Theresa May defends rail electrification U-turn

media captionTheresa May defended the rail decision

The prime minister has defended her government's decision to scrap plans to electrify the railway between Cardiff and Swansea.

Theresa May said services could be improved without electrifying the whole line, by using trains that can be powered by diesel and electricity.

Mrs May insisted she was listening to Wales on Brexit and that more money was being invested in the country despite extra funding for Northern Ireland.

She spoke as the Tory conference met.

The Conservatives had promised in the 2015 election manifesto that "we will finish the job of electrifying the Great Western mainline to Swansea" but scrapped the plans in July.

Mrs May told BBC Wales: "I think what's important is that we deliver better services, we see better services being delivered for passengers coming from Swansea and of course along the Great Western mainline.

"And that can be done in a whole variety of ways. Our focus is on making sure we improve the service and with the new bi-mode technology for trains it's possible to do that without electrifying the whole of the line."

Asked whether she would apologise for breaking the manifesto promise, she added: "I think what I'm saying to people is that our focus is on ensuring that we're providing improved services for people.

"That's what people will see and I think that's what passengers want.

"They want to know that they're going to get those more reliable services which they will get, there'll be more capacity on the trains. I think this is what is important for people."

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image captionAn inquiry will be held into the scrapping of the rail electrification plans

She insisted that Wales was getting investment despite the extra money found for Northern Ireland as a result of the deal with the DUP to keep the Conservatives in power in Westminster.

"If we talk about money that is going into different parts of the United Kingdom, of course we've seen £2.2bn go into Scotland and Wales through city deals and through the Barnett formula," she said.

"And indeed, I was in Swansea not some months ago actually signing the Swansea City deal which will be a very important funding proposition which will enable greater growth and prosperity in that part of Wales. I think we are very clear the investment we are putting into Wales."

A key Brexit committee bringing together Welsh and UK ministers has not met since Mrs May began the process of leaving the EU by triggering Article 50. But Mrs May denied that meant her government was not listening to Wales.

"Yes we are listening to Wales," she said.

"But what we're doing is sitting down with Carwyn Jones, with others, with officials in Wales and talking to them directly about the interests of Wales as we go through the Brexit negotiations.

'Great scenery'

"Of course we will from time to time come together in a wider ministerial grouping but I think what's important is that by talking directly on a one-to-one basis with people in Wales we can be talking about Wales' specific interests in Brexit and how we build that country that works for everyone."

Mrs May called the snap election after spending an Easter break in Snowdonia.

Asked what it was about north Wales that led to her taking such an impetuous decision, she said: "I can assure you it wasn't an impetuous decision and I have actually been back to north Wales since and walking again in north Wales.

"We love going there because the scenery's great, the hospitality is great, we get a great welcome there and it's a wonderful part of the country."

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