Friday, 13 January 2012

Railway electrification extension: too much emphasis on Swansea passengers

The Welsh Government, Swansea businessmen and AM Peter Black are right to press the advantages to Swansea of extension of electrification from Cardiff to Wales's second city. This article typifies the campaign. But to my mind the advantages to commerce and industry along the South Wales coast would be as great. The needs of Neath and, even more, Port Talbot for a faster and more reliable rail connection with England are overlooked in the media. The coalition government has consistently said that it will listen to a case for the extension and that it wants to shift the UK economy's emphasis back towards industry. No doubt Tata Steel's management are working behind the scenes, but adding the industrial case to the public campaign will surely strengthen it.

While on the subject of Tata Steel, the company's rail-making plant in Scunthorpe is set to benefit from the go-ahead given to the high-speed rail link between London, Coventry and Birmingham. Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe, Durham, may well build the locomotives for HS2 as they are already confirmed as the suppliers of what I still think of as "electro-diesels" for the South Wales main line. Even the contentious* Thameslink contract will guarantee up to 300 jobs at Siemens' Tyneside works. It seems to me that the coalition government has done as much for the rail industry in the UK in just under two years as the dithering Labour government did in eleven.

*The outgoing Labour government locked the Department of Transport into a contract procedure for Thameslink train sets which produced a continental European winner, Siemens. Labour's supporters then campaigned for the incoming Conservative minister to renege on the contract to favour Canadian-owned Bombardier in Derby.

1 comment:

Frank H Little said...

What is probably the last word on the Siemens decision is here: http://www.aldes.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/BombardierReport.pdf The story is more complicated than first appeared, but the verdict remains the same: the coalition government's hands were tied, short of cancelling the contract. This would have entailed starting the tendering process anew, putting the start date back another two or three years, which would not have helped Bombardier who were looking for continuity of work.