Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Great Western Railway.

In around 10 years time if everything else is equal the railway line between Swansea and London will have been electrified, and about time too you may say.

After all, as far back as 1935 parts of the railway network were being electrified, although it seems and as noted at the time by Mr A.V Alexander MP "The Great Western Railway Company seem to have very little urgent necessity for electrification."

And in 1976 Mr Alfred Evans MP speaking at a debate at the House of Commons said "I am not seeking to impose an urban system on the whole of Wales. I am speaking currently of a road from north to south. I remember contesting a parliamentary election in 1945 in the county of Merioneth when the Labour programme included two points. One was to establish a Welsh broadcasting corporation and the other was to establish a major north-south highway. Such a highway is necessary to the development of the depopulated hinterland of Wales. However, the idea has now been dismissed. The Government, speaking of the parts of Wales which they in their policies have denuded of people, say that there are no industries there and, therefore, there is no justification for a major road.

How different was the vision in Italy which caused the Autostrada del Sole to be built over barren hills from the North to the poverty-stricken South of Italy. The authority said that there was no industry there and, therefore, it must have a great road. That is the right way of looking at the situation. I hope that the coming of the national Assembly to Cardiff will provide an additional reason, apart from ease of transport, for building  this major road between the north and the south and that the Government will re-examine the reasons for this long-needed road.

Lastly I turn to the railways, where the decimation of what was once a fine national system speaks for itself. In the early sixties, when I gathered the figures—possibly it is true today—the Southern Welsh Region was the most prosperous region of the whole of the British Rail network. That did not prevent it from being savaged at least as badly as any other region and perhaps worse than most. However, no one can honestly doubt that if Wales had had a Parliament in those days, or even a national transport authority, the attacks would have been far more restrained. There is nothing that we need more in relation to Welsh transport than a Welsh transport board committed to the integration, modernisation, expansion and revitalisation of the Welsh transport system, both freight and passenger. The welfare of Wales would dominate the thought and policies of a Welsh board. However, it is very far from the thoughts of the gentlemen sitting in London on the British Railways Board or in Whitehall, where the road lobby has such complete domination.

I take the matter of electrification of lines as typifying the situation. Britain is not in the vanguard of railway electrification. Only some 17 per cent. of the British Rail network is electrified. It lags behind almost every other Western European country. France is ahead of us with 24 per cent., Western Germany has 28 per cent., Italy has 48 per cent. and mountainous Switzerland has 98.4 per cent. of its railways electrified. However, for the purposes of this debate the most relevant question is: how many of the nearly 2,200 miles of electrified railway on this island are found in Wales? The answer is that there is not one mile of electrified railway in Wales. There has not been one mile since the old Mumbles line closed down.

Wales is a great exporter of huge quantities of electricity but not one mile of Welsh railway line has been electrified. Yet there are some people who claim that this centralist, unitary, metropolitan-dominated Government do better for Wales than a Welsh Parliament would. Have they realised that since the Euston to Manchester and Liverpool route was electrified in 1966 the time was cut by an hour and a half and the traffic has increased by about 200 per cent.? Non-electrification of Welsh railways is reductio ad absurdum of the system which misgoverns our potentially great little country.

What can Wales look forward to under central control? What other than more closures and further decimation of our surviving fragments? I appeal to the Government not to allow one further mile of railway line in Wales to be closed until at least we have a Welsh Assembly on our soil and a Welsh Development Agency to review the situation."

Let's hope that it will not be another 80 years before they electrify the railways of North Wales.

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