DIRECT trains running between Newport and Crosskeys could be just months away from starting, it has been revealed – but those waiting for the Ebbw Vale connection look set to face a longer wait.

This week, Transport for Wales (TfW) has announced its plans for new services across the nation over the coming years.

One Gwent line looks set to be introduced fairly soon, with progress being made on the direct line between Newport Railway Station and Crosskeys.

Currently, anyone looking to travel between the two stations has to change services at Cardiff Central – which adds a significant chunk of time to the journey.

But, from December 2021, an hourly service from Newport to Crosskeys looks set to be introduced – subject to industry access rights being granted to TfW, as standard.

This connection was first touted as part of the larger plans to connect Newport with Ebbw Vale directly, restoring a passenger service discontinued in April 1962.

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An Argus led campaign saw the service restored, though the original completion date of late 2021 is no longer expected.

Instead, the next stretch of the railway from Crosskeys to Ebbw Vale Town is expected to be completed by 2023, with the reopening of this line happening at some point thereafter.

TfW have said that many of their projects have been delayed “because of the enormous impact of COVID-19 over the last 18 months”.

They have cited more specific issues such as “disruptions in supply chains, the delivery of infrastructure needed to operate new services and the ability to train new train crews, due to social distancing.”

However, they have stressed that all additional services announced in 2018 will still go ahead – albeit to a revised timescale.

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What will happen to the 2018 plans?

Transport for Wales have announced that their plans are now working to the following timescales:

  • Cardiff to Cheltenham via Newport (a consistent one train per hour to all stations) – Will be delivered by December 2022 (as originally planned)
  • Heart of Wales Line (one additional service per day to all stations) – Will be delivered by December 2022 (as originally planned)
  • Liverpool to Llandudno (new hourly service) – Will be delivered by December 2023 (revised)
  • Extension to the current Manchester Airport to Llandudno service – Will be delivered by December 2023 (revised)
  • Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury (a consistent one train per hour to all stations) – Will be delivered by May 2024 (revised)
  • Hourly service between Liverpool and Shrewsbury – Will be delivered by December 2024

What’s more, TfW has purchased 25 intercity carriages, and five driving van trailers – which have all been fully refurbished for use.

This includes four trains of five carriages which will enter service on the South Wales to Manchester route in 2023 – and will likely be a familiar sight on the railways around the Newport area.

What has been said about the changes?

TfW planning and performance director, Colin Lea, said: “It is not unique to us in Wales, but the pandemic continues to have a massive impact on all of us and I’m proud of the way we kept key workers moving during the darkest days.

“As we now confidently move forward, we are beginning to see how post pandemic travel patterns may turn out. Leisure travel is already returning quickly, but commuting traffic will most likely take longer to return, as many of us adapt to flexible working. These new patterns of travel may help us smooth demand for travel over wider time periods and help alleviate some of our traditionally very busy flows.

“Since the original announcements in 2018, we have worked hard and are starting to see the fruits of that, with pacers now fully withdrawn and some new trains beginning testing around North Wales.

“However, the pandemic has affected our ability to train new crews and has disrupted our supply chain in many ways.  Despite this, we will deliver some of the additional services committed back in 2018 as planned, but a few have needed to be revised. Overall, all the additional services committed in 2018, over 60 new services, will be added to the weekday timetable in the coming few years.

“We remain confident that we will deliver on the ambitious plans Welsh Government has for transport in Wales, including tackling the climate emergency, and we will continue working with partners for the benefit of the communities throughout Wales and the borders.”