'No decision' on Newport - Ebbw Vale rail link - transport minister
12:40pm Monday 19th July 2010 in Back on Track
Despite years of campaigning from the Argus, Wales' transport boss still cannot give a date for when passenger trains will take people from Newport direct to the Ebbw Vale, and it looks as if no decision will be made by the current Assembly government. DAVID DEANS investigates.
WALES’ transport minister has refused to give a date for when railway services could begin from Ebbw Vale to Newport.
Despite the length of our campaign for a service between Newport and the Gwent Valleys Ieaun Wyn Jones AM would not state how much the improvements will cost, when works will start or when a service will begin.
The leader of Plaid Cymru suggested the ball was in the Network Rail’s court, with the Welsh Assembly Government waiting for the result of a feasibility study from the company.
But Network Rail said the date for work to begin would ultimately be down to whether the Welsh Assembly Government wants to go ahead with the plans.
Given the upcoming Assembly elections in May, the fact the study is not expected to be complete by March and that the Assembly itself will be dissolved for the first time ever prior to an election in April, a decision on the project before the end of this Assembly session may be highly unlikely.
Mr Jones said although Gaer Junction works, which are due to be completed in October, would allow services to Newport to operate, they would have to replace services to Cardiff.
The transport minister said it was the WAG’s intention to get an hourly trains running to both Newport and Cardiff. To do that further work would be needed, including:
*A passing loop between Ebbw Vale and Newport
*A possible a double track between Ebbw Vale Parkway and Ebbw Vale Town
*A two-platform station in Ebbw Vale Town
*More signalling works near Newport
Once we have the Gaer Junction we could, for example, have a two-hourly services to Cardiff and to Newport,” said Mr Jones.
“But because of the success of the Cardiff service we could not really take away a service that exceeded all our expectations.”
He said Network Rail was currently undergoing a study to assess the cost of the work needed, and is expected to report back in March.
The Argus asked several times if he could give a date for when services would begin, but Mr Jones could not provide a time.
He said the Assembly needed to agree the scale and timetable of the works with Network Rail.
When asked if funding was secured, he said: “When the scheme comes in with the cost it will have to be assessed with the budget you have available.”
Asked about the Abertillery branch line proposals, he pointed to a study being undertaken by the council-partnership the South East Wales Transport Alliance, which we reported earlier in the year.
“It’s not for me to say its a priority,” he said. “If they [SEWTA] come forward we will look at it.”
A spokeswoman for Network Rail said the study would look the work needed, the time table required, whether the existing infrastructure needed to be improved among other issues.
She said: “We are currently working towards completing the feasibility study for Ebbw Vale link by early next year. “It is a vital stage to help identify the different technical options available and to help determine the business case.”
She added the study will help the Welsh Assembly Government make a decision on the next steps for the scheme.