WORK to upgrade the Ebbw Valley railway line that could see an additional service to Newport or Cardiff will be done by 2016, the first minister told the Assembly.
Carwyn Jones said the Welsh Government is funding track works that will provide the capability to operate additional services that could operate to either Newport or Cardiff.
The Argus has campaigned for more than a decade for a passenger train service from Newport to Ebbw Vale.
Mohammad Asghar, Tory AM for South East Wales, asked in first minister’s questions in the Senedd whether plans for further improvements to the Ebbw Valley railway line include linking Newport with a passenger train link.
Mr Jones said the Pye Corner station in the west of Newport, that is due to open in December of this year, “will improve access to Newport.”
He added: “We are also funding track works which will provide the capability to operate additional services that could operate to either Newport or Cardiff, and those works will be completed in 2016.”
Where that train will go is likely to be controversial – with Blaenau Gwent's Alun Davies AM and Nick Smith MP calling for an extra service to the capital while voices in Newport, including this newspaper, want their city to be linked up.
Newport council has its itself recently commissioned consultants to work up a new business case for a Ebbw Vale to Newport railway service.
Mr Jones’ comments confirm an Argus report in January that it understood that Welsh Government business minister Edwina Hart had earmarked funding for improvements to the Ebbw Valley line that would allow for an extra hourly passenger rail service.
This would include a passing loop at Llanhilleth.
The Welsh Government were tight-lipped on the move at the time, not revealing when the work would be completed by or how much it would cost.
Last year Transport Minister Edwina Hart had agreed an allocation of £62 million in funding for 2013 to 2016 to be allocated for phase 1 of the South East Wales Metro plan to upgrade the public transport network and it was understood that the Ebbw Valley line improvements would be part of this project.