Renewed calls to level Wales by building high-speed rail services
High-speed rail links to Wales are imperative to level the country and ease capacity constraints on the Great Western Main Line, Cardiff Council Leader Huw Thomas has said.
The High Speed Rail Group has released a new report titled Bullet Train: Voice Upgrade, in which leaders from across the country discuss how introducing high-speed rail to their region will deliver on the government’s upgrade commitment. It makes the case for bringing high-speed services to the north, Liverpool and West Yorkshire, as well as reiterating the need for a through station at Manchester Piccadilly.
In Wales, Thomas says Cardiff is a regional hub and a capital city that needs connectivity on a scale with other UK capitals. He says a high-speed rail connection to South Wales is not just desired, but essential.
Current investments in the associated rail network – namely the Core Valley lines and the main backbone of the Great Western Main Line – will soon be constrained by capacity limitations, Thomas believes. He argues that simply improving the existing network will not bring about the radical change required; Unlocking transport system capacity in South Wales and improving journey times to strategic locations across Wales and England will require a more strategic approach.
He makes two suggestions. The first is to build a new high-speed line from South Wales which then follows the existing Great Western Main Line corridor and connects to HS2 at Old Oak Common. His second proposal, which he describes as “more radical”, is to run a new high-speed line in a more north-easterly direction to connect to HS2 at the new Birmingham Interchange station.
This second proposal would create an X-shaped high-speed rail network, which Thomas says would be best – echoing the plan presented by Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning last year.
Thomas argues that linking South Wales to Birmingham Interchange – even without reaching HS2 speeds – would address a known limited capacity corridor between Bristol and Birmingham which limits growth in places such as Cheltenham and Gloucester. This would provide a better connection between South Wales and the Midlands and unlock access to the northern sections of HS2, Thomas said.
He also argues that this offers leveling potential to North Wales, as new connections to HS2’s Crewe hub would be possible. Thomas believes the X-shaped network would provide an alternative option for a route between North Wales and London via HS2, avoiding capacity and speed limitations in the Thames Valley. North Wales business group Growth Track 360 also recently said that the North Wales Mainline should be electrified and connected to HS2 at Crewe.
Thomas concludes his case for the construction of high-speed services in Wales by saying: “However, the realization of such a rail investment program in Wales would frankly require a transformation of the attitudes of policy makers in Whitehall. . The UK government’s decision to abandon electrification of the Great Western Main Line, west of Cardiff, continues to disturb many.
“Meanwhile, the Treasury’s insistence that HS2 is an ‘England and Wales’ project, despite the obvious economic disadvantages for most of Wales, sees the Welsh Government miss out on around £5billion. sterling in funding for rail infrastructure.
“An X-shaped high-speed rail network that properly connects the Cardiff city region to other parts and nations of the UK is exactly the kind of ambitious vision for the future rail network that we need, but the promise of a traffic jam tomorrow does little to meet the desperate investment requirement today.
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