The cancellation of rail electrification in South Wales Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The decision to cancel electrification

1.The failings and mismanagement on the Great Western programme have been well documented. We fully endorse the criticisms, made by our witnesses, the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee, of the Department for Transport and Network Rail, and put on record our serious concerns about the basic failures in planning and project management. These failures have led to dashed hopes for those who had been promised improvements to the railway network between Cardiff and Swansea. (Paragraph 18)

2.It is encouraging that Network Rail and the Department for Transport have introduced a new approach to address some of the most serious lessons learned from the Great Western Programme failures. We want assurances that their new processes are robust and would prevent similar problems arising in the future. We recommend that the Government commit to reviewing the effectiveness of the enhancements pipeline approach within 12 months. We also encourage the National Audit Office to examine how the new process is operating. (Paragraph 19)

3.We are concerned that the Government’s position on electrification has changed. The people using the line and local businesses feel aggrieved that they are not getting the electrified railway they were promised. (Paragraph 27)

Bi-mode trains

4.We accept that, because of the layout of the Cardiff to Swansea line, electric trains would not have offered a significant saving in journey times over bi-modes. There are, however, a number of other advantages to electrification besides journey times, including environmental benefits. (Paragraph 37)

5.The new Intercity Express bi-mode trains, even when running in diesel mode, will undoubtedly produce fewer emissions than the purely diesel trains they are replacing. It is, nevertheless, inevitable that there still will be some pollution when they run their diesel engines on the Cardiff to Swansea stretch of the line. Given serious concerns raised about air pollution, it is important that the Government does everything it can to reduce emissions. We recommend that the UK Government and the rail industry carefully monitor the emissions from the Intercity Express trains on the route between Cardiff and Swansea, and publish the results on a six-monthly basis. (Paragraph 38)

6.Using the results of this monitoring, the UK Government and the industry should identify ways in which the emissions from the Intercity Express trains can be reduced further. We would expect to see clear evidence of emissions being reduced. The UK Government should also use the results of its monitoring to inform its future strategy on the use of diesel. It should explore whether, if diesel cars and vans and diesel-only trains are to be phased out by 2040, there is also a case for ending the use of diesel engines on bi-mode trains. (Paragraph 39)

Investment in Welsh rail and other options for the Cardiff to Swansea route

7.We have heard concerns about underinvestment in the Welsh railways. The Welsh Government told us that the Wales route area had around 11% of the railway track but in recent years had received only 1.5% of the money the UK Government has spent on rail improvement. There is clearly a case for Wales, with approximately 5% of the UK population, to receive a greater share of spending on rail. While figures vary, it is undeniable that the Government has saved at least £430 million by not electrifying the line between Cardiff and Swansea. In our view, there is a strong case for using this money for cost-effective transport projects in Wales. We encourage the UK Government to engage closely with the Welsh Government to identify and scope out cost-effective transport projects on which the money saved from the cancellation of electrification could be spent. It should set out a plan for this engagement in its response to our Report. (Paragraph 44)

8.In light of recent developments, including the cancellation of electrification and the devolution of some responsibilities to the Welsh Government, we recommend that the UK Government, Network Rail and the Welsh Government commit to developing a revised route study for Wales over the next 12 months. This revised study should examine all options for improving the South Wales railway. Before committing to any proposals, it will be important to ensure that they are cost effective, offer good value for the public purse and draw on lessons learned from the Great Western Programme. (Paragraph 54)

9.If the track between Cardiff and Swansea were to be straightened to enable trains to run at increased speeds, the case for electrification of this route could be strengthened. We encourage the UK and Welsh Governments to work with Network Rail to explore the viability of this option. The outcome of this work can then inform the route study process. (Paragraph 55)

10.We were interested in the proposal by Professor Mark Barry for a Swansea Bay Metro, particularly in light of the increased demand that may result from the Swansea Bay City Deal. This idea is still at an early stage, but merits further exploration. We recommend that the Department for Transport and Network Rail engage with the Welsh Government and establish a working group to explore the options in more detail. This group should report back by the end of 2018. If the group considers the proposal viable, it should then seek to develop a business case for taking the work forward. (Paragraph 56)

11.Wales clearly receives less than its population share of investment in rail infrastructure. The new rail franchise will be procured and answerable to the Welsh Government and Network Rail now operates via a Wales ‘Route’. To ensure fairer funding and a more coherent framework for decision and policy making, we recommend that the UK Government should assess, and report back to us on, the feasibility of devolving responsibility for rail infrastructure to the National Assembly for Wales. (Paragraph 57)

12.We were interested to hear about the potential opportunities offered by battery and hydrogen powered trains. While they may not be suitable for large, high speed mainline services, they may work well on the smaller lines that run through rural Wales. As these technologies come on stream, we believe that Wales should be considered as a prime candidate for their early introduction. As part of the route study process, the UK and Welsh Governments and Network Rail should begin to consider where battery and hydrogen trains might be introduced. If battery and hydrogen trains are not suitable for the Cardiff-Swansea mainline, this makes the case for electrification as the environmentally friendly option. (Paragraph 60)

Published: 21 May 2018