A TEAM of consultants has been commissioned by Newport council to build a new business case for the Ebbw Valley railway line to reach Newport.
Council papers show that Capita Symonds was asked to draw up a business case supporting the provision of a direct passenger link between Ebbw Vale and Newport.
It was commissioned amid 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.
The details emerges ahead of a review by a scrutiny committee into railway development around Newport which could draw up a submission to the Welsh Government based on the business case.
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.
Capita said Arup’s forecast was pessimistic.
“The proposed Ebbw Vale to Newport service is likely to reduce journey times for all trip modes into, out of and within the Valley, 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 Street Scene, Regeneration and Safety scrutiny committee will decide how to go ahead with its review when it meets next Friday.
THE Argus has campaigned for more than a decade for the Welsh Government to push on with a passenger link from Newport to Ebbw Vale along the reopened Ebbw Valley line.
There has been overwhelming support in the city for the link to connect the Gwent Valleys with the city.
But despite calls going back more than ten years such a link hasn’t yet to come to fruition with the service, which opened in 2008, running only to Cardiff.
Back in 2011 the then-transport minister Carl Sargeant told Gwent Tory AM Mohammad Asghar that a Network Rail study found the cost of upgrading the line could top £17 million.
This work would see a passing loop built at Llanhilleth and a second platform. The original line had cost £46 million to build.
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.
The 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.
Where the extra train goes is potentially controversial – with Blaenau Gwent politicians Alan Davies AM and Nick Smith MP calling for an extra service to Cardiff.