Wales politics

First minister queries tunnel costs in Welsh secretary's constituency

Carwyn Jones
Image caption Carwyn Jones criticised UK government spending on the HS2 rail link through Cheryl Gillan's constituency

The first minister has accused the UK government of "buying off" the support of the Welsh secretary over the planned High Speed Two (HS2) rail link.

Carwyn Jones questioned a decision to spend money on a tunnel designed to limit the line's impact in Cheryl Gillan constituency in Buckinghamshire.

Mrs Gillan had threatened to quit the cabinet over the London to Birmingham line affecting the constituency.

The Transport Secretary said the tunnel would save money for the wider project.

Mrs Gillan welcomed the further steps to "mitigate the impact on Chesham and Amersham."

She wants to ensure the final decision will "do as little damage as possible".

Responding to a question from the Conservative Assembly leader Andrew RT Davies about economic development during first minister's question in the Senedd, Carwyn Jones said: "We look forward to seeing the money being made available for the electrification of the valley lines.

'Damn good job'

"We look forward to seeing the money being made available for the electrification of the railway line between Cardiff and Swansea, both of which would stimulate economic development.

"I can tell the leader of the opposition that both those schemes would cost substantially less than a one mile tunnel in Buckinghamshire - £500m to buy off the secretary of state."

The UK government has denied the tunnel will cost the £500m which is being reported.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the tunnel will actually save between £250m and £300m as tunnelling made the project less expensive than it otherwise would have been.

Ms Greening said Mrs Gillan had done a "damn good job" representing her constituents who have campaigned against the £32bn project.

She had been challenged by the Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant, who complained about the cost.

Mr Jones made his comments during first minister's questions, the first session of the new year where he also denied the Welsh government is "prevaricating" over big decisions.

'Get Wales moving'

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said "decision after decision is flunked, delayed or fudged or avoided altogether".

She called on Mr Jones to make a new year's resolution to "get Wales moving" during the weekly session.

Mr Jones said a number of key decisions would be announced in the near future.

Ms Williams listed issues in health, economy, transport and the environment where she said decisions were required by ministers.

But Mr Jones said: "It can't be right on the one hand to accuse the government of prevarication and on the other hand to suggest that the government should consult widely.

"The two things don't go together in the sense of ensuring that people have their say before ministers take their decisions," he said.

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