Credit: New Civil Engineer magazine
Imagine what impact it would have if we could reach London from north Wales in under 3 hours. High skilled jobs in London would be accessible to talented north Wales residents – who would only need to work a couple of days a week in London but would be able to live here, at home.
When I was elected I made two commitments – to deliver the manifesto I was elected on and to seek the electrification of the north Wales mainline.
There is much else that interests me and I put my energy into in order to deliver these commitments – for example, promoting our tourism sector, preserving the beauty of the natural environment we have, developing sustainable energy sources, developing better connections with the rest of the UK. I take an interest in our armed forces and strengthening our Union, the United Kingdom as these underpin our economic success and our place in the world.
Decarbonisation now has replaced “electrification” as the goal for the North Wales Main Line. Talk now also includes accommodating HS2 trains and using hydrogen, not just electricity to power trains.
The New Civil Engineer (NCE) magazine, the journal of my old profession, recently published an article pushing for electrification of the North Wales Main Line to Crewe and Warrington, which would allow HS2 trains to run directly from London and Birmingham to Chester and beyond.
I also spoke recently about this with the transport advisor for No 10 – who happens to be a fan of railways and a scholar of the north Wales lines.
The NCE article also included a series of conceptual artworks that really help visualise the proposed improvements. Produced by Nataliia Marchuk, a Ukrainian Fine Arts undergraduate at the University of Chester, the first shows an HS2 train passing Conwy Castle on an electrified North Wales Main Line.
Technical challenges to electrification are understood to include accommodating the utilities which share the track bed on the Britannia Bridge across the Menai Strait between Anglesey and the mainland, constraints of our listed Victorian tunnels and re-signalling west of Llandudno Junction. Some level crossing and platform works would also be required.
These are all surmountable with money – the full cost of the project was estimated at £750M several years ago, with industry insiders recommending discontinuous electrification as a possible solution to some of these challenges. This involves leaving gaps in the overhead line equipment where it cannot be fitted (e.g. tunnels that are too small) and relying instead on batteries or similar on the trains to power them across these short stretches.
And this is why a business case needs to be made. That also requires funding.
A fund was made available and I recently pressed the Under Secretary of State for Wales and the Railway Minister about this – you can watch the session by clicking here.
Commenting, Robin Millar said:
“I am also grateful to the New Civil Engineer for highlighting their campaign – I trained as a civil engineer and used to read this journal for the profession from cover to cover every week.
“I have welcomed, and fully support, the recommendations in Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review to utilise HS2 and electrification to better serve North Wales.”
Finishing, Robin said:
“Tens of thousands of people living in north Wales travel along the coast and to England every day for work, business, leisure, to see family and to access public services. Enhanced transport links are also essential for tourists – so improvements must increase capacity, improve quality, reduce travel times and help meet decarbonisation commitments.
“I will keep working towards this goal and hope that the questions I ask and the meetings I have with Ministers will help deliver the transport infrastructure that North Wales needs and deserves. The next important step is to secure funds for a business case to be made to have the works done.”