THE revived Ebbw Valley railway line celebrated its first birthday last week.

The £30million project, which saw the reopening of 18 miles of existing freight track to provide hourly passenger services from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff, reopened on February 6 2008, when the first train departed from Ebbw Vale Parkway at 6.40am.

Since then the service has proved highly popular, exceeding user expectations with 573,442 journeys in the first 12 months.

The project was led by Blaenau Gwent council and supported by Caerphilly County Borough Council, Newport council and funded by the Assembly.

The reopening of the line is a key part of plans to regenerate Blaenau Gwent following the closure of the Corus Works in Ebbw Vale in 2002 and saw the first passenger services operate on the line since 1962.

As part of the project, six new stations at Rogerstone, Risca and Pontymister, Crosskeys, Newbridge, Llanhilleth and Ebbw Vale Parkway were built.

The service boasts a 95 percent reliability record and has contributed to the regeneration of derelict stations and future plans include additional stations and an hourly service to Newport, which the Argus has campaigned for.

The revival of the line was recognised by judges at the Royal Town Planning Institute Cymru who awarded the project the Wales Planning Award’s Supreme Awards for 2008, describing it as one of the most significant infrastructure projects carried out in the Valley in recent years.

Leader of Blaenau Gwent council, councillor Des Hillman, said: “We have seen the success of the Ebbw Valley Railway over the last few months - and we are proud that local authorities took the lead in getting the job done.

"The train service is going to be of major importance in the regeneration of communities in Blaenau Gwent and we will be keeping up pressure for the next stages of the railway’s development.”