The recent devolution of the rail franchise should be welcomed along with the news that the Welsh Government will seek for the rail franchise to be run on a not for profit basis (something that Plaid have been calling for several years). For the first time, we in Wales will be able to choose who operates its own railway, the not for profit option makes the most sense as any profits made will remain within the franchise area rather than paying share holder dividends. The current and next Welsh Governments will face a significant challenge when it comes to preparing for and delivering the next franchise; it is a task that must be accomplished.
One of the key elements in rebooting our economy is infrastructure investment and investing in our neglected railways. Many of our existing railway stations suffer from some pretty significant gaps in services, and so are underused. The final stage of the rail-link from Ebbw Vale to Newport needs to be completed and new railway stations at Caerleon (which has been in the local UDP since the 1980’s), Llanwern, Magor and Little Mill would provide local communities with a regular rail service and reduce the ever-increasing traffic burden from already overcrowded roads.
We need our railway stations to be real transport hubs with fully integrated local bus services and expanded safer secure reasonably priced parking. We also need better facilities at Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow, Pontypool, Severn Tunnel Junction and Lydney railway stations. We need feasibility studies into the development of a Parkway Station at Little Mill and the possibilities of re-opening the old line from Little Mill to Usk along with the development of a new railway station at Usk.
|Driver training on the Gaer spur (Ian Brewer)|
In Scotland, significant strides have been made to reopen, redevelop and build a coherent and integrated public transport system. In Wales over the last 15 years there have been two successful railway re-openings carried out by Network Rail at the request of the National Assembly; the Vale of Glamorgan Railway Line (re-opened on Friday 10th June 2005) and the Ebbw Valley Railway Line (which was partially re-opened on Wednesday 6th February 2008). Unlike in Scotland here was not any real political dynamism at work here; these were administrative rather than legislative projects.
Plaid Cymru believes that a revitalised not for profit railway service in Wales can and should lead to more areas of our country being opened up to both new and revitalised rail services. This combined with the deal over electrification of the valley lines along with the Great Western mainline to Swansea is good news, but the job remains only half done until full control of railway infrastructure is devolved to Wales so that both the development of the franchise and the development of our railway infrastructure can be planned together.