Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Slipping down the pecking order

I’ve long thought that it’s something of a tactical error for Wales to focus on seeking a Barnett consequential for the HS2 railway – not because Wales shouldn’t get its fair share of UK investment, but because I’d sooner have our share in the form of a High Speed line to Wales than in the form of cash to be spent on anything else.  Coincidentally, the amount involved in doing that might even turn out to be higher that a simplistic percentage share of HS2 expenditure as well.
I’d hoped that the next part of building the network, HS3, would be that line to the west, but in the absence of anyone attempting to make the case, it now looks as though the HS3 designation is allocated to the Trans-Pennine route.  I guess that means that the best we can hope for now is to be in there somewhere pitching for HS4, although I’m still seeing little sign of such a pitch.  HS5 anyone?


Anonymous said...

We agree yet again. I, too, am disappointed to see no high speed link to Wales.

Mind, I suspect the days of large scale funding from Westminster are well and truly over for the devolved nations. It's becoming politically unacceptable for English taxes to be spent on benefitting the lives of those that may, eventually, wish to leave the Union.

It's time we started to cut our cloth according to our notional tax receipts. Only by doing so will we realise how well we have been treated by our larger neighbours over the past centuries.

G Horton-Jones said...

Barnett is a process that keeps the Welsh poor and England in control

The HS rail system is an England only package

What we in Wales need is to restore key rail routes destroyed by Beeching as part of our transport infrastructure and to make that a fully integrated facility.

In reality we need our own investment not our fair share never defined of our money doled out as seen fit by England

John Dixon said...


Let it never be said that you'd ever allow the complexities of reality to get in the way of simplistic prejudice.

R Tyler said...

"Only by doing so will we realise how well we have been treated by our larger neighbours over the past centuries."
He's right, John.
Wales really benefitted from all that coal and steel.

Anonymous said...

R Tyler, you mean those heavily subsidised, nationalised industries? The ones that couldn't make it even when privatised? And never forget who footed the bill for all the healthcare. And still does!

Independence is just a vote away. Bring it on.

G Horton-Jones said...

I suspect that R Tyler was taking the mick in the nicest possible way

The coal and steel industry in Wales has been in private hands for most its existence to date and the taxation revenues have been determined, taken and distributed by Westminster

In earlier times sheep came to dominate the Welsh landscape because the Crown drew a substantial revenue on the sale of Welsh Wool to Europe

The bottom line here is that we in Wales have never enjoyed the benefit of our own labour and resources.

The phrases we have never had it so good or that we are all in it together have never rung true for us here

There is an element of truth in that nationalised industries performed at a less than purely financial optimum as they were vehicles of reducing unemployment and of delivering a degree of social equality amongst other things

John Dixon said...

"The bottom line here is that we in Wales have never enjoyed the benefit of our own labour and resources."

I agree completely, but it isn't simply a 'Wales-England' issue, and never has been. One can generalize it to say something like "No people have ever enjoyed the benefit of their own labour or resources". It might look and feel worse if those who do benefit live a long way away in another country, but the effect is much the same if they simply live in another part of town. Welsh people have not uniquely been deprived of the benefit of their labour and resources; it's a feature of capitalism. The question is what we do about it seeking geographical redistribution of resources is an important part of the answer, but it is never the whole of it.

Peter Freeman said...

I've worked in the transportation industry all my life. First with South ales Transport, where I was a member of the executive of Swansea Trades Council and also on the executive of Transport 2000.These days I work for Los Angeles Metro and I also worked for The Salt Lake City Olympics committee providing transportation for the winter Olympics in 2002.
I mention this because mass transit is a lifelong passion as well as a career. I consider it to be essential to modern civilization but I find myself in one of the very few areas where you and I disagree.The high speed link to London and the South East runs counter to every logic and instinct that I have.
Wales is not well served by following the centric model of European super states. An improved link to London only means that companies needing expertise, consultation and labour will seek it from Bristol and points East instead of Mid and North Wales. While the North will continue to obtain it's workforce and expertise from Liverpool and the midlands.
The Welsh economy and Welsh jobs for Welsh workers will not be achieved until we improve the infrastructure throughout Wales. High speed links to England can only depress the local communities as commuting across the border becomes easier.

