Severnside is back on the agenda

Geraint Talfan Davies reports on what may have been an historic public discussion between the leaders of Cardiff and Bristol

One of my earliest tasks as a young journalist in the Western Mail was to report on the publication in 1971 of a report published jointly by the Welsh Office and the UK’s Environment Department on the feasibility of planning a Severnside region. It was prompted by challenging population forecasts that foresaw a need for several new cities in the UK. When British fertility rates started to plummet the concept withered on the vine.

Four decades on, in Cardiff last week, I sensed a revival of the idea as the new leader of Cardiff Council, Phil Bale, and the elected mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, engaged in a public session in front of an audience drawn from the business communities of south Wales and the West of England. By coincidence, perhaps, fertility rates are on the rise again.

This was not a debate as such, as both men were in total agreement on the need for urgent cooperation between both sides of the channel if they are not both to be left behind by the development of the North of England proposition around Manchester and Leeds.  In recent months, there has been something of a bidding war between the Conservative and Labour leaderships, to offer goodies to the north of England – although far less devolution of funding than was proposed in two reports, the one by Lord Heseltine for the Tories and the other by Lord Adonis for Labour. Ferguson even described the recent English ‘city deals’ as ‘baby steps’. Cities, he said, needed to retain more of their taxation.

In the last year it is as if George Ferguson, himself a distinguished architect and past president of the RIBA, has been wooing Cardiff. He confessed that as the policy focus in England shifts to the city regions, he has felt rather lonely as the mayor of the one major city in the south of the country (outside London). He wants Cardiff and south Wales as an ally, and has been supportive of Cardiff’s successful bid to join the core cities network – a network that Ferguson would be happy to rename the “Great Cities Network’.

Both men saw a common destiny and a model in the Oresund region that links Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmo in Sweden to create a trans-national region of nearly 4 million people.  Those two metropolitan areas have been linked by a 16-kilometre road/rail bridge and tunnel since 2000. Commuting between the two communities has increased sharply in the last 14 years, partly because house prices have been cheaper in Sweden, and 14 universities at either end of the link have combined into an alliance as Oresund University – reputedly the largest in Europe – with 150,000 students. The area boasts it is ‘northern Europe’s strongest home market’.

A cross-channel Severnside region would be rather smaller in population than Oresund – approximately 2.5 million. Two Severn road crossings already exist, as does a rail tunnel, although it has to be said a rather antiquated one. In the last few years there has been greater partnership working between the two cities: the Great Western Partnership that lobbied successfully for rail electrification and, more recently, the less successful joint bid to stage some of the Euro 2020 football matches. The fact that the Severn Barrage concept – with its impact on Bristol and Avonmouth ports – has foundered has also removed a possible obstacle to collaboration.

A cross-channel university alliance – the Great Western Four – has been launched, linking four research intensive Russell Group universities: Cardiff University, and the universities of Bristol, Bath and Exeter.

Interestingly, in the discussion between the two leaders, there was no sense of inequality between the two cities, and certainly no feeling of Cardiff as the supplicant. Although Bristol city is larger and wealthier than Cardiff, Ferguson is envious of the quality of redevelopment in the centre of Cardiff compared with that of his own city, and of Wales’s ability to mount major events such as the NATO summit. Phil Bale admires Bristol’s record on green issues.

The south East Wales city region would actually have a population almost 50 per cent greater than a Bristol and West of England region. Their combined population of 2.5 million would be comparable with Greater Manchester, and slightly larger than the West Yorkshire conurbation around Leeds.

Rail developments are likely to be a continuing focus and a top priority. George Ferguson thought that high speed connections between Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff should be the next high speed rail project – the next HS3 – and in a way that would create a much shorter journey time between Cardiff and Bristol – around the 35 minutes that it now takes to get from Copenhagen to Malmo. Phil Bale was emphatic that they did not want to be HS6 or HS7.

There seems to me to be a need for a detailed study of rail strategy for the cross-channel area as there is the potential for some conflict between current plans for electrification, longer term aspirations for high speed services and the need for fast local services between the two main cities. There is also the possibility that in time the Severn Tunnel may become to rail what the Brynglas tunnels are to the M4 – a nasty pinch point.

In pursuing the wider city region concept within Wales it is clear that there may be three dimensions to the development, the first two of which certainly need to be aligned:

  • The development of the two city Welsh city regions – south west Wales based on Swansea and South East Wales based on Cardiff. The key issue will be how the Welsh Government chooses to move forward on making these an operational reality. This  will mean moving beyond the functions of the current advisory boards. They will need clear functions, funding and a degree of autonomy – probably starting with transport.

