Western Mail Country & Farming Column: A joined-up transport policy would benefit Wales
January 17th 2017

You've probably heard of the Trans-Siberian railway, spanning about a third of the circumference of the planet. But it is less likely that you have heard about the Trans-European Transport Network. TEN-T, as it is known, is one of the flagship programmes of the European Union. Its purpose is to literally connect up Europe so it is much easier and faster to travel around and to provide a boost for the economy.

All member states, including the UK, are part of the network and can benefit from its funding to improve communications. This is something we badly need in Wales, particularly in rural areas. We need improvements to road and rail as well as improving the links to Ireland via our ports. I have worked hard on this at EU level. In fact, the European Commission transport officials are well aware of Wales's needs and could not understand why not an inch of railway had been electrified.

The reason had been the reluctance of successive UK governments to apply for this funding because they would lose out on the rebate which comes back to the Treasury in London.

In 2013, when the new TEN-T map was published, not one of the main corridors was in Wales, even the vital connections westwards to Dublin. When I took this up with the Commission, I discovered that it was the UK Government that removed the Welsh links.

As we consider a future outside the EU, we must remember that even within it the UK did not prioritise the Welsh interest. Time after time we missed out on European programmes because the UK government opted out. So while Wales will certainly be much the poorer outside the EU, we have never felt the full benefits of membership.

While we are in the EU I will continue to put the interests of Wales first. That is why I have tabled a Written Declaration for MEPs to sign. If half the MEPs sign it, the Commission has to respond.

The declaration calls for accessibility for all regions and balanced coverage of transport networks throughout Europe. It is not right that 90% of the funds allocated to TEN-T (through the Connecting Europe Facility) have been earmarked for projects on the nine main ‘corridors’ which are the most developed routes in any case. It reflects how the member states have used EU funding to improve main connections, but not more remote or rural areas as they should have.

We must improve connections in Wales so all communities can benefit. Good transport links are essential to a successful economy and that is what we are building towards. We must also be strengthening our links with Ireland, not only for trade but also to develop our cultural potential, another aspect of the successful nation we know Wales can become.

Ends.

Photo: Jill Evans