Thursday, 23 July 2009

Electrification scheduled at long last

Will Speaker Bercow give Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson a severe talking-to for yet again making a major announcement outside the House of Commons? It is clear that the timing has everything to do with PR, coinciding as it does with the first UK cabinet meeting in Wales.

If the decision had been made a year or two ago, work could already have started, helping to alleviate the effects of the depression in South Wales and ensuring that the improvements to the rail service come in when the recovery is under way.

It is a great example of the stop-go, short-term thinking of politicians. This is true of both Conservative and Labour ministers. There should have been a rolling programme of electrification. A team was built up for the electrification of the former London Midland & Scottish main line in the 1960s, completed by 1974. There was then a two-year hiatus before work started on the East Coast main line finishing in 1991. It would have been natural then to move on to the old Great Western lines between London, Bristol and Swansea, instead of allowing the expertise to dissipate. Of course, Labour will point to the well-known dislike of railways on the part of prime minister Thatcher. But Labour should surely have picked up the dropped baton in 1997.

Having said all that, I still welcome the prospect of clean, fast trains between London and South Wales, giving a boost to high-tech jobs in Swansea and Baglan. After that, the electrification team should move on to the Valley Lines, the home of surely the most antiquated train units in Britain and hardly a fitting service for a 21st century capital city.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Would also be nice if they had a tunnel between Holyhead and Dublin, this could be done by sinking Concrete box sections to form a "Tunnel" without any actual tunneling taking place!

How many jobs would that create in Wales, probably more than the Baglan Energy Park (ROFL)