  • The second strand will be development of the cross channel region, in the hope that it will encourage a city deal with the UK Treasury that will be of benefit to both sides. This will also need a level of understanding and co-operation  between the Welsh Government and Cardiff Council. A first step should surely be the appointment of the leader of Cardiff Council to the south East Wales Board. His continuing absence is clearly anomalous.

  • The third strand, that may be more of a mid term aspiration will be collaboration between the south east Wales and south West Wales city regions to foster the idea of extending the cross channel region concept as far west as Swansea.

There will surely be an interesting discussion quite soon between the Business Minister, Edwina Hart, who has promoted the city region idea and Leighton Andrews, newly re-appointed to the Welsh Cabinet to re-shape local government and other public services.  There is a lot at stake.

Geraint Talfan Davies is former Chair of the IWA. He is Chairman of the Welsh National Opera and former Controller of BBC Wales.

44 thoughts on “Severnside is back on the agenda

  1. Frightening! I regularly travel around the Bristol area for work, and they have such a low opinion of Wales it is incredible. The idea of cooperation and establishing a Severnside region is fantasy. The fact that it is chic to link up areas of England may be fine for them but why are we always wagging our tail to the English policy dog? This is a very sad indictment of where we are.

  2. Geraint Talfan Davies has rightly spotted that there is more to geo-politics in the UK than devolution to its constituent nations. In addition to devo-max for the nations we now have devo-met – which refers to the devolution of powers to city-regions within the nations. Devo-met and devo-max need not be mutually exclusive, though partisan advocates may try to suggest otherwise. The Severnside Alliance should be part of our multiple identities in Wales, a complement to rather than a substitute for other alliances at home and abroad. A progressive geo-politics is now a matter of urgency because the geo-political landscape in the UK could take a truly dystopian turn very soon, especially if UKIP continues to advance, if the Tories win the 2015 election and if the In/Out referendum triggers an exit from the EU. In such a dystopia, would Scotland and Wales want to be tethered to a Tory England that had elected to quit the EU or would they vote to leave Little England to re-join the Union? Whether it is about cities, city-regions or nations, geo-politics is back on the agenda in the UK like never before.

  3. Yes…..let’s get to to the nitty gritty which the UK economy and the Brit mindset revolves around: house prices are cheaper in Wales. And no, you cannot compare the ‘trans-national’ region that links Denmark and Sweden; Wales’ relationship to England is rather different to that shared by the two Nordic nations.

  4. So countless billions from the Welsh public purse and other sources have been poured into Cardiff to give us a ‘capital to be proud of’ only for Cardiff (and Newport) to now become Bristol’s junior partner.

    It bears out what I have argued for over 20 years, Cardiff was using its status as Welsh capital to get investment for 3 million people rather than 300,000 and give it an advantage over other provinicial English cities, which is how Cardiff’s leaders always saw the city.

    Severnside – or indeed Deeside – is not Oresund, for Sweden and Denmark are both independent countries that will defend their own national interests. Wales has only a rag-bag Assembly fronted by third-raters and run by English civil servants.

    If Cardiff’s leaders wish to cut themselves off from Wales, then let them do so. But it must be done without ‘Welsh’ national public funding, no more than Cardiff itself is due. And if Severnside does go ahead then it might be difficult for Cardiff to remain capital of a country it has turned its back on.

  5. Furthermore, Welsh politicians should be attempting to make our Capital City more competitive than Bristol rather than picking up the scraps off the English table once again. They could start by all backing the devolution of Airport duty tax.

  6. Royston and David are spot on. What is this obsession amongst Cardiff policy-makers (and it appears the IWA) with devaluing Wales and the ‘Welsh brand’? As someone who works in PR I know that this talk of Severnside is already having a negative effect on selling Wales – as a vibrant, strong, unique nation – to tourists and investors. Royston is perfectly correct in saying that if Cardiff wants to become an ‘English city’, in outlook and approach, then it should do so openly and honestly, and not in the underhand way it is doing so at present. Then the Welsh Government, and the majority of Welsh people who live oustside the Cardiff bubble, can consider other options – Swansea, Aberystwyth, Wrexham – as our primary national locus.

