Transport secretary Patrick Mcloughlin has caused consternation in the Welsh transport sector after failing to address issues of rail electrification in a flagship address to the devolved nation.
He also ruffled feathers by saying passengers from the north Wales region will need to change trains to get to London after HS2 opens to Crewe in 2027.
In a speech designed to promote the Government's vision for Welsh transport - which includes a £900m increase in capital funding - Mr McLoughlin told an audience at Cardiff City Hall that HS2 would transform travel to and from North Wales, ‘allowing passengers from North Wales to board HS2 at Crewe’.
He reaffirmed electrification of the Great Western main line ‘right through to Swansea’ but did not specifically mention electrification to Holyhead, for which the North Wales Economic Ambition Board (NWEAB) is pressing.
‘We have kick-started a task-force of local authorities, local businesses and the Welsh Government to build the case for further rail modernisation in North Wales,’ he said.
A spokesman for the North Wales Economic NWEAB, representing councils and businesses, welcomed Mr McLoughlin's acknowledgment of the importance of connecting the region to the Northern Powerhouse and HS2.
However he added: ‘Electrification of the line from Crewe and Warrington through to Holyhead needs to happen in the same timescale as completion of the hub station at Crewe. Being HS2-ready in that way will bring benefits for the North Wales and Cheshire economies, and for the UK economy as a whole.’
Philip Evans, Conwy CBC’s transport portfolio holder, said: ‘It is disappointing that the minister gave no clear indication of timescale for North Wales electrification. We also need some clarity as to the future of direct services to London if HS2 is seen as the connection for North Wales passengers.’
Conservative MP David Jones said changing at Crewe would not be necessary if the Holyhead line were electrified for ‘classic compatible’ HS2 trains to operate across North Wales.