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South Wales to London electrifican plans on hold

From Wales on line.co.uk  (see link at the bottom of this story)

FRESH doubts have been cast on plans for faster train services between South Wales and London after Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the scheme would be looked at “in the cold light of day”.

Mr Hammond told the Echo the previous Labour Government had announced the £1bn plan in “cavalier” fashion a few months before the general election.

The project – which would cut journey times by up to 20 minutes – has been put hold pending a review of all government spending.

But with the Treasury committed to £83bn of cuts over the course of the parliament, there is an expectation that the scheme will be dropped.

Then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the scheme on a visit to Cardiff in July last year, saying the cost would be met by allowing Network Rail (NR) to borrow more cash.

Mr Hammond yesterday said: “I don’t think a full cost-benefit analysis was carried out before [then-Minister] Lord Adonis made the announcement in the run-up to the election.

“We’ve made it very clear that we’re not going to allow our approach to Network Rail to be driven by artificial accounting practices.”

Mr Hammond said the Government was committed “in principle” to electrification, and was looking at alternative models of funding the scheme.

He added: “Politicians behave in a certain way in the run-up to an election. After a general election is a time for a more serious and considered approach to government, and for looking at things like this in the cold light of day.

“We are absolutely supportive of electrification but obviously we have to look at this project in terms of what we can afford.”

Under the timetable set out by Labour last year, the electrification of the line would be complete by 2017.

Wayne David, the Labour MP for Caerphilly, said last night: “It’s extremely disappointing that the Tory-Lib Dem Government have all but pulled the plug on this major investment.

“As Andrew Adonis said when he announced the investment, with electric trains you get a quieter, cleaner, more reliable and much cheaper train which benefits passengers and also the taxpayers because it’s much cheaper.”

A final decision is expected in October.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/welsh-politics/welsh-politics-news/2010/07/23/fast-trains-plan-was-election-ploy-91466-26913312/

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