Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Speeches What I Wrote

When you blog as infrequently as I do, it's important to ensure that anything you write gets put down for digital posterity. To that end, here are the two speeches I gave at Welsh Conference last weekend in Wrexham (of which more anon...) First, in the transport consultation debate;

Never has a government rested quite so luxuriously on its laurels than the Labour/Plaid coalition has on transport. In the early days of devolution there were real achievements; the Vale of Glamorgan Line, the Ebbw Vale Line, concessionary fares...

But while our new Minister has delivered quite nicely for his own vanity (it's called Ieuan Air for a reason) the projects that matter have stagnated and even the misguided projects they were pursuing, they can't afford. Heck, they can't even manage to get Cardiff's Eastern Bay Link Road, the main road between the Assembly and the M4, going and if you can't rely on the naked self-interest of politicians, what can you rely on?

Meanwhile, they just peddle the same old line as Westminster; longer platforms, longer trains. But while those are undoubtedly necessary, if Dr. Beeching taught us anything its that the railways must go directly to people in their own communities. Thanks to our since-abandoned industrial heritage, the scope for expansion in Wales is enormous; the Swansea District Line, the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen Line, the Fairwater-Creigiau Line and ten new stations in Cardiff, plus Carno, Rossett, Caerleon and all the rest.

Particularly in the downturn, we need a step change in our ambition for the railways. To deliver that, we need a step change in the way we operate, from franchises to regional transport consortia and I'm particularly glad the consultation document recognises that.

We talk so often about the things devolution can't do. Transport is something it can do. Labour and Plaid should be ashamed at how little they've done with it and we are perfectly placed to show them what they could have won. Heck, at least that speedboat might have been more use than Ieuan Wyn Jones has...

And then on tidal power;

I should really start by declaring something of an interest; once upon a time I worked for an electricity generating company and I have a Masters degree in Nuclear Reactor Technology. I think it's safe to day, therefore, that if anyone was going to stand up here and push for the biggest, shiniest engineering boondoggle imaginable, it would be me.

I'll admit too that I was rather worried about this report before it came out, because if there's a wishy-washy, half-arsed, wouldn't hurt a fly energy policy out there then by gum we'll try it!

I'm happy to say, however, that this report is nothing of the sort. It's a recognition that if we want to replace the fifty billion kilowatt-hours of electricity we use that is produced from carbon-emitting sources, we must take advantage of the unique tidal resource we have in the Severn Estuary.

Equally, however, it recognises that there is so much more that you can do than has been proposed so far. The existing barrage proposal has been around for so long it has become synonymous; Lavernock Point-Brean Down is the barrage, the barrage is Lavernock Point-Brean Down. But as the report shows, the Lavernock Point-Brean Down barrage is too slow and not the best way to maximise the power output of the estuary.

The thing I think you should bear particularly in mind, however, is the additional infrastructure these proposals would allow. A rail link from Penarth to Weston would be slow, difficult to build and do little to boost usage. The Shoots barrage, on the other hand, is a perfect replacement for the 125-year-old Severn Tunnel. The Aberthaw-Minehead tidal reef would be a significant shortcut between South Wales and the South West, get the West Somerset Line reopened and potentially provide flood defences for the whole of Somerset.

In conclusion, this is a comprehensive, ambitious policy and I urge you to support it.

And in both cases, they did.

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