Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood has criticised Labour Ministers for stalling on a project to reopen a former railway tunnel linking the Rhondda and Afan valleys.
Correspondence from Highways England – the body who own the 3,148m Rhondda Tunnel – show that there had been no written correspondence to them from the Welsh Government until February of this year.
The Rhondda Tunnel Society, which was established in September 2014 with the aim of reopening the tunnel to attract walkers and cyclists to the area, say they have been frustrated in attempts to obtain grants while the issue of ownership is unresolved.
In February of this year, Ms Wood - Plaid Cymru candidate for the Rhondda - revealed that there had been no request for ownership of the tunnel forthcoming from the Labour minority Government to Highways England. The latest revelation shows that the Labour Government had been even less proactive by failing to write at all to Highways England regarding the tunnel until February of this year.
Writing on February 24th, an official for Highways England said: ‘I can confirm that until last week there had been no written correspondence in the last three years, at least that I can locate within our records, between my team, and its predecessors, and the Welsh Government in respect of Rhondda Tunnel.’
He adds: ‘Last week we received an email from a colleague in the Welsh Government to which I responded. This written correspondence (please see the attached) was the result of a phone call I took a few days before I received the email.’
Ms Wood, who is a resident of Penygraig and a member of the Rhondda Tunnel Society, said: "It was bad enough when we learnt that there had been no application from the Labour Government for ownership of the tunnel. Now we have discovered that there had been no written contact at all on any issues between Labour Ministers and Highways England.
"This is disappointing as it shows a lack of urgency, a lack of determination and a lack of ambition for two areas in need of regeneration.
"I would have expected there to have been exploratory inquiries at the very least from the Welsh Government in order to compile information about the project’s viability and the process of assuming ownership.
"The real shame is that in the Rhondda Tunnel Society you have an organisation that is spending a great of deal of time and effort into bringing this project to fruition. These qualities have not been seen in the Labour Government to date."
Ms Wood added: "I understand that since the story about the delay in asking for the tunnel’s ownership to be transferred came out in February, there has been a bit of movement from the Labour Government. I welcome that because it is better late than never to get the ball rolling with Highways England who have stated they can hand over ownership almost immediately once the request has been received.
"It is vital now that the excellent momentum that has been built up, continues and sees this project through to the end. If that is happen, we need the Labour Government to get fully behind the project."
Bethan Jenkins, Plaid Cymru candidate for Aberavon and South Wales West, said: "At a time when this part of the world is facing its biggest crisis in a generation, with an uncertain future for the steelworks at Port Talbot, the Welsh Government needs to start heading away from its silo mentality and understand the area’s economy as a whole. With such a grave threat hanging over us, it is absolutely imperative that ministers step up their plans for economic development and stop dithering and stalling the Rhondda Tunnel project.
"The Afan Valley was in dire need of the benefits this scheme – the most exciting and innovative project for decades – before the steel crisis loomed. Now it needs it more than ever. To do otherwise would be failing the people of the Afan Valley, the rest of Aberafan and all of South West Wales."
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