Game changing vision for Capital City region

IWA and Cardiff Business Partnership publish a ground-breaking report on the need to upgrade the rail network across south-east Wales

Detailed proposals for a light rail system linking Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys are outlined in a major report A Metro For Wales’s Capital City Region published today by the IWA in association with the Cardiff Business Partnership.

The scheme would depend on the electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Swansea and could be completed over ten years at an estimated cost of £2.5 billion. The report, authored by transport consultant Mark Barry, acknowledges this is a significant sum but says it “pales into insignificance when compared with the £40 billion or more of public money committed to the high speed rail link between London and Birmingham and Crossrail, and the £34 billion Network Rail will spend across the UK as a whole during 2009-2014.”

Major Conference

End of the Line: economic regeneration and rail connectivity in southern Wales

Today’s report, making the case for a south-east Wales Metro, will be debated at this conference being held next week on Thursday 10 February at Cardiff’s City Hall. Author Mark Barry, Advisor on Transport and the Economy to Cardiff’s Business Partnership, will be presenting his main findings. Other speakers include Terry Morgan, Chair of Crossrail, Mike Gallop, Route Enhancement Manager with Network Rail, Mark Hopwood, Chief Executive, First Great Western, and Mike Bagshaw, Commercial Director Arriva Trains Wales. For full details of the conference and to book to attend click here.

The report also points out that the Manchester Metrolink Tram system is to undergo a £1 billion expansion to treble its existing network while Transport Scotland is planning to spend £3 billion during 2009-14 to enhance its rail network.

The report’s proposals, which produce a rail map for south-east Wales akin to the London Underground, envisages adding the following new tram or tram-train routes to the existing heavy rail network:

  • A new tram line south-east from Beddau and Creigiau to Cardiff and onto the Bay.
  • A new tram-line linking Maerdy with Llantrisant and Pontypridd.
  • Tram links to Penarth, Barry, Cardiff Airport and Bridgend.
  • A tram link alongside the south Wales mainline between Severn Tunnel Junction and Cardiff Central to serve intermediate stations.
  • A cross-Valley rapid bus transit from Pontypridd to Newbridge.

Key features of the scheme include:

  • A mix of electrified heavy rail, light rail and rapid bus transit.
  • A maximum 40 minute travel time from the heads of the Valleys periphery to the core at Cardiff and Newport city centres
  • A maximum 15 minute wait at the periphery
  • A maximum five minute wait at the core.
  • Economic regeneration focused on Cardiff Central and other key interchanges

Commenting on the report David Stevens, Director of Cardiff Business Partnership and Operations Director of Admiral Insurance, said:

“Around the world, the success of city region economies is becoming increasingly dependent on high capacity, high quality, intra and inter regional public transport systems. In response, aspiring city regions such as Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Edinburgh are pushing ahead with the development and expansion of modern urban transit systems to boost their economies. Given the evidence from around the world, the Cardiff Business Partnership believes the delivery of a new vision, combined with a coherent economic strategy for the entire Cardiff City Region, will make a significant contribution to improving Wales’ economic fortunes. Consequently, it should be a priority for the governments at both Cardiff and Westminster, and for local authorities and the business community.”

Roy J. Thomas, also of the Cardiff Business Partnership, said:

“The Cardiff Business Partnership believes we should be using the electrification of Great Western Main Line as a catalyst. It is time to develop and implement the transport vision set out in this paper. This would enable the Cardiff City Region population travel far more quickly and easily, and also radically enhance the economic connectivity which is essential. Wales should look outward not inward for growth. All economies look to investment from outside. Look at China and India. We need to get moving and stop the decline of the last ten years to increase GDP Cardiff is essential especially as 100,000 travel to work to the City each day”.

The report argues that raising the capital required to implement the vision it lays out will require full devolution of rail powers to the Welsh Government:

“Depending on future government subsidies to a more vertically integrated rail industry, devolution of rail powers could provide about £2 billion over ten years for Wales to invest in its rail network. In parallel, the Welsh Government needs to build up its expertise and capacity to develop and implement major rail and urban transit schemes, along the lines of Transport Scotland. It will also be necessary to put in place a new franchise agreement for Wales that reflects the higher passenger levels that the Cardiff Metro will attract. A new franchisee for Wales could be a Welsh Government arms-length not-for-profit organisation along the lines of Welsh Water/Dŵr Cymru.

“We should also explore how the existing Welsh transport budget could be enhanced and better directed. The Economy and Transport department will spend £1.25 billion in 2009-2010, about £500 million of which is spent annually on local and trunk roads throughout Wales. The vast majority of the Welsh Government’s current £150 million rail budget is used to subsidise the Arriva Trains Wales franchise. If the Valleys network was upgraded as proposed, the increased patronage may enable a future franchise to be offered with a much lower subsidy.”

Copies of the report A Metro for Wales’ Capital City region: Connecting Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys can be purchased from the IWA here at £10 (IWA members have a 20 per cent discount).

Institute of Welsh Affairs

5 thoughts on “Game changing vision for Capital City region

  1. Where are all the politicians who will run with this? The report proves again that what is missing in South East Wales is a powerful city region led by an elected Mayor. Before Christmas in an interesting article Andrew Adonis contrasted the lobbying power of both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnston as elected Mayor of London for Cross Rail with the failure of non directly elected Council Leaders in the North and Midlands to press the DfT for transport improvements. Unless someone picks this up and runs with it then it will gather dust on some shelf as the Mid and South Glamorgan study has for over 20 years. Look at the limp response of the Assembly which again hides behind the need to electrify the GWR line from Paddington.

  2. This is a very exciting proposal but would be difficult politically because it would soak up almost all funding for rail (and much of the road) transport for a decade, for the whole of Wales. It should be labelled more correctly as a Valleys transport network and if it is committed to, then grand schenes like the completion of dualling the A465 will go out of the window. The amount of cash it would cost to complete the dualling would fund electrification of the central valleys-but who is going to tell Huw Lewis?
    Another very constructive IWA transport report and with the desperate need for such a proposal, one that should be taken very seriously.

  3. A great visionary scheme and a much needed necessity. The east of Cardiff have no rail stations connecting the suburbs. In the article there was no mention of the Mono Metro system ( This revolutionary narrow gauge mono path railway that uses the proven suspended configuration system would be the most cost effective. Mono Metro have Corus SKF Atkins as some of their partners. As it is a T bar suspended rail system it can be built easily above existing roads and access routes. I hope the Mono Metro system is part of your portfolio for discussion.

  4. Electrification need not take the entire rail budget. Cancel the Heads Of The Valleys Road dualing and I estimate you could afford to electrify the line from Swansea to Cheltenham and the Maesteg and Ebbw Vale branches and buy enough 3-car Electrostar units to have an hourly Swansea – Cheltenham service and Maesteg – Ebbw Vale service and a half-hourly Ebbw Vale – Newport service.

  5. Also, why do the plans stop at Hirwaun – re-instate the line from there to Glyn-Neath and you’ve a clear run down the freight line to Swansea Docks, which could become the hub of a smaller ValleyLines network for Swansea (you are looking at greater expence then of course). A tram from Mumbles to Swansea Docks, via High Street station and the bus station, could be part of this.

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