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Politics

High stakes over High Speed Rail

It’s worth keeping an eye on an announcement expected later by the UK Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond about plans for a new high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham.

The expected decision to go ahead with the London to Birmingham scheme will only highlight the uncertainty over the London to Swansea plan (Photo: John Proctor)

Although the project is one that would create a new line in England, today’s announcement is likely to affect Welsh politics in two ways.

Firstly, it’s one of the big projects put forward by the previous Labour government which the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has been reviewing.

Another is the planned electrification of the line from Swansea to Paddington – the very line I’m on as I write this. (That’s my excuse for any spelling or typing errors.) A decision on that is not expected until the new year and the government’s opponents fear it’s about to be shelved or reduced in scope so that, say, only part of the line is electrified.

On the other hand the government says it’s all still to play for although the costs have to be looked at more closely.

You can see that the expected decision to go ahead with the London to Birmingham scheme will only highlight the uncertainty over the London to Swansea plan, something that Labour and Plaid Cymru will continue to draw attention to. But the other impact to watch for is on the Welsh Secretary herself.

Her Buckinghamshire constituency is one of a series of Conservative areas through which the new line would be laid. She has said that she would vote against her government if it sticks to the current proposed route. As a cabinet minister that would mean she would have to resign.

The Transport Secretary says he’s listened to and acted on the concerns of colleagues like Mrs Gillan. We should find out later if he’s done enough to win her over.

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About Adrian Masters

By day, Political Editor at ITV Wales. By night, obsessed with music and books.

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