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HC 95 Published on 6 March 2013
by authority of the House of Commons London: The Stationery Office Limited
House of Commons
Welsh Affairs Committee
Crossing the border: road and rail links between England and Wales
Third Report of Session 2012–13
Volume I: Report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence
Additional written evidence is contained in Volume II, available on the Committee website at www.parliament.uk/welshcom
Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 26 February 2013
The Welsh Affairs Committee
The Welsh Affairs Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales (including relations with the National Assembly for Wales).
David T.C. Davies MP (Conservative, Monmouth) (Chair) Guto Bebb MP (Conservative, Aberconwy) Geraint Davies MP (Labour, Swansea West) Glyn Davies MP (Conservative, Montgomeryshire) Stephen Doughty MP (Labour, Cardiff South and Penarth) Jonathan Edwards MP (Plaid Cymru, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) Nia Griffith MP (Labour, Llanelli) Simon Hart MP (Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) Mrs Siân C. James MP (Labour, Swansea East) Karen Lumley MP (Conservative, Redditch) Jessica Morden MP (Labour, Newport East) Mr Mark Williams MP (Liberal Democrat, Ceredigion) The following Members were also members of the Committee during this Parliament Stuart Andrews MP (Conservative, Pudsey) Susan Elan Jones MP (Labour, Clwyd South) Robin Walker MP (Conservative, Worcester)
The Committee is one of the departmental select committees, the powers of which are set out in House of Commons Standing Orders, principally in SO No 152. These are available on the internet via www.parliament.uk
The Reports and evidence of the Committee are published by The Stationery Office by Order of the House. All publications of the Committee (including press notices) are on the internet at www.parliament.uk/welshcom The Reports of the Committee, the formal minutes relating to that report, oral evidence taken and some or all written evidence are available in printed volumes. Additional written evidence may be published on the internet only.
The current staff of the Committee is Marek Kubala (Clerk), Anwen Rees (Committee Specialist), Edward Faulkner (Senior Committee Assistant), Lori Inglis Hall (Senior Committee Assistant), Dabinder Rai (Committee Assistant), and Jessica Bridges-Palmer (Media Officer).
All correspondence should be addressed to the Clerk of the Welsh Affairs Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA. The telephone number for general enquiries is 020 7219 3264; and the Committee’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Crossing the border: road and rail links between England and Wales 1
1 Introduction 5 Key cross-border road and rail links 5 Responsibility for cross-border links 8 Our inquiry 8
2 Cross-border rail services 10 Government investment in cross-border rail services 10 Electrification in South Wales 10 Electrification in North Wales 12 Cross-border services from Mid Wales 13 Connections to UK airports 14 High Speed Rail 15
Impact of HS2 on Wales 15 A high speed rail network 16 Funding implications of HS2 17
Cross-border rail franchises 18
3 Cross-border roads 20 Improvements to the M4 20 The Severn Crossings 21
Future ownership of the Crossings 22 Level of tolls 22 Level of debt 23
Cross-border roads in North Wales 24
4 Freight and European transport networks 26 Cross-border freight 26
Wales Freight Group 26 Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) 27
5 Conclusion 29
Conclusions and recommendations 30
Formal Minutes 34
List of printed written evidence 35
List of additional written evidence 36
List of Reports from the Committee during the current Parliament 37
Crossing the border: road and rail links between England and Wales 3
Some 138 million journeys take place each year across the long and highly porous border between England and Wales, be it commuters, business people, freight or leisure seekers. The Welsh and English economies and geographies are highly integrated and good transport connections to England—particularly to London, Birmingham and the cities in the North West—are extremely important for the Welsh economy. Passenger numbers on some cross-border routes have increased in recent years, and further growth is forecast.
Responsibility for transport is shared between the UK Government and Welsh Government. There have been some encouraging recent examples of joint working between the two governments to secure improvements to strategic cross-border routes. Wales will benefit, directly or indirectly, from almost £2 billion of rail investment and much of this will be spent on improving cross-border services. We welcome the extension of the electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) from Cardiff to Swansea, and the plan to electrify the Valley lines into Cardiff. The announcement of a new rail link from the GWML to Heathrow Airport, improving connections between South Wales and Heathrow, is very welcome. We are also pleased to note that early progress has been made on developing a business case for electrification of cross-border lines in North Wales.
But, in other areas, more needs to be done to ensure the Welsh economy does not suffer due to inadequate transport links across the border. The UK Government and Welsh Government must work together to ensure that essential improvements to the M4 are funded. We reiterate our concerns that the high level of the tolls on the Severn Crossings hampers the development of businesses in Wales and deters inward investment to Wales. It is disappointing that the Department for Transport (DfT) has not agreed to reduce the level of tolls at the end of the Concession.
The UK Government’s current proposals for High Speed Two (HS2) could have a serious adverse effect on the economy of South Wales. The construction of HS2 will be one of the most significant additions to the UK’s transport infrastructure in many years. If Wales is not part of the UK’s high speed rail network, the Welsh economy will suffer.
Our key recommendations are as follows:
the Department for Transport and Wales Office should support the Welsh Government in developing the business case for electrification of the North Wales Main Line so that it can considered as part of the next round of rail investment;
the UK Government should work with the Welsh Government to identify attainable funding solutions for essential improvements to the M4;
the UK Government should bring forward proposals for the future of the Severn Crossings and tolling regime after they revert to public ownership, and
the UK and Welsh Governments should work together to assess the economic impact of HS2 on Wales, and identify how any adverse effects can be mitigated.
4 Crossing the border: road and rail links between England and Wales
In this report, conclusions are printed in bold and recommendations are printed in bold italics.
1 Introduction 1. The 160 mile border between Wales and England is often described as “porous”. This is understandable. 90% of the Welsh population lives within 50 miles of the English border. 30% of the combined English and Welsh population—some 16 million people—live within 50 miles of the border. As a result, there is a huge degree of travel between England and Wales throughout the year, be it commuters, business people, freight or leisure seekers. Some 138 million journeys take place each year on roads and trains across the border, an average of 2.6 million journeys each week.1 These are primarily centred on two transport corridors between South Wales and the South of England, and North Wales and North West England.
2. The Welsh and English economies and geographies are highly integrated and good transport connections to England—particularly to London, Birmingham and the cities in the North West—are extremely important for the Welsh economy. A variety of transport groups, business and freight companies, as well as local government representatives, told us in evidence that these roads and rail routes were vital for Wales, for economic and commercial reasons. Cross-border transport is also particularly important for tourism, with the vast majority of tourists making overnight stays in Wales coming from elsewhere in the UK.2 As we noted in our previous Report on Inward Investment in Wales, poor transport infrastructure can have a detrimental effect on both domestic and overseas investment. We concluded that transport infrastructure in Wales had been under-funded by the UK Government and the Welsh Government for a number of years.3
Key cross-border road and rail links
3. The main road and rail routes between England and Wales are:
M4/M48: South Wales to Bristol/London;
A55 and onward motorway links: North Wales to Manchester/London;
A55, A548 and A550: North East Wales to Cheshire/Merseyside; and
A483, A458, A44 and o