Archive - Friday, 22 November 2002
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Peter Law praises rail campaign by Argus
PETER Law is a man with a mission. The Blaenau Gwent AM is totally determined to see passenger trains running from Ebbw Vale to Newport and Cardiff as soon as it is humanly possible and he is a staunch supporter of the Argus' Get Us Back On Track campaign that was launched four months ago.
We are calling for the line to Newport to reopen in 2005 at the same time as the line to Cardiff - which Railtrack presently says cannot be done until 2007 at the earliest because of signalling problems.
Mr Law says he has little doubt that our campaign has huge influence and could have already speeded up the opening of the Newport line by a year, as the original earliest date was 2008.
"The support from the Argus and its readers has been instrumental in that," he said. Mr Law has another meeting with Railtrack lined up next month when he will be raising the issue once again.
"This line (to Cardiff) is going to open in 2005 - I have a total commitment to that," he said, speaking from his Ebbw Vale constituency office this week. "But I also want access to Newport as soon as possible and I'm not going to let go of that."
He says it is vitally important that his constituents had access to jobs, educational and social opportunities in Newport and that his community has been excluded and deprived for too long - and he is critical of those responsible for the delay, describing rail bosses in charge of signalling at Newport as "lethargic".
"They are not taking into account the amount of deprivation in this community and how much we need access to the opportunities in Newport and Cardiff," he said. And he is not impressed by people in "a glass tower in Swindon who don't understand deprivation and are not moving quickly enough".
Mr Law now says it could be time to start lobbying MPs and in particular Transport Secretary Alistair Darling in a bid to speed up the rail link.
"Even if we have to get a bus load of us to go there," he adds. Mr Law has been calling for the passenger rail track to be reopened since the 1980s. It was one of the major projects - along with the need for a Cwm bypass and regeneration of the Dunlop Semtex site - which he promised to fight for when he ran his Assembly election campaign in 1999.
He says, however, that the community is fortunate that when the passenger service closed in 1960 the track was left down for the Ebbw Vale steelworks trains. If that had not been the case he said the track would have been taken up and they would now be facing a vast bill to replace it. Cost of reopening the line at present is estimated at around £27 million.
Mr Law says the campaign has attracted cross party support and praises the involvement of other Assembly members, including Plaid Cymru's Brian Hancock and Phil Williams. And he is pleased that the people of Blaenau Gwent have reacted with delight to the news that the railway is finally to reopen.
Mr Law says: "I talk to the people on the street and they are so pleased. They can't really believe that after 42 years they are going to be able to catch a train from Ebbw Vale and that they can be in Cardiff in just 55 minutes.
"There are children around here who have never been on a train. Everyone is thrilled but people have had their hopes dashed so many times that some are a bit sceptical. "But the young people are vibrant about it."
Public consultation about the proposed new railway station is due to begin in January.