CALLS have been made for trains from Ebbw Vale to run hourly through Newport into England and for a daily train from Abergavenny to London.

Welsh transport consortium Sewta made the proposals as part of a package of ideas it would like to see included in rail franchise currently run by First Great Western.

The organisation was responding to a UK Government consultation on the future of the Great Western franchise which four companies are reported to be bidding to run from 2013.

Sewta, which co-ordinates transport strategy for the ten South East Wales councils including those in Gwent, said the proposed new services would benefit passengers and the Welsh economy.

The suggestions included:

* A daily service from Abergavenny to London and back: calling at Pontypool and New Inn, Cwmbran and Severn Tunnel Junction and arriving in London before 10am and departing before 8pm.

* Hourly services from Ebbw Vale to Bristol Parkway via Newport and Severn Tunnel Junction to provide new commuting opportunities to planned employment sites around Bristol Parkway.

* An hourly Worcester, Gloucester, Chepstow and Cardiff service.

Sewta called for existing services to be retained and for the franchise to commit to electrifying services from South Wales to Bristol and Bath.

The consortium also asked for an obligation for the franchisee to provide "sufficient" rail capacity on England to Cardiff services for major events at the Millennium Stadium and other venues.

Mark Youngman, chairman of Sewta Rail Group, said: "The new Greater Western Franchise is a once in a lifetime opportunity to enhance and develop mainline and regional services to benefit all people of South Wales."

The consultation is now closed. A decision on who is to run the franchise is expected in December.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Will they listen now?

IT IS interesting to note suggestions from the South East Wales Transport Alliance that trains should run from Ebbw Vale to Newport hourly.

It wants to see the service as part of a package of recommendations to improve rail links in Gwent.

Quite how much of Sewta’s call will be heard by those responsible for our rail lines remains to be seen given that, for years, they have ignored calls from us, the public and local politicians to get an Ebbw Vale to Newport line up and running.

For nearly a decade we have called for the line to be introduced and for nearly a decade we have been fobbed off with lame excuses as to why it can’t happen.

It was nothing short of a scandal that the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff line was opened without so much as a thought about the impact it would have on Newport.

While Cardiff has reaped the rewards of getting people from the Valleys in to shop and take up employment there, Newport has missed out.

A decade on from when we first called for an Ebbw Vale to Newport line to open and we still don’t have any firm plan or date for when that might happen.

We wish Sewta well with its proposal.

Let’s hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.