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Wales is losing out on railway spending.

Byline: Martin Shipton

THE UK Government has been criticised after it emerged it was spending more on creating a new central London railway station than it is prepared to spend on electrifying the Great Western mainline linking South Wales to the capital.

The Department for Transport is shelling out pounds 1.1bn to build a new train station at Tottenham Court Road as part of the Crossrail project, which will enable mainline trains to travel underground from west of London to Essex and Kent.

Rail experts have told the Echo the entire cost of electrifying the main rail line between London Paddington and Swansea would cost no more than building a new station at Tottenham Court Road - yet the UK Government is only prepared to pay for electrification as far as Cardiff.

We understand the UK Government's current negotiating position is that, in addition to electrifying the mainline as far as Cardiff, it is prepared to pay for the electrification of the central Valleys lines that terminate at Aberdare, Treherbert, Rhymney and Merthyr Tydfil.

Currently, however, it maintains it will not electrify the mainline as far as Swansea, nor the lines to Maesteg and Ebbw Vale. It is also refusing to fund the electrification of the Vale of Glamorgan line beyond Barry to Bridgend, and has suggested the Welsh Government should pick up the total shortfall of an estimated pounds 120m.

Professor Stuart Cole of the University of Glamorgan, widely regarded as Wales' leading rail expert, said: "The cost of building a new mainline station for Crossrail beneath the existing Tottenham Court Road underground lines is as high as it is because a huge hole is having to be dug out and new wider tunnels created. It's a hugely complicated engineering challenge. "Although the Crossrail project is getting huge support from the UK Government, the fact is that cost benefit analyses show that electrifying rail lines in Wales would be more cost-effective in terms of the economic return on investment.

"Electrifying the rail lines to and in Wales will bring enormous benefits."

A spokesman for the UK Government's Department for Transport said: "Electrification brings the greatest benefit when it is implemented on busy rail lines where older diesel trains need replacing, which is why the Government has committed to electrifying the line from London to Cardiff.

"The Government continues to work closely with the Welsh Government to consider the business case for electrification of further rail lines in South Wales."

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* An artist's impression of the new Tottenham Court Road station, which will cost more to build than electrifying the train line from London to Swansea
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 26, 2012
Words:437
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