CALLS for bilingual train announcements at Newport and other railway stations in Wales to be made in English first are a "ridiculous" attack on the Welsh language, say activists.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, branded as cynical a House of Commons early day motion asking rail chiefs to rethink the current Welsh-first policy.

Supporters of the proposal, tabled by Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, include Torfaen MP Paul Murphy and Labour colleague Don Touhig, MP for Islwyn.

Disquiet at announcements being made in Welsh first surfaced in May when journalist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris missed a train to the Hay Festival because by the time the Welsh announcement was over it had pulled away.

Mr Touhig told the Argus yesterday that he had frequently seen passengers at Newport asking station staff for information when announcments were made in Welsh.

But Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg called train company Arriva's present Welsh-first policy "progressive" and argues that as Welsh is the native language of Wales, it is right for it to have prominence over other languages in Wales.

It also points out that the Assembly follows the same language order and it was the also the order favoured more than 30 years ago by the Bowen Commission on road signs.

Another argument is that there are practical reasons for keeping the current arragement, with Welsh-speakers also understanding English.

If the announcement is given in English first, Cymdeithas argues, no Welsh speaker will put his hands over his ears and wait for the Welsh version.

In this case, giving the English announcement first makes the Welsh announcement redundant.

The present Welsh-first policy also, it says, benefits Welsh learners who by hearing the Welsh version first can attempt a translation and check its correctness by the following English version.

There are political motives for this ridiculous attack on the Welsh language by the Welsh Labour MP's," said Cymdeithas spokesman Dafydd Morgan Lewis.

"Perhaps they are aware that they are losing their power in Wales to the National Assembly, and that this is an effort on their part to undermine the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition by creating a fuss about the Welsh language."