I understood why electrifying the main line from Paddington to Swansea should be a top priority. I can also understand why the lines running through the South Wales valley should be the second priority. But there are still unelectrified lines in west and north of Wales, and I cannot understand why the scheme to electrify those is not being brought forward ahead of the revamp of Cardiff station.
I try to avoid falling prey to simplistic regional jealousies pitting one part of Wales gets another. And given the concentration of population and employment in the south-east, the status of Cardiff as the capital, I can understand the logic of an electrification scheme which serves that area first. It shouldn’t end there though, and a desire to avoid internal competition shouldn’t become an abject acceptance that all investment goes to one corner.
The comment made by the Institute of Directors (“If Cardiff is to compete with other cities in the UK and internationally for investment, then it really needs a train station that is as good as anything else”) sounded like a reprise of why we have to build the extra M4 around Newport, why we have to create a city region based on Cardiff, and why we have to build the Greater Cardiff Metro. How many more things does Cardiff “need” because we will not get economic development without them, and when will Cardiff have ‘enough’ grand schemes to allow serious investment elsewhere in Wales?
It increasingly looks as though the answer is never – no sooner has one key problem been overcome then another one gets pushed to the fore. There will always be another key obstacle to Cardiff's development which the rest of Wales will have to pay for, as funds are directed to that one corner of the country.
It’s hard to deny that Cardiff is receiving a substantial devolution dividend, but what about the rest of Wales? Replicating the south-east bias of the UK was never anyone’s stated intention – yet that’s where we seem to be going.