THE planned South Wales Metro is "well on track", Mark Drakeford has said.

The scheme involves a series of new train, bus - and possibly tram - routes running throughout the region, stretching from Monmouth in the east to Porthcawl and Maesteg in the west, and from Penarth and Barry Island in the south to Ebbw Vale, Merthyr Tydfil and Treherbert in the north.

It will also involve restoring the line between Newport and Ebbw Vale - something the Argus has long campaigned for.

Creating, delivering and running it was part of the new Wales and Borders contract handed to KeolisAmey in October last year, and it is expected to be complete by 2023.

Speaking in the Assembly this week, Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay asked first minister Mark Drakeford for an update on the scheme, which is aimed at improving connections between communities while encouraging people to leave their cars at home and use public transport.

Addressing the first minister, Mr Ramsay said: "I'm sure you'd agree with me that sustainable rural communities require a sustainable transport infrastructure.

"I often joke that you could have hopped on a train in my village of Raglan back in 1955 and travelled to Cardiff to work or to shop.

"Sixty years on, it's a much more complicated situation, even though we now have such innovative concepts as the Cardiff City Region.

"Can you update us, now that you're in post, and congratulations on that, on your government's plans to develop the South Wales Metro? Where do we go from here, and how do we makes sure that rural communities and outlying towns, such as Monmouth in my constituency are well and truly on that Metro map so that all areas of south east Wales are able to benefit from the development of the Metro?"

Replying, Mr Drakeford said: "He (Mr Ramsay) will be glad to know that our plans for the South Wales Metro are well on track, that the funding for it that we have secured through the European Union will be used in full, that the money that is coming through the UK Government as part of the Cardiff capital deal will also be part of that broader funding package, together with significant funding from the Welsh Government itself.

"We are confident that we will be able to press ahead to the timetable and to the extent that we have already announced."

Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies also raised questions about the scheme in the Assembly this week.

He said: "We have seen and heard timetables for the delivery of new services on many of the Valleys lines serving the Heads of the Valleys area, but we are still waiting in Ebbw Vale to hear about new services on the Ebbw Vale line.

"We understand that there will be an additional service in 2021, but we are looking towards four services an hour on the same basis as other Valleys lines and as other Heads of the Valleys areas."

Trefnydd, or leader of the house, Rebecca Evans replied economy and transport secretary Ken Skates would speak to Mr Davies about the scheme.