New stations form key element of South Wales rail scheme
Six new railway stations are being proposed by a Commission established by the Welsh Government to examine alternatives to the scrapped extension of the M4 around Newport.
The South East Wales
Transport Commission, chaired by Sir Terry Burns, the former Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, recommends that the line between the Severn Tunnel and Cardiff should become the centrepiece of an integrated transport system in the area.
The railway, which is already four-tracked, would be newly configured so that the two northern lines would be used for a stopping service between Cardiff and Severn Tunnel Junction, while long-distance trains would be on the southern tracks. All the tracks would be upgraded to a line speed of 90mph.
The report accepts that this would “require a considerable amount of work”, given that the present configuration involves trains crossing over the tracks in several places. But it is considered essential to enable local services to be operated efficiently. It would cost between £130 million and £180m.
The report’s authors stress that this is not a new idea. Various studies and business cases produced over the past decade have recommended upgrading the line. The report says: “The result would be a set of four electrified rail lines available for all types of services, nearly doubling the capacity of the infrastructure at peak times and making it viable to introduce new local stations on the South Wales Main Line.”
Currently, there is only Newport between Cardiff Central and Severn Tunnel Junction. The report recommends two new stations at Cardiff (Parkway and Newport Road), one either side of Newport, and others at Llanwern and Magor.
A service pattern of at least four trains per hour (4tph) is envisaged. As a result of this increased service, the Commission envisages several other upgrades and extensions to the rail network. These include:
■ Upgrades to the Maesteg Line, particularly reinstatement of the Garw loop, to allow for 2tph along the line.
■ Completing the upgrade of the Ebbw Vale line (including the branch to a new station at Abertillery), as already proposed by Welsh Government, to allow for 4tph along the line and to provide services directly to Newport.
■ Upgrades to Bridgend station, to allow increased capacity for terminating services from east of Cardiff.
■ Changes to Newport station to improve capacity and journey times. There is a particular opportunity to upgrade Platform 1, to allow for easy interchange with bus services.
The railway improvements from part of a package of transport
projects that would largely be paid for by the £1.6 billion saved by not building a sixlane extension of the M4. This scheme was scrapped last year by the Welsh Government for environmental and cost reasons.
The total bill is envisaged to be in the order of £600m to £800m. It includes the creation of a rapid bus corridor, greatly improved cycle routes, and some road improvements to provide better access to the stations.
The railway improvements, including the track reconfiguration and the associated upgrades to the various branch and regional lines, are costed at between £390m and £540m.