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Senedd calls for fair share of HS2 funding

Labour and the Conservatives have been urged to commit to reclassifying HS2 as an England-only project to “right a £4bn wrong”.

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By Chris Haines
ICNN Senedd Reporter

Labour and the Conservatives have been urged to commit to reclassifying HS2 as an England-only project to “right a £4bn wrong”.

Delyth Jewell accused Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak of ignoring Wales as the Senedd unanimously reiterated calls for a fair share of funding from the rail project.

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Plaid Cymru’s shadow transport secretary said committing to HS2 consequential funding is a litmus test for the UK Labour and Tory leaders –  “a test they are failing”.

The party’s deputy leader told the chamber: “This is not just a debate about a railway line; it is about how Westminster disregards the needs and the voice of Wales.

“HS2 is a railway line in another country that we are nonetheless funding – a track that does not break our border but that is costing us billions to run.”

‘Reckless’

Natasha Asghar said the Welsh Conservatives have long called for Wales to receive its share of HS2 consequential funding, pledging to continue to make the case.

The Tory shadow transport secretary argued any extra funding should go directly to Network Rail to invest in infrastructure rather than to the Welsh Government.

“We all know how reckless they are when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money,” she said, warning Welsh ministers could fritter the cash away on vanity projects.

Ms Asghar highlighted the UK Government’s announcement of a £1bn investment in electrifying the north Wales main line.

She said: “Regardless of what happens on July 4, we must all keep the pressure on to ensure that it happens and the Welsh public gets what is due to them.”

‘Scandal’

Rhun ap Iorwerth told the Senedd that Wales is home to about 12% of the UK’s rail infrastructure but receives 2% of rail investment.

He said: “The greatest scandal is that even in a general election campaign – traditionally the time of big giveaways and pledges and promises – we've heard nothing from either the Conservatives or Labour on righting the HS2 wrong.”

The Plaid Cymru leader said the estimated £4bn could transform public transport in Wales, making up for decades of chronic underfunding by successive UK Governments.

Cefin Campbell, the Plaid Cymru MS for Mid and West Wales, warned a lack of access to public transport is a driver of rural poverty and social exclusion.

“It is a matter of gross injustice that Wales has yet to receive what it is owed from the investment in HS2,” he said.

‘Threadbare’

Peredur Owen Griffiths, who chairs the Senedd’s finance committee, criticised the UK Government’s “absurd” claim that HS2 benefits Wales and England.

“It is not right that UK Government is able to make these unjust decisions arbitrarily,” he said, highlighting that Scotland and Northern Ireland will receive extra money

Giving evidence to the finance committee on May 22, Sir Paul Silk, a constitutional expert, described the justifications that HS2 benefits Wales as “rather threadbare”.

Mr Owen Griffiths pointed out that the Northern Powerhouse rail project has similarly been classified as a Wales-and-England project, despite being entirely across the border.

The Plaid Cymru MS, who represents South Wales East, said: “This means Wales will miss out again, this time on more than £1 billion-worth of funding for transport.”

‘Flawed’

Rhianon Passmore, who represents Islwyn, said a fair share of funding would make a big difference, with public services in Wales facing tough financial decisions.

“The reality is that the current funding system is flawed,” she warned.

Carolyn Thomas, a fellow Labour backbencher, said HS2 has been a disaster, “ripping up countryside, destroying homes and costing the taxpayer billions”.

Criticising the “expensive white elephant”, she highlighted that costs have ballooned from £32bn in 2011 to a projected £106bn by 2020.

Ms Thomas described the decision to label HS2 as an England-and-Wales project as a “ridiculous, cynical move to cheat Wales out of much-needed investment”.

‘Managed decline’

Rebecca Evans said not an inch of track will be built on Welsh soil and HS2 should be reclassified as an England-only project.

The finance secretary said Wales will have missed out on £350m by the end of 2024-25, and the Welsh Government should be due as much as £70m each year in future.

Ms Evans accused the UK Government of mismanaging the economy and presiding over a managed decline of Welsh rail infrastructure.

Calling for full devolution of powers over the railways, she pointed to the Welsh Government’s £1bn investment in the south Wales valleys lines.

The Plaid Cymru motion was agreed without objection following the debate on June 5.

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