  7. Twenty years ago, there was serious talk of Cardiff overtaking Bristol to become the de facto capital of South West Britain. Now Bristol is resurgent and Cardiff is having something of an identity crisis. A great part of the problem is that the more grandiose visions of Cardiff’s civic leaders undermined the very factors that had led to Cardiff’s recent success. There is also the perennial question of Cardiff’s relationship with her hinterland. A new structure, especially a new layer of government, is not the answer: it would be just one more player on an already overcrowded field. It would, moreover, be a distraction from the real issue, which is that there needs to be a change of attitude and culture in South Wales politics in general.

  8. Another thought . . . Where does this leave the ‘city region’? Are the two plans compatible? Because if the Heads of the Valleys is poor now, close to wealthy Cardiff, what future does the region have when the economic focus switches east?

    This Severnside plan is Cardiff acting in the (perceived) interests of Cardiff and to hell with the rest of Wales. If this plan proceeds then Cardiff must be stripped of its capital status and all the benefits that go with it.

  9. Pipe dream planning is what this phenomenon was called back in the halcyon days of “regional planning.” On the other hand, the notion of inter-community collaboration on key issues such as transportation makes sense, as long as the communities to be affected are included in the discussion.

    A person I know who lives in Chepstow looks three ways for services provided by large urban centers – Cardiff, Bristol and Gloucester. We forget that Newport and Monmouth are located at a pivotal point in the connections between these three centers. Time to think “regionally” instead of bi-laterally. Otherwise the intermediate communities miss out on the action.

  10. Why is this desirable at all? Cardiff is an hour from Bristol however way you want to do it [bar walking which I suspect is slower most of the time] There is no bridge/tunnel linking the two cities. The link between Malmo and Copenhagen is a poor example as they are both parts of separate nation States and Malmo is definitely subservient to Copenhagen as the latter is a capital.

    Look near East and West to Newport and Bridgend&Swansea. There are 2.2 million people living in south Wales and is the most densely populated region in the southwest of the UK. We need better rail and road links in our own patch. We need a science park sitting between Cardiff and Swansea, a much better Airport, fast train links between Cardiff, Bridgend, Newport and Swansea and for God’s sake a bloody good link between north and south Wales. And how about revitalising Port Talbot into a very deep port for the largest classes of shipping.

    Oh and by the way it is the Oresund Connection that generated the uplift in Oresund economic area and that cost in total $15Billion. [ $10Billion for the tunnel and $5Billion for the bridge].

  11. If we consider the towns and cities along the M4/GW train-line we have Swansea, Port Talbot, Bridgend, Cardiff and Newport. End to end takes 1:15 hour in the car and around 1:15 on the train.
    The combined population of this area tied to the transport links is just over 1Million with a further 1 Million people living within reach of these major stopping points. We should be concentrating on this area in the south.

  12. Ymgais arall i werthu allan ein gwlad gan ddynion, os na newidient eu ffyrdd, y bydd hanes yn ei cofio fel bradwyr ceiniog a dime

  13. It is hard to know where to start in addressing the pot-pourri of prejudices displayed in reaction to what I thought was a simple recognition of realities. Clearly reality is not popular with some people. Jack Rawls worries about “Bristolians’ low view of Wales’. Royston Jones sees ‘Cardiff as the junior parter’., ‘cutting itself off from Wales’. David sees ‘Cardiff picking up the scraps’ left by Bristol. Jeff Vincent claims ‘Cardiff wants to be an English city’ and is pursuing it ‘in an underhand way’. Jon Winterson Richards thinks ‘Cardiff is having an identity crisis’. All in all a quivering display of insecurities. Call in the therapists.

    In contrast I see a Cardiff more assured in its identity than ever, confident in its future, with a more constructive relationship with the rest of Wales and with its immediate hinterland than at any time in my lifetime – the city region aspiration is an expression of that. I see a city able to look to its own patch and neighbours as well as out towards the rest of the world. There is a public artwork in Cardiff Bay – two iron pillars, on one the names of the all the collieries whose coal came through the port, on the other the names of all the cities in the world to which that coal went. It is symbolic of the stance that any city worth its salt must take. It is the reality of the geo-politics to which Kevin Morgan refers. Those who peddle false ‘either…or’ arguments will lead us nowhere.

