Closed to business

I suppose Tory politicians can't help it, but their most hackneyed cliché must surely be "open for business". Cheryl Gillan is as prone to it as the rest of them, telling us yesterday that the electrification of the Great Western Line from Swansea and the Valley Lines would mean that Wales was open for business.

     Electrification across South Wales shows 'country open for business'

It's hard to know whether she meant anything by this or whether it was a natural and involuntary emission of air. But were we to take her seriously, then her message must be that south Wales and the Valleys won't actually be open for business until somewhere after 2017, and that the rest of Wales will remain closed to business for the foreseeable future.

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13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Too much reading into it. It's a good thing - welcome it!.

But what she says is fairly true. As one person said on the news y.day - had the M4 ended in Cardiff - would Amazon have considered locating there?. Probably not?.
So I agree with Cheryl - by placing infrastructure you are saying that these places are ready to welcome businesses.

On this, I am actually turning to quite like the Tories. I compare them with Labour and they DO seem to do more for us Welsh (maybe to try and win votes, that Labour don't have to?).

Anonymous said...

It's easy to take a very short-termist view of these things. Glasgow to London was electrified in 1974. Between 1979 and 1997 the Tories didn't electrify a single kilometre or railway in Wales. Labour only committed to doing it after Ieuan Wyn Jones became Transport Minister. They failed to deliver it though. The Tories retracted the electrification to Cardiff, bizarrely, and have now restored it to Swansea.

Seeing this as a matter of "liking" or "disliking" the Tories is juvenile. If the Tories hadn't committed electrification as far as Swansea a new fleet of diesel locos would need to have been purchased to run all services west of Cardiff. It would have been extremely costly. They had no choice, and it suits them to hype up this announcement.

The trick is to look at what will be happening in England at the same time as we get electrification. They'll be getting HS2- Midlands to London commutes in the space of 30 mins and a chance for the Midlands to seriously catch up with London's GVA.

This issue is much broader than party politics and the real story is huge long-term underinvestment in Wales since deindustrialisation picked up pace.

MH said...

If you move your tongue either left or right, it will end up in your cheek. People should try it sometime ;-)

Of course I welcome the investment, and I'm happy to give the Tories credit for the decision. It's a good thing. I was laughing at the cliché.

But on a more serious note, if this investment is going to be such a crucial factor in opening south Wales for business, then surely the same decision ought to be made so as to open other parts of Wales up for business too. Won't it be just as true for the electrification of the north Wales main line?

And Anon 16:32 has a point too. Wales is just getting a small share of far larger rail investments in England. Our fair share of the £33bn HS2 investment alone would be £1.9bn, as both Jonathan Edwards and someone less famous have pointed point.

In this case the pathetic thing is that we had to go cap in hand to the Westminster government to secure an investment entirely within Wales (as the decision to electrify from Cardiff to London had already been made). We should have been given our fair share of the money being invested in England and been able to decide for ourselves how we invest it.

Anonymous said...

"In this case the pathetic thing is that we had to go cap in hand to the Westminster government to secure an investment entirely within Wales (as the decision to electrify from Cardiff to London had already been made). We should have been given our fair share of the money being invested in England and been able to decide for ourselves how we invest it."

This is exactly right. This is what happens in Scotland. Because they have had a Scottish Network Rail budget along with their block grant they have invested year on year. In Wales Network Rail has only just created a Welsh office. The money allocated to Wales, as a proportion of what is being spent in England, should be controlled by Welsh Ministers, then we can actually hold them to account for investment decisions. They should have the power to top up the money using funds from other areas, or reduce the money if for some reason they wanted to invest even less in rail. At present there is no accountability and the result when the Tories spend the money they are responsible for is that people say things like "they DO seem to do more for us Welsh".

Seeing this as a gift from either the Tories or Labour is completely wrong. This IS good news but the only way Wales' longer term needs will be met is through voting for Plaid Cymru, not the Tories or Labour.

Hendre said...

First Valleys Mam and now here, has a new breed of cyber-Tories been hatched ... somewhere in Amersham.

MH said...

What did you think that tunnel was for, Hendre? Surely you didn't think it was only to stop the HS2 trains ruining the value of Cheryl's home? No, it was just a cover for dark and secret activities in dank bunkers deep below the Chilterns. Count how many trains go in but don't come out at the other end.

Anonymous said...

It's more than a bit odd, that the Welsh political class is smugly celebrating the UK Government doing its normal job. Rail infrastructure is not devolved and electrification to Swansea does not account for a Welsh percentage of rail infrastructure spending that is taking place in England.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this investment, it isn't even taking investment to an area where there's no business case for it, which is what you really need to kickstart Wales' performance.

The long-term future of railways in Wales, looking at the current lack of plans, will actually see us fall further behind England. I'm very sorry to be negative about this, and electrification is still a good thing, but we're actually slowing down not speeding up compared to England.

MH said...

On this one occasion Wales has just about got its fair share of investment. As far as I can tell without looking at the detailed figures, the investment in Wales is reported as £500m, and according to the DfT press release, the total investment is £9.4bn. Our "Barnettized" share of the £8.9bn invested in England would be 5.83% or about £512m. In other words, Wales has got no more and in fact slightly less than its fair share.

However this is quite unusual in the pattern of rail investment over the past few decades, and after being short-changed for so long, this probably explains why everybody is so relieved. It should be remembered that the reduced running and maintenance costs of electric trains will in itself pay for the capital cost of electrification, so in the longer term it's a cost neutral decision ... but if the cost of fossil fuels goes through the roof, it will pay for itself rather sooner.

Anonymous said...

Yep MH, I was alluding to High Speed 2 really. I believe work on that will be taking place around about the same time our electrification is going ahead.

Anonymous said...

So, 13 totally wasted years of Labour govt in Wales and Westminster then. What was their excuse?

Welsh Labour are seriously not fit to run a country.

Anonymous said...

Labour did waste their 13 years, but it's vital to remember the Tories supported all the bad things Labour did! And opposed the handful of good things Labour did.

The real alternative to Labour isn't the Tories, it's Plaid Cymru. If we believe the only choice facing us as Welsh people is Labour rule or Tory rule we are going nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Also it is worth looking at other nations for lessons. Although Catalonia's economic problems as a result of the Spanish debt crisis are well known, it's instructive to look at their rail capacity with high-speed rail connections to Madrid from Barcelona, Lleida and Taragona.

The Catalan Government owns its own railway company http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrocarrils_de_la_Generalitat_de_Catalunya

And the Spanish Government also operates the AVE high-speed services, and France's state rail company also runs services to France. Currently they are constructing a link between Barcelona and France's TGV network which will include a tunnel through the Pyrenees.

The Basque Country is also developing it's own high-speed rail network-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_Y

They are aiming for connections to Madrid and to France.

Both the Basque Country and Catalonia are wealthier than the UK as a whole and will likely remain so despite Spain's current crisis.

Wales needs to be aiming for high-speed rail, not old-fashioned electrification. Having electrificaiton delivered is positive but it isn't anything special. HS2, if it's what it's cracked up to be, will bring European-style quality rails. The gap in infrastructure between Wales and England will therefore be maintained, not narrowed.

We must bear all this in mind when the Tories and Labour are using electrification as a great victory. It's a step forward in absolute terms but not a relative step forward compared to the UK as a whole.

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