The decision to drop plans to extend the electrification of the mainline from Cardiff on to Swansea will not sound the death knell for business prospects in West Wales.
That’s the conclusion of commercial property specialists from Bruton Knowles’ Wales office who believe the controversial decision will not have a significant negative impact on investment in the city as some commentators are predicting.
Stephen James said the difference in journey time between Cardiff and Swansea if electrification had gone ahead would have been minimal.
“There is no denying the decision to drop plans to extend electrification of the mainline as far as Swansea is a disappointment – especially when the announcement coincided with news of billions of pounds worth of funding for the next phase of the High Speed rail network into the North of England.
“But we believe the greater majority of businesses in Swansea and West Wales will carry on regardless. It’s certainly not all doom and gloom.
“Swansea has a lot going for it – with upwards of £1.3billion of investment promised as part of the ground-breaking Swansea Bay City Deal and we remain hopeful additional funding for the Tidal Lagoon will come through.
“In addition we are seeing high levels of investment in the city centre, with plans to regenerate St David’s recently been given the green light by Swansea City Council. These form part of bigger redevelopment proposals across Swansea.
“The city’s burgeoning student population is also driving development with approval for a new 307-bedroom, 14-storey block at Kingsway also getting the green light.”
Stephen said businesses they were speaking to across Wales were more concerned at broadband speeds than the implications of electrification.
“Nowadays occupiers’ first line of inquiry is always about broadband speed. More and more businesses are internet or web-based and means they don’t necessarily have to be located in traditional, urban areas to operate.
“Superfast broad band is taking away the importance of location with more and more businesses moving away from major conurbations as they come to realise the benefits of re-locating to this part of Wales.
“It’s therefore important the installation of superfast broad band is accelerated to satisfy the needs of web-based businesses.”
And he said Swansea wasn’t the only city losing out on electrification of its rail lifeline.
The proposed electrification of the rail line to Bath and Bristol Temple Meads has also been shunted on to the back burner.
“While we share the disappointment of our colleagues in Bristol, we are, like them, encouraged to hear that travellers, businessmen and commuters have been promised more frequent and larger capacity trains.
“And while the fully electrified route from London to Cardiff will shave a respectable 15 minutes off the current journey times between the capitals, the journey on to Swansea would not have resulted in any significant time saving if electrification had been extended to Swansea.”
The new bi-mode trains to be introduced will switch from electric to diesel at Cardiff Central Railway Station and will get to Swansea just as quickly as electrified trains would have done.