    The creation of a tangible Welsh polity through devolution – as well as the successful development of the city itself – means that Wales and its capital can embark on relationships with strong neighbours without any sense of inferiority or worries about cultural dilution. And let us be conscious of those strengths: a capital city that gives it a status within the UK only three other cities share, a high growth rate, a more compact and better planned central shopping area, a powerful cultural offering that few cities of its size can match, growing strength in higher education, a major centre of media activity. Most of these are a match for Bristol, whose historic advantages derive from having a richer hinterland, a long commercial history and being located east of the Severn. For the future we have to be shaping an urban region that stretches from Llanelli to Bath, where the majority of the population lives west of the Severn. East and West of the Severn have to be in dialogue.

  14. The New Labour Cardiff City Council administration has actually managed to go from bad to worse under Phil Bale the replacement for Russel Goodway. Any combination of Cardiff and Bristol will be to Bristol’s benefit. Much of Cardiff’s wealth and status comes from it being the capital city. That wealth and status will grow as Wales frees herself from the meddling of English politicians be they in London or Bristol.

  15. GTD, with respect, the diversity of responses to your article, summed up in the first paragraph of your own comments, is itself confirmation of Cardiff’s identity crisis.

    The only unquestionable reality here is that Cardiff has just committed itself to a massive expansion, destroying the environmental assets which gave Cardiff a competitive advantage, based on the assumption that 40,000 new jobs can be conjured out of thin air.

    No one – absolutely no one – really believes those jobs are really going to happen.

  16. I have lived in Cardiff but am currently living and working in Bristol; this is my ‘2nd return’ – I studied here over 20 years ago; I also had a period of working here in the mid-nineties when I often heard the comment “Bristol’s a great town, but could be amazing if it got itself in order”. Well, having lived over here for the last 2 years I am inclined to think that the town is getting itself in order. As Geraint makes reference to, it’s a historic port city, growing up in parallel with London as the principal Western port of Britain, and past figures in history have commented on the similarities between London and Bristol.

    The history that has given the city wealth and a unique and pretty grand structure. I have a tendancy to view Cardiff through critical eyes (I think it’s a consequence of wanting to have a capital city I can feel really proud of). But I am not sure what Cardiff can really offer Bristol that it can’t muster itself – the media industry that has been alluded to? But shopping areas etc. can be planned, and with Bristol on the cusp of developing it’s new Local Enterprise Zone adjacent to Temple Meads Station (complete with arena), given the size of the city it’s likely that this will be on a scale greater than what Cardiff offers and with better connections to the rest of the Uk.

    On the other hand what could Cardiff stand to gain? Bristol is a very affluent city, and with one of the highest Gross Value Added figures outside of London; the city has a very independent-minded / intellectual / radical streak. Could Cardiff tap into this aspect of Bristol, and spread the gospel to it;s hinterland? Or will Bristol become such an all big focus that South Wales becomes an also-ran providing the cheap labour.

    As the trend appears to be towards regions and cities, it might be the case that Cardiff has no option other than to throw in it’s lot with a Severnside. Mention was made of Llanelli to BAth – would there be an equivalent for the North? (I’m yet to be convinced that Cardiff is in touch with the rest of Wales, particularly the North East of Wales)

    In a partnership like this, I don’t think there will be the kind of imbalance that exists with a ‘London and anywhere-outside-of-London’ arrangement; but I am fearful of BRistol being able to offer more, and Cardiff committing itself to a partnership at the expense of regeneration of the valleys community, and tying itself into a senior partner which has first refusal on projects owing to size and proximity to London. If Cardiff can hold it’s own I think the 2 cities can complement each other, but I do not want North Wales to feel it’s being left out.

  17. “And let us be conscious of those strengths: a capital city that gives it a status within the UK only three other cities share, a high growth rate, a more compact and better planned central shopping area, a powerful cultural offering that few cities of its size can match, growing strength in higher education, a major centre of media activity.
    Most of these are a match for Bristol, whose historic advantages derive from having a richer hinterland, a long commercial history and being located east of the Severn”

    So what exactly s Bristol bringing to the party?

  18. That’s a bit narrow minded Geraint. I would also like to be in dialogue with Reading and Slough. But neither places have much in common with Cardiff, Wales. Pretty much like Bath or Bristol. English cities with vastly different histories and ‘richer hinterlands’. So different to Cardiff as you yourself admitt. Are you hoping for some scraps to fall from their tables? No! Better to be confident and have a dialogue with the rest of the world.

