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Sending the wrong message

You may have read in the Evening Post how it’s emerged that the decision to scrap rail electrification to Swansea was actually taken in Downing Street.

Details released by the Audit Office reveal the Prime Minister personally agreed its cancellation after looking into the economic arguments, for and against.

It seems a review had found the benefit-cost ratio for the scheme was in the “low value for money” category, according to the standard appraisal method applied by the Treasury.

Funnily enough, I’m told that that the ratio for the Bristol to Cardiff section wasn’t much higher - the difference being that a huge chunk of City Deal cash was earmarked to supplement rail investment.

I’ll be honest. I don’t know if the hybrid alternative we’ve since been allocated is more cost-effective or not. What I do know is that the PM’s decision was the wrong kind of message to send out to people who sit on major corporations and make key investment decisions of their own.

In short, the logic which now applies is that if south-west Wales isn’t worth some speculative government spending then why should private sector financial institutions risk their own resources?

This miserable prospect doesn’t bode well for our region’s future once EU structural funds dry up. Maybe that’s why Mrs May opted against visiting us during her recent UK tour.

Otherwise we could have asked if we’re destined to remain a low-wage economy while the leader of Cardiff council urges us all to recognise how the capital is “Wales’s strongest economic asset and its brightest hope to achieve economic success”.

The silver lining to this toxic cloud should be that we at least have a fleet of shiny new trains. The problem is that the result has been slower, less comfortable journeys and an unimpressive level of service.

As Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi reported on Twitter, it was standing room only on the last super-saver out of Paddington this weekend with only five coaches on a bi-modal train. That’s pathetic but it’s probably what we can expect for some time to come.


Why isn’t Facebook losing friends?

It’s strange, but things should be a lot worse for social media giant, Facebook.

I mean, there’s a queue of people divulging sinister stuff about the company’s dealings. One former external employee turned whistle-blower insists Facebook knew about the personal data angle.(1) He claims the social network signed off on terms and conditions which allowed a survey application to shunt details to third parties.

It’s a corporate governance mess, and definitely not helped by internal memos that appear to put company growth before social responsibility.(2)

And yet, despite losing some big stakeholders, share values are slowly climbing back with no sign whatever of a global user exodus.

For all the media outrage, the commercial reality is that compared to the more ‘hip’ platforms favoured by the young, Facebook has an enduring spectrum generation appeal to which competitors can only aspire.

I can’t see them being unfriended any time soon.

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