15 August 2017
The Westminster government has threatened to put bids for the Wales and Borders franchise on hold amid a dispute with the Welsh Government over who gets the cash for rail improvements. Population is increasing, and the vast majority of people will gravitate to cities – which will become larger, more congested, and more crowded. The planning of our cities is of paramount importance if we are to enable the prosperity of our citizens, and of course plan for their happiness.
Pippa Bartolotti , Deputy leader of Wales Green Party said: “The current rate of urbanization will lead to more traffic, more pollution, and more frustration if we do not plan to relieve these symptoms of growth. A Green economy in a crowded city needs to be planned carefully in terms of infrastructure, transport networks and technical connectivity just as much as a dirty economy. Even if we all bought electric or hydrogen powered cars, it is only a matter of simple maths to see that cars make no sense in an urban environment. Mass movement of people requires adequate, fast and affordable mass transit networks.
“Who controls where we live, how we travel, where we work? In Wales it should be the Welsh Government. But it isn’t. It’s Westminster, and Westminster doesn’t care if Wales is a congested backwater or not. That is why they insist on pulling the strings of investment and compel Wales to dance to the tune of a vassal state. Matters of future prosperity and well-being in Wales should not be left to the Westminster government - who are mostly concerned with London which, by the way, has excellent public transport networks and world class broadband connectivity.”
The recent debacle over rail franchises, and the money to improve the rail network, is evidence that the Welsh Government is playing with one hand tied behind their back. In 2018 Wales will have total responsibility for rail franchises, and it is entirely reasonable that Wales should receive the money direct from these franchises in order to improve the network. At stake is more than a faster, cleaner, less crowded version of what we already have. At stake is the entire SE Wales Metro which, if planned properly will relieve the congestion in Newport and Cardiff, liberate the Gwent Valleys, and get us all to work and back without the stress of having to sit in endless traffic.
Pippa Bartolotti added, “It is unfathomable to me that the funding of the Metro is tied up with rail franchises concerned with replacing the services we currently have. They are separate issues, and need to be negotiated separately. Of course the franchises coming up for renewal should revert to public ownership, but frankly I don’t think the WG is up to managing it.
“There is money in the system and it needs to be put to work. We need to support our workplaces and our people. The underlying structure of our society needs to be properly supported with excellent mass transit systems. It's essential that the WG has plenty of time to negotiate the next tranche of trains, and that means the franchises should be fit for the future, not the horrendous deal done 15 years ago with Arriva which sees passengers in cramped and crowded conditions for hours. Without an adequate, sustainable (and obviously clean) transport system in place, growth will be chaotic.”