MAJOR improvements to the frequency and quality of rail services are promised as a result of a £5 billion investment in Wales and Borders routes - including the Newport-Ebbw Vale link we have been campaigning to see re-opened.

KeolisAmey’s 15-year contract to operate and develop the Wales and Borders rail service and South Wales Metro starts today, with takeover of the rail service from Arriva Trains Wales scheduled for October 14.

By the end of 2023, there will be an extra 285 services each weekday across Wales, a 29 per cent increase.

Improvements to the Ebbw Vale line will be included in this, with one train per hour to Newport by 2021.

It comes after the South Wales Argus re-launched its Get Us Back on Track campaign to see Newport and Ebbw Vale directly connected once again last week.

In a statement, Ken Skates, cabinet secretary for economy and transport, said: "Increases in service frequency on Maesteg and Ebbw lines remain a priority for South Wales Metro. Infrastructure improvements on the Ebbw Line are currently in progress, and we expect a doubling of services on the line from 2021 – I have instructed Transport for Wales to work with the Operator and Development Partner (ODP) to deliver this.

"Our ambition is to grow Ebbw services to four trains per hour by 2024, and we have instructed Transport for Wales to work with the ODP to present to us options for delivering this."

Support has flooded in for the re-launched Argus campaign over the last week.

We first called for the link - closed to passengers on April 30, 1962 - to be brought back into use in 2002. But nothing happened, despite the Assembly promising to re-open the line in time for the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Six hundred extra jobs will be created to deliver the Wales and Borders service, in a range of roles, and 450 new apprenticeships – 30 a year –will be created over the life of the contract.

There will be a £1.9 billion investment to improve passengers’ travel experience, including an £800 million for trains, boosting overall service capacity by 65 per cent.

All trains will be replaced by 2023, when 95 per cent of journeys will be on brand new trains, half of which will be assembled in Wales.

Almost 247 stations will be modernised, with £194 million invested in this and the building of four new stations.

Passengers should begin to see improvements in service levels from December this year, with increased capacity on valleys lines.

Sunday services will increase by 61 per cent with 294 more services across Wales.

Smart ticketing will be introduced, to make fares more flexible, along with cheaper off-peak fares, including reductions at around 50 per cent of valleys’ stations.

More frequent trains, reduced journey times, and more flexible fares are on the way, to make travelling easier and more cost effective.

It is hoped too, that greater capacity and improved services will help maximise the economic development, enabling people to take advantage of more and better employment opportunities.

KeolisAmey is a joint venture between international public transport operator Keolis and infrastructure asset management specialist Amey. It will work with, and run all services under, the Transport for Wales, brand.

Transport for Wales is a not-for-profit company driving the Welsh Government’s vision of a high-quality, safe, integrated, affordable and accessible transport network.

First minister Carwyn Jones said: “This is an important moment for transport in Wales and begins a new chapter for rail services in this country.

“The way we shaped this procurement was different. We put passengers’ priorities at the centre of our thinking and threw out a challenge to all of the bidders to address the concerns they had about seat capacity, journey times and service frequency.

“People said they wanted affordable fares and newer, cleaner trains and we have worked hard to ensure this is reflected in what we are launching today.

“This is a chance not simply to build a modern, forward looking transport system, but to use it as an important tool to shape the life of the nation around us. This is a landmark moment in the future development of Wales.”