  19. Further to Geraint’s comments above I would add that there is absolutely no problem working with Bristol on common interests but I would like to see us further develop out own region [centred around a science and technology park] here first – it will be cheaper to do so and more coherent. I wrote a few words about it in a presentation I sent to Edwina Hart, both Swansea and Cardiff Universities and Gerry Holtham too. Feel free to have a look:

  20. So the only way SE Wales can get a small amount of extra finance is to be blackmailed by the English Treasury into a Severnside city region which is a typical divide and rule move to try and shore up a dysfunctional UK state. Bristol has always taken from S Wales and given little back and yes the first poster was right the general attitude in Bristol is to look down there noses at anything over the bridge.
    Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and Wales has nothing to gain from such a move, it is being suggested to cement Bristols economic advantage. S. Wales would gain far more if the London Treasury would scrap the tolls on the bridges, they did it for the Humber, instead there is some hopeful talk of a high speed rail line in the 23rd century!

  21. “There is also the possibility that in time the Severn Tunnel may become to rail what the Brynglas tunnels are to the M4 – a nasty pinch point.”

    As a transport aside on the potential bottleneck – seem to recall seeing a proposal in a book produced by the following body:

    …which proposed running light rail on the 2nd Severn Crossing (taking up the central lanes of the bridge?

  22. The response from the English to devolution has been slow in coming,however we in Wales now face greater challenges from major cities/regions outside the M25 enclosure. It makessense for Bristol to seek partnership with Cardiff and south east wales to ensure that both ‘regions’ adopt their policies and spending priorities to ensure maximum economic development. I am surprised that GTD is surprised about the ‘negativity’ shown in comments,however in many people’s eyes the growth/riches of Caerdydd is at the expense of other areas,rather than viewing it as an opportunity for their economic development.The reality is that north east wales has virtually no economic,or social links with Cardiff and south east wales,however to nationalists the main aim is to develop wales as a whole,which flies in face of economic reality. We live in a ‘market driven’ economy,with people demanding good value for goods/services as is evidenced by a)growth of Bristol airport,b)the reverse as far as Cardiff airport is concerned and hence its ‘nationalisation’ by Carwyn Jones!!. There are now regular buses from Swansea and pick up points along M4 to Bristol Airport because flights/costs much superior to local offerings,so if we don’t supply the goods/services that people want in greater Caerdydd that people vote with their feet,or cars/buses!!.There is no doubt that Cardiff is now a very attractive city,and people I know travel from the well off areas of Somerset,and by pass Bristol/Bath for shopping experience in totality in Cardiff,so we can be very successful.Its clear that we need people of great a)vision,b)energy to drive matters forward in south eas t wales,however I do not believe that WAG as presently constituted is ‘fit for purpose’ as its main aim seems to be ‘nation building’ which is a’ false god ‘if there ever was one!!.ps. It all depends on the funding from central government in UK being maintained,as without it we are in deep trouble.

  23. People trade and deal according to their self interest. But large collective enterprises require commitment, a bit of passion and an ambition for the collectivity. Lots of people are proud to be Welsh and want Wales to progress. Does anyone identify themselves as a proud Severnsider? Go to Bristol to shop or fly if it suits you as an individual but if we are voting for infrastructure investment or developments using public funds look to home. GTD should remember we sold the coal to Rio de Janeiro but the pits were dug in the valleys. Unfortunately we didn’t keep the money and now Tata imports coal from Brazil.

  24. R.Tredwyn: “GTD should remember we sold the coal to Rio de Janeiro but the pits were dug in the valleys. Unfortunately we didn’t keep the money and now Tata imports coal from Brazil.” How true! We’ve been sold down the river so many times it is beyond a joke. Bristol would undoubtedly drop Cardiff when it suited them? Severnside is quixotic, but then the Cardiff Bay acolytes live and breathe such reverie.

  25. I can’t forget, no matter how hard I try, the dusty Severnside files in the BBC News Library I looked after all those years and decades ago. Everybody sneered instinctively at their rich mix of unsupported assertion, smiley-face optimism, economic illiteracy, and Judas-minus-the-30-pieces-of-silver anti-Welsh bigotry. Hardened, cynical hacks assured me that the whole exercise was a PR kite kept aloft only by money from the other side of the bridge. It would, they assured me, never be flown again. Even donkeys laughed at the Severnside canard, and nobody would ever expose themselves to the contempt and ridicule of ordinary intelligent people by trying to fly it again.

    This only shows how wide of the mark the most perceptive of newshounds can be at times.

