Thursday, September 29, 2011

Case for electrification west of Cardiff undermined by Welsh Government’s failure to engage claims AM

The case for extending the electrification of the main line to Swansea has been undermined by the failure of the Welsh Government to fully engage with the business case, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black has claimed.

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.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Assembly Member to hold advice surgery in Neath

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, will be holding an advice surgery in Neath next Friday. On 30th September he will be in Neath Central Library from 5pm to 6pm.

No appointment is necessary.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kirsty Williams speech to Conference

"Labour's poor services do poor people down":

Supervote News

There will be a Special General Meeting of DAGGER (Liberal Democrat Action Group for Gaining Electoral Reform) in Cheltenham on 12th November. The location is St Matthews Church Hall, Clarence Street, which is near the bus station, and proceedings start at 13:00.

The Group, which has Baroness Nicholson and Liz Lynne MEP among its vice-presidents, exists to promote long-standing party policy of election to the UK parliament by Single Transferable Vote in Multi-Member Constituencies (STV), the system used in Irish parliaments, north and south, and in Scottish local elections.

DAGGER says of Gender Balance in Parliament: "To get women into Parliament in the first place requires getting their names onto the Ballot Paper. The best way to do this is by adopting a voting system which offers a list of candidates who may be voted for in order of preference.

"This can be achieved most effectively by STV. The Scandinavian countries have a similar system, hence their higher number of women MPs, Ministers etc., including two women Prime Ministers in recent years. And can it be a coincidence that the Scandinavian countries, which then employ the talents of all their people, are centuries ahead of the male-run countries?"

Nick Clegg's speech

The party leader's speech to Federal Conference 2011, with commentary by Mark Pack, is here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vince Cable at LibDem autumn conference

Video review of Liberal Democrat autumn conference

LibDems call for evidence-based drugs policy

In Birmingham yesterday, Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference carried a motion calling for an independent panel to review current drug laws.

Commenting, Co-Chair of the Home Affairs Parliamentary Party Committee, Tom Brake MP said:

“Drugs can have a devastating impact on individuals and families and can fuel organised crime. Evidence shows that our current drug policy is costly, ineffective and it is the poor and marginalised who suffer most.

“Today, Liberal Democrats reaffirmed our support for an evidenced based drugs policy, calling for an independent panel to review current drug laws.

“We want to ensure the Government has a clear focus on prevention and reducing harm by investing in education, treatment and rehabilitation, and moving away from criminalising individuals and vulnerable drug users.

“We need proper regulation and investment if we are to get to the root of the battle with drugs. Liberal Democrats are the only party prepared to debate these issues.”

Nick Clegg: Immoral to drop 50p tax

See Nick Clegg's interview on The Politics Show here.