The UK Government has come under fire for scrapping electrification to Swansea – a move that will ensure diesel continues to power trains running on the Great Western line – just days before announcing plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040.
Welsh Labour described the decision as “ironic” and accused the Conservatives of a “piecemeal” approach to the environment. Friends of the Earth claimed it was “hugely disappointing”.
Plaid Cymru has warned that the switch to electric vehicles may send demand for electricity soaring, warned that Wales could be used as “a power plant for England” and called for the Assembly to be able to set energy policy.
The cancellation of the electrification project means trains will switch to diesel power for the journey from Cardiff to Swansea.
Christina Rees attacks ‘ironic’ decision
Shadow Welsh Secretary and Neath MP Christina Rees turned her guns on the UK Government saying: “It’s ironic that the Tories have announced their plans to ban diesel cars just days after scrapping the electrification of the rail line to Swansea. But it’s no surprise from a UK Government whose record in Wales is one of empty rhetoric, flip-flops and broken promises.
“In stark contrast to the Tories’ piecemeal approach to our nation and our environment, Welsh Labour is leading the way – investing in clean technologies for the automotive sector and developing a clean air zone framework for Wales, as well as backing key green infrastructure projects like the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and rail electrification.”
Friends of the Earth are ‘hugely’ disappointed
Friends of the Earth campaigner Oliver Hayes also voiced concern saying: “It’s ironic that a move towards electric cars was announced days after the cancellation of the electrification of the Great Western line to Swansea. When it comes to air pollution, road transport is the biggest problem with diesel vehicles worst of all.
“However we will need our whole transport system switched away from fossil fuels if we’re to seriously address climate change, so the electrification u-turn is hugely disappointing.”
Wales should receive a funding windfall as a result of the UK Government’s plans to provide £255m to English councils to support clean air efforts.
The nation should also be able to tap into £1bn of support to encourage the use of ultra low emissions vehicles. It is further expected to benefit from funding from the £290m National Productivity Investment Fund and support for clean buses.
Plaid Cymru warns of exploitation of Wales
Plaid Cymru Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards warned that Wales is at risk of being “exploited”, stating: “Despite Wales being a net exporter of electricity, our citizens are forced to pay higher electricity bills than elsewhere because we don’t have ownership over our own resources. If the British Government goes ahead with its plan to ban fossil-fuel vehicles there will be a surge in demand for electricity and no doubt the British Government will look to Wales’ natural resources as its solution once again.
“Wales produces almost twice as much electricity as it consumes so our electricity bills should be low but because our energy policy is decided at Westminster, our resources are used for the benefit of others. Electricity generated in the north of Wales is exported to England and then imported back in to the south of Wales at significant cost to Welsh consumers.
“I support efforts to cut emissions and clean up our environment but our country should not be used as a power plant for England.”
Chris Davies attacks Welsh Labour
Brecon and Radnorshire Conservative MP Chris Davies attacked Welsh Labour, saying: “I am calling on Christina Rees to bang some heads together in her party – we are seeing almost hourly shifts in position on Brexit policy and we are still waiting for the First Minister and his Economic Secretary to welcome the major economic shot in the arm the abolishing of the Severn Tolls will deliver. Instead of box-ticking grand tours around Wales with John McDonnell, Christina should get ‘colleagues’ in a room and to try devise a clear policy or two – they won’t, because they can’t agree on Brexit and are too busy wandering off in different directions.
“The Conservative party is getting on with the securing the right Brexit deal and committing to policies that will help grow the Welsh economy.”