MEP meets senior EU officials to explore opportunities
There is vast, untapped potential to develop Wales' rail infrastructure that will massively benefit the economy and environment, according to Plaid MEP Jill Evans.
It was Jill Evans who uncovered last month how Wales had been deliberately left off the TEN-T map for priority EU funding by the UK government. The Welsh government had allowed this to happen.
The EU's TEN-T programme for developing cross-border transport links is worth 26bn euros. There are no main corridor routes in Wales but there is a secondary network of core routes that can be developed.
At a top level meeting in Brussels last week, EU officials confirmed to Jill Evans that they were keen to receive proposals to include Welsh transport links in the funding scheme.
Jill Evans said:
"The Commission would welcome proposals for Welsh transport links and are keen to help develop our infrastructure. In fact, they told me that they had been waiting for an application for funding to support the London to Swansea railway mainline. We know that funding was available last year for a study on electrification of the railway line across the north of the country, which I had lobbied the government to apply for, to no avail.
"There is a serious lack of ambition in the Welsh Government which is preventing Wales from succeeding.
"We need an ambitious programme to improve our economy. We can make Europe work for Wales and that means working directly with the Commission on schemes such as this. I fail to understand why the Welsh Government is not exploring and exploiting every opportunity that the EU offers. I am certainly doing that."
Jill Evans also welcomed a new EU programme to fund railway modernisation known as Shift2Rail. Worth 1 billion euros (840m pounds) over the next seven years, it will provide funding for research and innovation to develop Europe's railway networks for both passengers and freight.
Despite being efficient and climate friendly, at present rail carries only 10% of freight and 6% of passengers. The new scheme will be a public-private partnership with rail companies and rolling stock manufacturers.
In the UK, Network Rail has already pledged a reported 25m pounds towards a package that will be match funded by the European Commission. Overall, the European Commission will provide 450m euros, and the industry around 470m over the period 2014-2020.
Jill Evans MEP said:
"There's so much potential in Wales to develop our national rail network for passengers and freight and these EU projects give us the opportunity to do that.
"We must take full advantage of this and every opportunity to help build a more modern and efficient railway network. That means making Europe work for Wales rather than letting the UK government hold us back."