|Mainline railways in Wales|
The news that the plan to redouble part of the north-south Wales rail between Wrecsam and Saltneyconnection is under review (by Transport Minister Edwina Hart and Network Rail), and the news that the promised hourly train service on the CambrianLine has been ditched as the Transport Minister has now suggested that the provision of an hourly service was now a matter of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’ is not good. This when combined with the lack of movement on the final link between the Ebbw Vale line into Newport (back in 2005, the Welsh Government promised to deliver phase 2 of the Ebbw Vale rail project, with direct trains from Ebbw Vale to Newport and an extension of the line towards Ebbw Vale and Abertillery by 2009) may be ominous.
The re-doubling of the line between Wrecsam and Saltney (single track since the 1980s) was scheduled to have been completed by 2015, would have enabled trains to travel up to 90mph (114km/h) in some sections, and improved journey times between the north and the south. Previously the promised hourly service on the Cambrian line had been a ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ and was only being held up by the need for infrastructure improvements. The final link into Newport would give commuters the opportunity to travel to work in Newport and Bristol without having to drive or go to Cardiff Central and would also allow services to be run between Abergavenny and Ebbw vale, potentially adding extra off peak services for passengers.
Now back in February, the Western Mail (28th February 2013) revealed that road schemes will provide scant benefits for our economy. It also went on to list six far more beneficial rail schemes which appeared to have been quietly kicked into the long grass:
- Aberystwyth (Bow Street): new station outside the town with car parking (with an estimated cost between £1.5 and £2 million (2011)).This could have provided a welcome boost to commutes into and out of Aberystwyth and reduce road congestion.
- Abertillery: new station and 1.5 miles of new track to link Abertillery to Ebbw Vale line at Llanhilleth (with an estimated cost £16.7 million (2012)). This could have provided a key rail link for Abertillery to Cardiff (and possibly to Newport).
- Bridgend: new station at Brackla, upgraded track and signals at Tondu (with an estimated cost £12 million (2005)). This could have meant that the train service from Maesteg to Cardiff could have run every 30 minutes.
- Llantrisant: new railway line (on old track) and new stations at St Fagans, Talbot Green, Llantrisant, Gwaun Meisgyn and Beddau (with an estimated cost £37 million pounds (2011)). This could have provided a rail service into Cardiff.
- Nelson: new stations at Nelson, Trelewis and Bedlinog (with an estimated cost £7.9 million (2011)). This could have boosted rail services into Caerphilly and Cardiff.
- Newport and South Monmouthshire: new station at Llanwern, extra parking at Chepstow and extra parking (and road link to M48) at Severn Tunnel Junction (with an estimated cost £43 million (2011)). This could have help with the provision of trains from Chepstow into Cardiff every 30 minutes and cut congestion on the roads.
Now to be honest this could be a serious of unfortunately timed coincidences, rather than the Labour in Wales Government (in Cardiff) choosing to focus on roads over rail and east – west communications (including the grossly expensive and environmentally damaging M4 Relief Road) rather than focusing on all of our country. Yet perhaps it is no coincidence at all, the real issue is that Labour in Wales and much of the higher levels of the civil service; simply don’t believe in Wales or the devolution project. This has resulted in the quiet undoing of much of the constructive all Wales approach to transport infrastructure that was developed between 2007 and 2011 by Ieuan Wyn Jones, the then Deputy First Minister in the Plaid driven One Wales Government.