Mr. Black was responding to the contents of a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Transport on how the business case for electrification was put together. The Minister of State in that department reveals that she and her colleagues ‘worked very closely with the Welsh Government to consider how the case for electrification to Swansea could be improved. Unfortunately no further services other than the hourly London train could be identified by the Welsh Government for conversion to electric operation.’
This contradicts the business case being drawn up by Swansea Council, local MPs and other campaigners who are concerned that there is no reference in the Government’s plans to freight trains, whose performance can be significantly enhanced by swapping diesel locomotives for electric. Port Talbot steelworks is one of Britain’s biggest industrial destinations and origins for freight trains, and Network Rail says 15% of the UK’s rail freight passes through Cardiff.
They say that also missing from the document is an acknowledgment of existing and future local passenger services west of Cardiff such as the hourly service between Maesteg and Cardiff, which is due to become half-hourly in the next few years. This could switch from diesel to electric by a simple extension of power supply along the single-track Bridgend-Maesteg branch. There is also a local train every two hours between Cardiff and Swansea, serving smaller stations such as Pyle and Skewen.
Commenting on the Minister’s letter, Mr. Black said that although the Welsh Government argues that it wants to extend electrification to Swansea, its early engagement with UK civil servants had undermined the business case for that work.
“I am concerned that the Welsh Government failed to argue the cause for full electrification convincingly and that they left the Department of Transport with the impression that the Swansea to Cardiff route was just a branch line. They were not batting for Wales.
“I am sure that if they had put the case forward as it is now being argued then we could have got electrification for the full length of the main line as part of the original announcement.”