TODAY, Blaenau Gwent councillor Jen Morgan writes an open letter to the Assembly transport minister Ieuan Wyn Jones and Network Rail demanding action in opening the Ebbw Vale to Newport rail link.

And her call is being backed by civic leaders in Newport. BEN FRAMPTON reports.

FOR six years, the Argus has lobbied for the Ebbw Valley link to run to Newport railway station in our Get Us Back on Track campaign.

Now, as First Minisiter Rhodri Morgan says a feasibility study examining the cost of upgrading signals and points on the existing freight line at Gaer Junction will be published next month, one Gwent councillor has launched an online petition demanding urgent action.

No decision could be made about funding the works, which Network Rail says must be carried out under passenger line rules, until the report had been examined, the First Minister said.

We asked Network Rail about the potential cost, but they would not break it down from the £400 million cost of improving the whole of the south Wales rail line.

Blaenau Gwent councillor Jen Morgan says she hopes the latest step "isn't a red herring," adding: "It's a step in the right direction, we'll keep our fingers crossed."

But she says now is the time for action. What we need now is a firm date for the opening of the Newport link, she says.

"I think it's appalling, there's all these broken promises, enough is enough," the Ebbw Vale north councillor says.

"It's vitally important that our young people have access to the jobs in Newport. It benefits not only my ward, but the people of Blaenau Gwent. We're a very deprived area, it opens up a whole new world."

The rail line between Ebbw Vale and Cardiff re-opened in February for the first time since 1962, but the subsidised rail link bus between Rogerstone and Newport stations was axed on June 1.

Now, train travellers have to go to Cardiff and catch another train back to Newport.

Yesterday, the Argus asked Network Rail about when the Newport link - from Rogerstone to Newport railway stations - is now likely to open.

There is still no firm date, but a spokesman said the aim was to open it in 2010.

He added: "The decision on whether to build the line is not with Network Rail, but with the Assembly.

"A detailed assessment, supported by the Assembly, is currently being carried out by Network Rail to confirm feasibility of the proposed enhancements.

"It is envisaged that work will be completed by 2010 as part of the £400 million South Wales re-signalling scheme."

JEN MORGAN'S OPEN LETTER Dear Sirs, I have recently launched an e-petition on the National Assembly for Wales website calling for the Assembly to investigate the feasibility of introducing direct trains between Ebbw Vale and Newport.

Over the past few months we have seen what an outstanding success the service between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale has been.

If the link to Newport was opened we would be providing the people of Blaenau Gwent and the Ebbw Valley with better access to employment and leisure in Newport and beyond.

The link would also be beneficial to passengers travelling to the east who at present have to complete a lengthy detour to Cardiff.

I hope that as many people as possible will sign the petition to let the Assembly know just how much we want a direct train service to Newport in addition to our Cardiff service.

The petition can be viewed and signed on the National Assembly for Wales website or via the link below and selecting Petition to investigate the feasibility of introducing a direct train service between Ebbw Vale and Newport.


Support for councillor's call
COUNCILLOR Morgan's call is being backed in Newport.

Chief executive of Newport Unlimited, John Burrows, said use has to be made of the existing train line which runs alongside Cardiff Road, and the next stage should set out a timetable for appropriate signaling to be installed to allow passenger trains to run on the line.

He said. "Everyone's got a Newport postal code yet can't get to Newport by train. It's a no-brainer, it's what everybody wants and already 80-90 per cent completed anyway."

Newport West Assembly Member Rosemary Butler said: "I know there are extremely complicated, technical and administrative problems involved in the setting up of this extra rail link between Rogerstone and Newport, but at the same time the pressure for it to be done is clearly growing all the time and I fully back any move which will bring it to a speedy conclusion."

And Newport West MP Paul Murphy added: "All the MPs and AMs have been in talks about this."