Zones in Wales. (Paragraph 22)

4.  Wales would clearly benefit from improved connections to those airports serving South and North Wales, including Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and particularly Heathrow. Better connections to these airports would reinforce Wales' potential to play a full part in the global economy. We welcome the announcement that a new link will be developed from the Great Western Main Line to Heathrow Airport, which will improve connections between South Wales and Heathrow. The development of faster links to other airports should be encouraged. (Paragraph 31)

5.  The overwhelming view of the evidence we took is that South Wales will lose out from its exclusion from the High Speed Two (HS2) proposals. Indeed, there is a risk that HS2 could have a serious negative impact on the South Wales economy due to its relative proximity and the potential for businesses and people to relocate eastwards across the border. We are therefore concerned that the DfT has not attempted to assess the economic impact of HS2 on Wales. (Paragraph 37)

6.  Wales would benefit from the development of a high speed rail link to England. This would be an important boost to the Welsh economy and help to achieve the aim of successive Governments of rebalancing the UK economy. It is disappointing that the UK Government and Welsh Government are not currently developing plans for such a link as part of a wider high speed rail network. (Paragraph 43)

7.  It is not clear why the Welsh Government should be entitled to a "Barnett" consequential payment in respect of the Crossrail project but not HS2. (Paragraph 46)

8.  The Wales and Borders franchise is due for renewal in 2018 and it is important that the Welsh Government can develop a suitable franchise package that provides the best type of service for Wales. (Paragraph 51)

9.  There may be scope to increase the frequency of some other cross-border rails services, such as the London Paddington to Swansea service. (Paragraph 52)

10.  We welcome the Welsh Government's consultation to explore options for improving the M4. This motorway is a key strategic road for Wales and the UK more broadly. It has suffered from under-investment and congestion for too long. (Paragraph 58)

11.  There is a clear disagreement between the UK and Welsh Governments over the ownership of the Severn Crossings when the Concession ends in 2018. It is vital that this dispute is resolved as soon as possible. (Paragraph 63)

12.  The level of the tolls on the Severn Crossings hampers the development of businesses in Wales and deters inward investment to Wales. We are disappointed that the DfT has not agreed to reduce the level of tolls at the end of the Concession. We are unconvinced by the DfT's assertion that the fact VAT will no longer be payable on toll revenue from 2018 should not necessarily translate to an immediate reduction in the level of tolls. (Paragraph 68)

13.  We were surprised that the Government has now accumulated a £112 million debt on the Crossings, which means the Government intends to retain income from the tolls for several years after the Concession ends. It is hugely disappointing that the Government did not make clear during our 2010 inquiry on the Severn Crossings Toll that the debt could increase to such a level. We are also concerned that the accumulation of this debt will delay reducing the level of the tolls after 2018. (Paragraph 73)

14.  We will continue to closely monitor developments with the Severn Crossings over the course of this Parliament. We will take evidence from the Department for Transport minister again on this matter later in 2013. (Paragraph 75)

15.  We are concerned that there does not seem to be the same level of co-ordination between the UK Government and Welsh Government on improvements to key cross-border roads in north Wales, as there has been in south Wales with the M4. We welcome the DfT's commitment to address the bottleneck at the A55 and A483 junction, which is a key cross-border route for traffic between England and Wales, but we were surprised to discover that the Welsh Government had not been informed of this prior to its announcement. (Paragraph 78)

16.  We are disappointed that the Wales Freight Group has not met for two years. This has denied the freight industry a key mechanism to interact with the Welsh Government and other key stakeholders. We welcome the Welsh Government Minister's statement to us that he intended to re-establish the group and we are pleased to note that he has now convened a meeting of the Wales Freight Group. (Paragraph 82)

17.  The European Union's proposals for a revised Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) provide an opportunity to secure funds for transport improvements in South Wales, as part of the "core network corridor" from Dublin to Paris and Brussels. (Paragraph 86)

18.  There are likely to be opportunities for increased freight traffic in the Swansea area, as a result of local steel operations and the redevelopment of Swansea University, as well as increased tourism. Combining Swansea and Neath Port Talbot as a single port will increase the chance of designation as a "core port" for future TEN-T reviews. (Paragraph 88)

Recommendations

1.  We urge the Department for Transport and Wales Office to 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. We expect the business case to meet the same high standards as that made for electrification in South Wales. (Paragraph 23)

2.  We are disappointed that the Welsh Government's commitment to establish an hourly service between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury by 2011 will now not be in place until 2015. We urge the Welsh Government to give serious consideration to how this much-needed improvement could be brought forward. (Paragraph 27)

3.  We recommend that the UK and Welsh Governments work together to assess the economic impact of HS2 on Wales as a matter of urgency. Should any adverse impacts be identified we expect the UK Government to consider possible mitigation measures. (Paragraph 38)

4.  We call upon the UK and Welsh Governments to begin developing the case for a high speed line between England and Wales. This should consider whether upgrading the Great Western Main Line to a high speed line would be the best way to establish high speed connections between England and Wales. (Paragraph 43)

5.  We recommend that the UK Government ensures that all England-only transport infrastructure projects result in the appropriate Barnett consequential. (Paragraph 46)

6.  In order for the Welsh economy not to be left behind by the construction of HS2, the Government must continue to invest in the improvement of cross-border roads and rail services between England and Wales. (Paragraph 47)

7.  Given the importance of the Wales and Borders franchise to cross-border links between England and Wales, we urge the UK and Welsh Governments to work together on developing the new franchise ahead of 2018. Key considerations should include ensuring the new franchise enables the further growth of cross-border rail travel, and also provides for adequate connections to areas served by HS2. (Paragraph 51)

8.  We recommend that the UK Government and Welsh Government work with train operators to identify cases where the frequency of cross-border rail services could be increased, without the need for additional public subsidy. (Paragraph 52)

9.  We call on the UK Government to continue working with the Welsh Government on improvements to the M4, in particular to identify attainable funding solutions for the essential improvements required for this key strategic road. (Paragraph 58)

10.  We renew our call for tolls on the Severn Crossings to be reduced when the Concession ends in 2018. The UK Government should investigate how this can best be achieved. We recommend that the UK Government bring forward proposals for the management of the Crossings and tolling after they return to public ownership. (Paragraph 69)

11.  The Chief Secretary to the Treasury should deliver his commitment to consider, as part of the UK Government's response to the Silk Commission, whether the income lost through reducing or removing the tolls could be recouped by a subsequent increase in income tax as a result of job creation in Wales. (Paragraph 70)

12.  It is imperative that the DfT publish a full breakdown of the outstanding debt which the Government holds for the Severn Crossings, detailing how and when this was incurred. We also call on the DfT to provide an explanation of why the costs resulting in this debt were not covered in the Concession Agreement, but are instead to be borne by those travelling between England and Wales via the Severn Crossings. (Paragraph 74)

13.  We expect the DfT to communicate to the Welsh Government its plans for projects with cross-border implications prior to announcing them. (Paragraph 78)

14.  We call on the UK and Welsh Governments to pursue all opportunities to secure EU funds for the improvement of transport infrastructure along the South Wales corridor to Milford Haven Port. The two governments should work closely with the Republic of Ireland, where appropriate, to secure EU funds for projects along this corridor which benefit both countries. (Paragraph 86)

15.  The DfT should investigate the practicalities of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot being designated as a single port for future TEN-T reviews, and set out its view in the response to this Report. (Paragraph 88)


 
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Prepared 6 March 2013