John Dixon said...


I agree that we need to improve the transport infrastructure within Wales, although I don't see this as having to be an 'either/or' approach. Internal improvements are clearly a devolved matter whereas UK-wide projects are not. And I understand concerns about competition with Bristol etc. (although we're also competing with Birmingham and the English Midlands, which will benefit directly from HS2). But there is a danger that, if a HS network is built across England, then Wales will be disadvantaged by being outside of it, as we have been in the past when we've been at the back end of the queue for transport infrastructure investment.

Ultimately, however, my support for HS rail in general, and a line to Wales in particular, isn't based on those sorts of considerations. Nor am I convinced that the shaving of 20 minutes off a journey here and half an hour there will make a whole heap of difference to economic prospects (although perceptions of distance can certainly work against us).

Demand for travel is increasing, and we can do one of two things. We can tell people that they can't travel, or we can provide an infrastructure which facilitates it. Whilst I find the first approach very tempting, I don't think it's a tenable position; so the question becomes, what's the best (or least worse) way of providing travel capacity?

Not building HS rail will lead to either more road-building, or more flying (or both) (for example, the owners of Heathrow are currently arguing, inter alia, that more runways there means more domestic flights to more UK airports; better by far not to go down that route in my view).

It's also the case that I see HS rail not simply as a new link from Wales to London, but as a means of plugging Wales into the European network (which is why, as I've note previously, I'm disappointed that HS 2 is going to Euston rather than St Pancras).

Anonymous said...

You start your argument on an incorrect, but widely believed, false premise, John. The economic benefit of HS1 is not so suits can get from London to Paris quicker, but affords better capacity utilisation by complementing pre-existing infrastructure. It takes commuter traffic into London from Kent and also frees up capacity affording better freight exports/imports via Dollands Moor, the main freight laidage yards for mainland Europe. This is where steel from Port Talbot and car engines from Bridgend go. The same argument exists for HS2. Off loading existing trains to afford better capacity utilisation of existing rail. As far as GWML is concerned it's already more suited to fast passenger trains after electrification due to it's original route (although a severn tuunnel re-lining is required). There is no capacity utilisation off-load requiremnt from a new line going east-west. I therefore conculde that any rail infrastructure investment within Wales should be in the form of an inter-modal hub at Margam, re-openning a north-south connection up from Carmarthen and a new rail connected dedicated container port in the north. I honestly don't care if a suit in Swindon can't get a seat on a Cardiff train. Run it non-stop to South Wales. Pump the cash into capacity that actually benefits the population of Wales.

John Dixon said...

"You start your argument on an incorrect, but widely believed, false premise, John. The economic benefit of HS1 is not so suits can get from London to Paris quicker..."

I'm struggling to see where you think I said that it was. But as I said in one of the other comments, my starting point has more to do with the need to avoid increasing air travel than with the needs of suits - Welsh or English. One of the notable successes of HS rail on the continent is that it has displaced some domestic air services and/or acted as a deterrent to their expansion.

g said...

Railways are not devolved
A UK wide project which confines itself to England ie HS1 2 3 ad infinitum is not a UK wide project it an English specific project

The ad plugging Heathrow expansion highlights Inverness as a beneficiary

Anonymous said...

While people from Paris (centralised state) used to fly to Marseilles, they now go by TGV, and while HS1 has killed the London to Paris air route, it being replaced by Eurostar, you should note that people in Cardiff currently 'fly' directly to neither. The only ones that fly from Cardiff I've noticed are a gaggle of tans from Tonyrefail going to the Costa-del-Sol. It should also be noted that the ICE network in Germany (federated state) is lattice in structure, justified on existing city region S-bahn hubs. Wales has none of these nor the political powers to make it happen. It is currently under a London centric government both in Westminster and Cardiff Bay. Any future Welsh government that does grapple with the issue would first build a HS shuttle between Swansea and Cardiff plus railfright intermodal at Margam. Like they've done between Edinburgh and Glasgow. London goes to the bottom of the list. Also, Holyhead plus new container port, plops into the Dublin hub, it should not be begging for scraps from Merseyside.