Monday 5 September 2011

How much will we benefit?

There seems to be a general welcome for the proposal to build a rail hub at Heathrow with a direct connection from South Wales, but I’m not entirely convinced that it will be as beneficial to Wales as is being claimed.  As with so much else, the devil is in the detail.
Whilst in principle, any improvement in the rail network will help to encourage a switch from road to rail, there have been no hard numbers in the reports which I’ve seen.  I don’t know how many people actually travel from South Wales to Heathrow in the first place, but that will surely be a key factor in determining how many trains run direct rather than involve a change at Reading, and thus how much benefit the proposal brings. 
My guess is that most of those travelling from South Wales to airports in London do so for leisure purposes rather than business purposes – which would make Gatwick a more likely destination.  It also seems that most of the services to Heathrow are likely to involve a change of train; and no matter how good or frequent the shuttle service from Reading to Heathrow, a change of train will always reduce to some extent the number of people choosing rail rather than road.
Linking into the European high speed rail network would be a definite plus, but from the information available to date, it appears that the link to HS2 is a one-way link – good for going north to Birmingham etc., but not for heading east to the Channel Tunnel, leading to a danger that the proposal encourages, rather than supplants, air travel to near continental destinations.
But the biggest claimed benefit is in terms of the boost to the economy, something for which I’ve seen no evidence at all.  Whilst it is clear that poor communications links can put us at a disadvantage, the negative doesn’t prove the positive, and I fear that the business benefits are being significantly over-hyped.
And one final question which none of the reports has answered as yet – is this an English project, which means a largish sum of capital money available for investment in Welsh infrastructure under the Barnett formula; or would I be right in suspecting that it will be regarded by the Treasury as a UK project - from which the Welsh share of the benefits is likely to be considerably less than the Welsh share of the costs?


Unknown said...

Would it not make far more sense to use this money on making Cardiff airport competitive so we don't have to travel to England and further congest their airports?

Unknown said...

I suspect that the motivation behind this proposal is the convenience of the people of Swindon and Reading, far more of whom are likely to travel on business, and for whom a half hour saving will be significant.

However, it will not be long before Cheryl Gillan appears to claim this as a significant triumph for her stewardship of Welsh interests.

You mean there's more??? said...

Not wishing to be funny or Pembrokeshire centric (as oposed to London centric) What on earth would make anyone want to bother. Last time I went to London I thought; "What a dump" The real danger in this link is that moe people realise how much better it is to live in rural Wales than such a hell hole full of bankers and other spongers.

Just a thought

maen_tramgwydd said...

"..would I be right in suspecting that it will be regarded by the Treasury as a UK project - from which the Welsh share of the benefits is likely to be considerably less than the Welsh share of the costs?"

The structure of the UK, devolved or otherwise, makes that a certainty.

Boncath said...

My memory tells me that some years ago a Jumbo jet made an emergency landing and later took off from St Davids Airfield in Pembrokeshire
that aside
Cardiff Airport needs better transport infra structure by road and rail.
We will wait forever going on like this .
We the people of Wales must say what we want and then go out and get on with it