  26. Anyone would think that I had propounded the abolition of Cardiff and Wales and the extension of the remit of the Mayor to Bristol to encompass everything from Gurnos to Gower. No-one in their right mind would go down that path. The admission of the concept of Severnside is simply a question of ensuring that present and future reality of what lies west of the Severn needs to be part of our mental map, as it already is for business. I agree with Tegid Roberts that it is primarily a matter of collaboration on matters of common concern, based on enlightened self-interest. I also agree with him that our primary concern must be the economic development of our own country. But, let’s cut out the ‘either….or’. It’s not Cardiff or the Valleys. or, as David suggested, dialogue with the West rather than the rest of the world. Its both of these things and more. We are surely capable of juggling with more than one club.

  27. There is nothing wrong with the notion of the leaders of two major urban centers forming an alliance to discuss issues such as accessibility and transportation in a regional context. It would be a fractured situation if they did not. Discussions of this kind lead to alliances and partnerships depending on the issues involved.

    GTD wrote a piece that welcomes inter-urban discussion. If regional planning is to be successful, the partnership is strengthened by the involvement of other local authorities in the area, particularly in the discussion of transportation issues.

    Perhaps the Institute should organize a training course on partnership formation and collaboration to press home the point. There is clearly a lot of learning needed about working constructively with others.

  28. I think Simmo and a few others are being a little pessimistic about Cardiff’s potential, and maybe a little optimistic about Bristol’s. In terms of historical economic importance and the advantages this brings, Bristol’s clearly ahead. Likewise, I’m sure many young people will tell you that if you like music or conversation rather than £1 shots and chips, Bristol has a better nightlife. However, Cardiff has clearly moved ahead in tourism, sport, certain aspects of culture (opera, anyone?) and large civic projects (an arena, the WMC, the Millenium Stadium, the Swalec Stadium, the Cardiff City Stadium, the Bay development, the International Sports Village just to name a few). A friend who is a Bristol City supporter has commented that the ‘independent’ streak that many people associate with Bristol has often seen ambitious projects stopped short by NIMBYism – and in his previous career George Ferguson tended to agree I think

    The upshot is that you cannot compare the two cities. What you can say is that what one offers, the other cannot offer to the same degree. Cardiff is unlikely to better Bristol for legal services or finance, but the latter’s medieval layout and steep hills will never challenge Cardiff’s comfortable density and walkability – things that can really matter if you value your service economy or quality of life. Devolution to cities and regions is a welcome development but this should not become a rat race in which great cities seek to do each other over. The fact is that with transport links and new communications technology, it matters less and less whether a provincial city can be as ‘good’ as London, or as the next provincial city. People travel through the tunnel/over the bridge for work and leisure every single day. To deny this based on nationalism is foolish, but to suggest that the rise of one will by necessity disrupt the opportunities available to the other is equally foolish.

  29. Greater collaboration with our neighbours has happen if Wales is to prosper economically and culturally.

    Inward looking isolationism driven my a misguided notion a nationalism is a one way street to greater dependency on outsiders and increased deprivation.

  30. It’s a tought world out there. Cardiff needs to compete with Bristol and not become it’s junior partner. No doubt, Brisolian leaders are aware of this. But Welsh ‘leaders’ are too ready to live off scraps from the English table.

  31. “We are surely capable of juggling with more than one club.”
    It will interesting to see how Severnsiders juggle two airports.

    As GTD points out Cardiff is “a capital city that gives it a status within the UK only three other cities share,”. Given that status is very difficult to imagine Cardiff airport as anything other than the major airport for Severnside.
    I look forward with interest to seeing how the “enlightened self interest” of the Bristolian public, Bristolian business community and Bristolian politicans manifests itself on that one.

  32. GTD started his piece with the words, “The leaders of Cardiff and Bristol”.
    What leaders? It must be noted that Bristol has a mayor while most other English town rejected the offer; perhaps at the suggestion of the local Labour group, who were scared of a competitor to their group leader.
    People are important – and I do note the lack of a post in the Cardiff group for the previous leader of South Glamorgan.
    The real leader in Cardiiff, anyway, is nowadays the First Minister. Devolution has made a big difference, and more changes are ahead. Cardiff has been boosted, and Bristol (whisper it quietly) belittled.
    I do however wonder about the omission of Newport – it’s almost as if they have been forgotten.
    It is interesting to hear of the past of south Wales. But it is more important in today’s world to look ahead.

