A WELSH government minister has earmarked funding for improvements to the Ebbw Valley line that would allow for an extra hourly passenger rail service, the Argus understands.
The move has the potential to provide a link to Newport – but it is currently unclear when it would go ahead or whether that train would instead be bound for Cardiff.
Today the Argus continues its decade-long campaign calling for a service from Newport to Ebbw Vale – and calls for the extra service to be to this city.
Last year Transport Minister Edwina Hart agreed an allocation of £62 million in funding for 2013 to 2016 to be allocated for the so-called phase 1 of the South East Wales Metro plan to upgrade the public transport network.
But the Argus has learned that this includes improvements to rail infrastructure on the Ebbw Vale branch line that would allow for a second train per hour.
This would include a passing loop at Llanhilleth.
The fact that the line is largely single track has been a major obstacle to running additional trains – with only one service per hour currently running from Cardiff to Ebbw Vale.
But the Welsh Government has remained tight- lipped about the move.
Officials have simply referred to an earlier Assembly statement in October when Ms Hart said she would be “looking at” infrastructure improvements for a future second train per hour to and from Ebbw Vale.
Despite the Argus asking for a timescale, for how much the specific project would cost or for whether the train would go from Newport or Cardiff, officials have declined to give further information.
Where the extra train goes is potentially controversial.
Blaenau Gwent’s AM, Alun Davies, and MP Nick Smith have both called for an extra service to Cardiff.
But there are long-standing calls from this newspaper and many people across the city to bring an extra service to Newport.
Councillor Paul Hannon, a Labour councillor for Beechwood in the city, said: “I think it’s crazy to develop a metro service that bypasses Newport, especially when there are such ambitious plans for regeneration of the city centre.
“It makes absolutely no sense to have a service that will take people away from Newport.”
William Graham, the Newport-based Tory AM for South Wales East, said people have been asking for a Newport link for years, and said there had been “many excuses”.
However, Mr Graham assumed that the new service, if provided, would go to Cardiff.
“The original money was to help Newport when Llanwern steelworks closed,” he said.
“The whole of the western region has been resignalled and we are still no further forward.”