Wales politics

Gillan: Rail electrification 'cannot happen on a whim'

Cheryl Gillan
Image caption UK and Welsh governments should work together in Wales' interests, Cheryl Gillan says

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan says the UK government must see a business case before it can electrify the main Paddington-Swansea railway line.

Electrification cannot happen on a whim, she told the Welsh assembly in a statement on the Queen's speech.

Meanwhile at meetings in London, First Minister Carwyn Jones raised concerns about UK government welfare reforms.

The UK government announced plans to electrify the Great Western line as far as Cardiff last year.

But the Welsh government wants the project to go further west to Swansea and into the valleys.

Budget deficit

Supporters say electrification would mean quicker journeys and cleaner trains.

Mrs Gillan told AMs in the assembly chamber that she was continuing to press the case for electrification of the line to Swansea, but warned AMs that "you can't just go ahead on a whim".

Transport Secretary Justine Greening has said there is a "good case" for looking at electrification of lines in the valleys and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he backs the scheme.

Mrs Gillan also urged AMs and the public to have their say on possible changes to assembly elections.

The Wales Office published a green paper on the issue this week, but Mrs Gillan said she "did not have a closed mind" on the eventual outcome.

She said the coalition would "not shirk" from its main objective of reducing the budget deficit.

In a debate on the Queen's speech, Finance Minister Jane Hutt said the UK government's legislative programme "is failing the Welsh economy".

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said the Queen's speech was a "wasted opportunity".

She said: "Here was the first real chance since the UK re-entered recession for there to be a change of direction. Unfortunately that did not materialise."

Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black said the coalition was taking measures to stimulate economic growth, including cutting income tax for the lowest paid workers.

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