Westminster's rail funding spin goes up in smoke
With Westminster's HS2 rail funding spin going up in smoke, let's remind ourselves of their dubious claims
From the outset, Plaid Cymru has argued that Wales should be compensated for rail infrastructure spending made in England – just like Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Wales is denied billions in funding due to HS2 being classified as an 'England and Wales’ project, despite not an inch of track coming close to Wales.
However, the UK Government has consistently argued that the phase two connection at Crewe would cut journey times between north Wales and London, thereby benefiting Wales and justifying its classification as an ‘England and Wales’ project.
With the phase two connection of the project set to be scrapped, the Conservatives’ central argument for denying Wales funding has gone up in smoke. Below we outline the Conservatives’ many dubious claims about the benefits of the HS2 line for Wales…
Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister
In April, Sunak told ITV News that he would not support Wales receiving billions in Barnett consequentials stemming from HS2, instead arguing the project “will bring benefits to the people in Wales, particularly those in Mid-Wales and North Wales.”
Speaking to WalesOnline in July, the Prime Minister again argued that: "I think people in north Wales will benefit from HS2 and you'll see that in reduced journey times to London and elsewhere and I think it is important for people to recognise that. People in North Wales will benefit from HS2 very clearly with reduced journey times.”
Will the Prime Minister now use his conference speech to outline what benefits Wales can expect in the absence of the Crewe line?
David TC Davies, Secretary of State for Wales
The Secretary of State for Wales told ITV News in October 2022 that the project “is going to benefit Wales, it's going to benefit people in North Wales who will benefit from better access at Crewe to London…It's also going to benefit companies across Wales who are feeding into the supply chain, including one major company in my own constituency."
With the second phase of HS2 now consigned to the scrap heap, Welsh companies will once again be left in limbo by the UK Government.
Robert Buckland, former Secretary of State for Wales
In October 2022, Buckland told Y Byd yn ei Le that “HS2 runs to Crewe and Crewe will be a major transport hub…I think the settlement is absolutely fine. Crewe is within a few miles of north Wales, it’s going to be serving the people of north Wales brilliantly.”
With no tracks built in Wales, and no nearby HS2 interchange, perhaps the former Secretary of State could explain to voters how the people of north Wales will be served by the truncated project…
Virginia Crosbie, MP for Ynys Môn
At Transport Questions in November 2022, Crosbie asked about the benefits of HS2 and claimed that “the government is committed to levelling up and that means improving transport connectivity for my Ynys Môn constituents.”
And is the UK Government still committed to levelling up for Ynys Môn after this week’s announcement? Answers on a postcard…
Sarah Atherton MP for Wrexham
In a blog on her website in 2020, Atherton said “It is vital for the development of North Wales that plans for its own faster railway service are now included in the scoping and planning of High Speed North. That starts now by ensuring that the Crewe Hub is configured accordingly within HS2. Along the line, I expect this to filter down to better rail links to Chester, Wrexham, Llandudno and Holyhead. It is for these reasons that I support the HS2 project.”
Will the MP for Wrexham now join Plaid Cymru’s calls for rail devolution? So that the communities of Wrexham, Llandudno and Holyhead get the rail links they so badly deserve? We won’t hold our breath.
Robin Millar, MP for Aberconwy
At a debate in November 2022, Millar said that “the England and Wales designation of HS2 relies on investment in the links from Crewe to north Wales. The Welsh Government have disputed that, and claimed an estimated £5 billion as a Barnett consequential for investment in England where the benefits have not been realised in Wales. That claim can be rebuffed properly based on benefits to north Wales.”
The MP for Aberconwy may want to update his argument following his party’s conference this week.
Andrew RT Davies, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd
Conversely, the Welsh Tory leader actually echoed Plaid Cymru’s calls for Wales to receive consequential funding from HS2 in January, but was rebuffed by the UK Government.
By this week, Mr Davies had apparently retreated from his position altogether, claiming that the issue was “above [his] pay grade.”
Beyond all doubt, this week’s announcement has destroyed the claim that HS2 would ever benefit Wales. Once again, the Conservatives’ promises to voters in Wales have been reduced to ashes.
Plaid Cymru has rejected Westminster spin on rail funding from the very beginning
Plaid Cymru were the only Welsh MPs to vote against the HS2 bill in 2013.
We called for fair funding for Wales then.
And we won’t stop now.
Westminster: give Wales what we’re rightfully owed.