Wales politics

Welsh ministers urged to bid for EU rail cash for Metro

Image caption A map of what the South Wales Metro could look like

The Welsh Government has been urged by a UK government minister to apply for European Union cash to improve the rail network.

Welsh ministers are hoping to use EU money to help fund the £600m south Wales Metro programme.

Paul Maynard told MPs successful applications would be guaranteed by the UK government after Brexit.

He said he would be surprised if Brussels "looked askance" at such a bid as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

The Metro is intended to provide better trains, faster buses and light rail or tram services in Cardiff and the valleys.

The £600m price tag has been pegged to include £125m from the UK government and £150m in European funding.

The UK rail minister told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee: "If the Welsh Government continues to make bids into the European Union whilst we are still a member of the European Union and is successful in those bids, for example for the South Wales Metro project, then after we have left the European Union we will guarantee that funding in the future."

He said the Welsh Government "needs to make an application to the European Regional Development Fund" and if that ran beyond the date of the UK leaving the EU "the government is then guaranteeing that extra funding".

"At the moment I would urge the Welsh Government to progress its application as soon as possible," he added.

Image copyright Welsh government

Mr Maynard also confirmed the Department for Transport did not wish to change the Wales and Borders franchise or split up cross-border services.

There had been fears they would be severed ahead of the franchise-awarding powers being devolved to the Welsh Government - although ministers said they had reached an "understanding" the map would remain intact.

"As far as I'm concerned the Wales and Borders franchise should stay as it is. I don't propose any re-mapping of routes," said Mr Maynard.

Four foreign-owned firms are competing to run train services in Wales and create the £600m South Wales Metro.

The firms who are bidding for the next Wales and Borders franchise will be responsible for delivering a major upgrade to the rail network in and around Cardiff as part of the Metro scheme.

It will be up to the bidders to propose how it will operate, as well as drawing up plans to build a new rail or tram system.

The chosen bidder is set to take over in October 2018.

'Top priority'

Meanwhile, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy has told BBC Wales he could not guarantee the south Wales mainline would be electrified all the way to Swansea by 2024.

"Network Rail is now a public corporation - a nationalised industry - our money comes from government and it will be for politicians to make a decision about what's funded in the next period," he said.

The Welsh Government called any delay to the electrification of the mainline "unacceptable".

"This is a hugely important infrastructure project for Wales and we have made repeated representations to the UK government that this must be delivered," a spokesman added.

The Department for Transport said: "Ensuring that Great Western passengers get the improved services they need is a top priority for this government."

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