Wales politics

'Sooner the better' for north rail electrification case

Electric train
Image caption Electrifying the rail lines would mean quicker journeys to London, David Jones says

The sooner the case for a massive upgrade of the north Wales main line can be made the better, says Welsh Secretary David Jones.

He said electrification would make the region more attractive to investors.

Mr Jones was speaking before government, business and council representatives meet to start preparing a business case.

He said Swansea council lobbying was vital in securing UK government backing on electrification to the city.

Friday's meeting in Llandudno will decide what work is needed to establish a similar business case for electrification in the north, including assessing the costs and benefits of electrifying the line.

A governing body to manage the business case will also be discussed.

The UK government confirmed plans to electrify the Great Western main line to Swansea, and to electrify commuter lines in the south Wales valleys in July.

The original commitment was to electrify the line between London and Cardiff.

Mr Jones said the decision to extend the upgrade further west was "the consequence of a lot of work by various people including the Wales Office, but also crucially Swansea council who put in a very good business case".

He said a north Wales business case had to be ready in advance of the UK government's next round of long-term plans for the rail network, called a High Level Output Specification (HLOS), in about five years.

"Obviously it's going to be a lengthy process, but we are talking about 105 miles of track from Crewe to Holyhead," he said.

"The sooner we can start working up a business case for the next HLOS round the better."

The upgrade would mean faster and more comfortable trains than the existing diesel trains, and could help attract investors to north Wales, he said.

"It would be significant and it's important to remember that when inward investors are looking at a location to establish businesses they tend to look at a two-hour journey time to London," he said.

"At the moment Chester is the limit of that two hours. None of north Wales is."

The Welsh government is backing calls for electrification in north Wales and is sending an official to Friday's meeting, although decisions about the line rest with the Department for Transport in Westminster.

Welsh Transport Minister Carl Sargeant has discussed the issue with UK government counterparts.

A Welsh government official will also be at Friday's meeting.

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