Wales politics

Jones plea on north Wales electric rail business case

The case needs to be made for the electrification of the main rail line in north Wales by politicians, councils and business groups, says Welsh Secretary David Jones.

UK and Welsh governments have met to try to make progress on investing in the faster train service, which experts believe would cost about £300m.

Welsh ministers think electrification will help businesses and create jobs.

Mr Jones said Whitehall was receptive to hearing the case for it.

He told BBC Wales' Sunday Politics programme there needs to be a coalition to push for electrification of the line.

"It's a major investment whatever way you look at it," he said.

"That's why we need to build that business case sooner because we've got to convince Network Rail, we've got to convince the Department of Transport that that is a good investment - which is why we want to start that sooner rather than later."

Ynys Mon MP Albert Owen said: "There has been huge investment on the West Coast rail.

"Some £9bn has been spent already, but it only goes as far as Chester and we need it to go west of Chester."

The UK government has already said it will electrify the main line between Swansea and London and commuter lines in the south Wales valleys. It is also planning a high-speed rail link between London and Manchester.

'Serious look'

Councillor Dyfed Edwards, from the Welsh Local Government Association, said north Wales cannot be left behind.

"What we haven't had thus far is the feeling that someone knows what the plan is for Wales from infrastructure," he said.

"We've had the development of the north Wales corridor, the A55, over the years that has made a difference.

"But somehow nobody in government at Westminster level or for that matter in Wales has really got this picture of 'Ok, what is Wales going to be like and north Wales in particular in 10 years' time in terms of infrastructure'?"

Mike Learmond, of the Federation of Small Businesses in north Wales, said there needs to be a serious look at the benefits for the region.

He said: "I'd like to get the decision to prepare the business case.

"I'd like to see that happen very quickly. But it's important that we forecast and quantify exactly what that business bounce, that economic benefit is actually going to be."

Welsh government Transport Minister Carl Sargeant recently met his Whitehall counterpart, Patrick Mcloughlin, to discuss the issue.

Mr Sargeant said: "I want to see north Wales properly connected to the electrified rail network around Liverpool, which has the potential to bring benefits to the economy of the region and rail services."

He added that by boosting the economy, electrification would also help tackle poverty, one of his key priorities.

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