THE NEWSDESK: Running the rail link from Ebbw Vale to Newport really is a no-brainer
I'M heartened to hear that Newport council has commissioned a team of consultants to build a new business case for the Ebbw Valley railway line to reach the city.
We reported on Saturday that there are concerns that a business case prepared by Arup for the Welsh Government in 2011 was flawed as it excluded a direct link to Newport from Ebbw Vale.
The Capita work could form the basis of lobbying to the Welsh Government, according to council documents.
In draft work done by Capita, included in a report to the committee, the consultants argue that the service would support economic growth in the Valley and Newport regions by boosting access to job opportunities.
It claims that the previous Arup work, in 2011, suggested that there was a poor financial and economic case for the scheme, and that there would be a passenger demand of 217,000.
That was despite work commissioned by the Welsh Government in 2009 from Halcrow which was more positive and suggested 552,000 trips could be taken within the first year.
“The proposed Ebbw Vale to Newport service is likely to reduce journey times...whilst providing a more direct link from the Valley to the Northern and Eastern parts of the UK,” the draft strategic outline case from Capita says.
“The service would support economic growth within the Valley and Newport regions by improving access to employment opportunities, in addition to developing business integration across the South East of Wales.
“Moreover, the service would help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants of the whole of the valley.”
The council's Street Scene, Regeneration and Safety scrutiny committee will decide how to go ahead with its review when it meets next Friday.
This newspaper has campaigned for the link for more than a decade for very good reason - this city needs it. Its city centre traders need it, the people who need to commute to jobs in the city need it.
Never has a city on a rail mainline been so woefully served by its lack of stations and local line links.
Cardiff, by comparison, has well-established, good rail links with all its feeder valleys.
And, now, Newport's.
It is the larger twin, guzzling up all the investment and opportunity at the expense of its smaller sibling.
And this cannot go on.
There is much talk of the south east Wales metro network and other public transport links.
But for Newport to ensure its unique identity is retained, to ensure its businesses and workforce are not the poor relation of south Wales, it is clear that this city needs both the Ebbw Valley link and the M4 relief road, and it needs them urgently.
In January the Argus reported that Welsh Government minister Edwina Hart had earmarked funding for improvements to the Ebbw Valley line that would allow for an extra hourly passenger rail service as part of the South East Wales Metro plan.
This move has the potential to provide a link to Newport – but it was unclear when it would go ahead or whether that train would instead be bound for Cardiff.
Surely, this is a no-brainer. That extra trip must be bound for Newport.
WHEN will political parties learn?
There were reports yesterday that Labour party members in the Cynon Valley cancelled a meeting to select a replacement parliamentary candidate for retiring Ann Clwyd after being told they must select from an all-women shortlist.
Local views were, allegedly, ignored. Here we go again. Has Labour not learned the lessons of Blaenau Gwent?
Regular readers of this column will know that I am not a fan of all-women shortlists, in the same way I am not a fan of all-men, all-white, all-middle class or all-anything shortlists.
While they are initially effective at improving the gender balance they do not, in my view, work in the long term. Women leave politics for a variety of reasons which will not be addressed until we, as a society as a whole, address the issue of who is doing the child-rearing and why it is still an area dominated by one gender, when it should plainly be equally divided as each family sees fit.
I understand their honourable intentions, but I believe in equality for all, not just women. The motto of my (comprehensive) school was "to each their opportunity". I took it to heart.
Having said that, if constituencies such as Monmouth (which has selected its candidate from one) want them, then that is up to the local party to make and defend those local decisions.
Imposing them from outside causes nothing but bitterness and resentment, particularly in an area which already has a sitting woman MP.
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