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Regional rail priorities outlined by National Assembly committee

24/03/2016

Regional priorities to improve rail services in Wales have been outlined by a National Assembly committee.

The Enterprise and Business Committee concluded that decisions made in the next six months will have a crucial impact on Wales' transport network and consequently on the prosperity and quality of life of everyone who lives and works here.

 

The number of passenger journeys has increased by about half in Wales, from just under 20 million journeys in 2003-04 to about 30 million in 2014-15.

In evidence to the Committee, Network Rail predicted passenger numbers in Wales will keep growing in future. For example, that the number of passengers commuting into Cardiff could rise by 144 per cent between 2013 and 2043.

It also expects passenger numbers travelling between the north Wales coast and London to increase by 151 per cent, and between north and south Wales by 77 per cent, by 2043.

The Committee has recommended the following be treated as priorities by the Welsh Government, UK Government, train operators, Network Rail and other rail partners:

North Wales

  • Delivery of a comprehensive and compelling business plan for north Wales electrification for delivery and funded by the UK Government in line with its statutory responsibilities; and
  • Access to English airports from north Wales.

Mid and West Wales

  • Enhanced services in mid Wales, particularly further improvements linking Aberystwyth to the English Midlands and wider UK rail network.

South Wales

  • Welsh Government should seek absolute assurance that the electrification of the South Wales Mainline will continue as a single project, without a break, all the way to Swansea; and
  • Develop a robust plan for Cardiff Central Station accompanied by the track and signalling upgrades needed to create a station fit for a 21st Century capital city.

The Committee also recommended that the North and South Wales main lines, including relief lines, should be upgraded to the largest loading gauge for freight containers, and that the Welsh Government should continue to push the importance to freight services of full electrification of the Vale of Glamorgan line, and that it should be funded by UK Government.

Chair of the Enterprise and Business Committee, William Graham AM, said:

"It is clear that Wales has multiple needs. At present, we are one of the few countries in Western Europe without a single kilometre of electrified railway.

"That will change, but engineering delays and a limited funding pot will mean Wales has to fight, cajole and collaborate in order to get everything we want to see.

"Over the next few months Wales's politicians and rail operators will need to speak loudly and clearly with one voice to champion the nation's needs and to secure the funding to ensure Wales can play a full role in the rail renaissance of the UK.

"With that in mind the Committee has outlined what it believes to be the main priorities across regional areas in Wales."

The Committee also considered issues around funding, the future of the Wales and Border Rail Franchise, cross-border services and Network Rail's role in Wales. In total it made 18 recommendations in its report, including:

  • The Welsh Government must increase its efforts to develop key cross border relationships with devolved rail planning and delivery bodies and other key stakeholders in England;
  • In negotiating the details of devolution of franchising responsibilities, the Welsh Government must make it a priority in discussion with the UK to ensure that the next Wales and Borders franchise includes popular, profitable routes which are essential to the travelling public; and
  • There is a strong case for legislative change to devolve responsibility for Network Rail funding to Wales as it is in Scotland.

Priorities for the future of Welsh Rail Infrastructure (PDF, 896KB)

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