  33. I think several of the people commeinting here would do well to heed Ken Richards’ words.
    There is clearly a chequered history behind the idea of Severnside. Are we yet in a place to be able to put it to one side?

  34. And as far as 2 airports are concerned, CapM, it may be that this dialogue will encourage the management of each to develop a complementary offering in the hope that serving the greater (regional) good will ensure the survival of both (until oil runs out anyway)?

  35. @ N Davies
    Dialogue on airports has already started

    15th October 2014
    The Cardiff and Bristol regions need to work together or risk losing out to the big northern hubs like Manchester, according to the mayor of Bristol.
    George Ferguson told BBC Wales that they should not go head-to-head against each other on every area such as operating competing airports.

    22nd October 2014
    Cardiff Airport would have a “significant advantage” over its rivals if the Welsh government won the power to set air passenger duty, the boss of Bristol Airport has claimed….. Bristol Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair claimed any power to cut or abolish the duty would be unfair.

    Wales being able to set air passenger duty is a benefit to the whole Severnside region making it more competitive with the likes of Birmingham, Manchester and London.
    “Hurrah! hurrah!” the cries come from east of the Severn. They may seem like “Boo! Unfair” but if you put on the hearing aid of enlightened self interest (patent pending) they really do sound like cheers.

    Regarding your “(until oil runs out anyway)” comment. As oil becomes more expensive so does air travel and so the number of air passengers declines. Therefore one airport will be closed. Which one – the lesser one, whichever side of the Severn it lies on.

  36. The idea that Bristol airport is going to cut the ‘tiddler’ at Rhoose any slack is risible. We are now in a Darwinian world of competition as affluent people expect high standards of services and at as low a cost as possible.The range of a)flights,b)costs of flying is much better at Bristol than Cardiff,and hence the regular bus service from south wales which takes people direct to Bristol airport,and then back home.The relative economic structure is much poorer in Wales which leads to pricing being higher and therefore less attractive for investment. If through English ‘devolution’ there is greater transfer of power/finance to northern economic giants to combat Scottish ‘advantages’ then we NEED to up our game and hence the Severnside discussions. The fact that Cardiff is a CAPITAL city means absolutely nothing to large swathes of wales,and in particular the north where Liverpool/Manchester are much more important,no matter how much that upsets the ‘nation builders’.

  37. Some of the comments on here make me hang my head in my hands, I don’t think anyone is seriously considering a formal joined up statutory governance arrangement(s) across the Severn. What is being proposed is a more mature and pragmatic approach to cooperating where it is in the mutual interests of both/all parties.

    There is already strong cross Severn cooperation in HE and especially research, and the experience of the Great Western Partnership in progressing the case for the electrification of the GW Line to London and Rail Access to Heathrow from the west, are two real valuable examples of what can be delivered/achieved.

  38. @Exasperated
    “Some of the comments on here make me hang my head in my hands, I don’t think anyone is seriously considering a formal joined up statutory governance arrangement(s) across the Severn”

    I think it’s safe for you to take your head out of your hands, I doesn’t seem from the comments that anyone is imagining that’s happening.

    It’s also mature and pragmatic to acknowledge that given that Cardiff is a capital city, has a legislating “Parliament” is part of the south Wales urban population which approaches 2 000 000 and is part of a national rather than regional brand, Bristol’s only insurmountable advantage is it’s location a 40 miles east of Cardiff.

    Bristol should be entering any talks with justified trepidation. I don’t get the impression that they are. If their bullishness is genuine I fear that it’s because those this side of the Severn aren’t up to making a game of it never mind winning it for us.

  39. Exasperated – thank you. It is depressing to see people inventing a problem that does not exist. There are more than enough real ones to cope with.

  40. If a problem does not exist. it cannot need a solution. I have ceased to understand what the original proposition was or what this discussion has been about.

  41. I worked in South Gloucestershire for 11 years prior to retirement and paid for a Severn Tag to save a little on the extortionate toll. Recently, Steve Webb, Lib Dem MP for Thornbury & Yate got a group of people together to campaign to scrap the tolls on the Severn bridges. Admittedly the initial protest was held at Aust Services but he got some press coverage. I don’t think we in Wales realise how many people travel over from England every day to work in Wales. Perhaps what we should be fighting for is for the tolls to be scrapped thus making Wales more accessible and which could encourage businesses to move to Wales.

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy