Chancellor pushes scrutiny of train funding into siding after tough questions

Temporary chancellor Nadhim Zahwai’s ‘people’ ended an interview with WalesOnline after becoming muddled about how the Government was helping Welsh train projects.

Rail funding has become a hot topic in Wales on the back of analysis by WalesOnline which showed just how much the country was missing out as funds as pumped into HS2, which will link London to Birmingham and then maybe further North too.

“Though more than £96bn will be spent on HS2 in England successive Tory-led administrations at Westminster have decided that Wales is not entitled to a consequential share,” wrote WalesOnline’s Welsh Affairs Editor Will Hayward.

“In 2015 David Cameron’s government applied a 0% comparability factor for Wales to HS2 spending. This means Wales gets no extra funding at all, though Scotland and Northern Ireland are both getting a huge amount.”

So when the chancellor visited Wales, WalesOnline sought to put questions to him about rail funding.

The chancellor initially tried to reference other funding Wales was getting — which it would have received anyway, and also claimed that Wales would be getting a major HS2 terminal. That terminal will be in Crewe, in Cheshire, England.

When challenged on this, the chancellor went into a long answer about other funding, investing at a Ministry of Defence site in North Wales, and the how the four nations of the UK are better together.

But when WalesOnline tried again to get a straight answer, Mr Zahwai’s team intervened, saying they were at time. Requesting one more question, WalesOnline was told: “The Chancellor’s got a very busy schedule but thank you for your time.”

Writing up his encounter, Will added: “All he says about the UK economy has utterly no bearing what so ever on why HS2 has been classified as an England and Wales project — especially as there is a strong argument that Scotland actually benefits more than Wales. Finally their refusal to even engage in further questioning about this massive issue affecting Wales is telling. Avoiding reasonable and legitimate scrutiny is not respectful to the union — it directly threatens it.”

Read more: Liverpool Echo leads push for city to unite to find killer of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

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