The first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, is now leading the South East Wales Metro programme, following complaints about slow progress and lack of clarity on delivery.
The current transport minister, Edwina Hart, will leave the National Assembly for Wales in May. Mr Jones’ leadership will therefore provide continuity, provided that Labour remains in government after the election.
The flagship Metro programme is said to have a price tag of over £1bn in total. Phase 1 was awarded £77m by the Welsh Government, Phase 2 is planned to cost up to £600m, primarily for electrifying the local railways.
A Welsh Government spokesman told Transport Network: ‘The South Wales Metro is among the major strategic and transformational priorities of the Welsh Government and so, naturally, is being led by the first minister.
'The Metro is a government-wide priority and the first minister is working closely with the minister for economy, science and transport and other ministers.’
The news follows dissatisfaction from senior figures in local government and elsewhere with Metro’s progress.
Critics have included Elizabeth Haywood, who chaired the Welsh Government’s City Regions Task and Finish Group, and a think-tank group chaired by Gerald Holtham, who led the Commission on Welsh public funding.
Welsh transport expert, Prof Stuart Cole, of the University of South Wales, said: ‘I can see the logic, if Edwina is going to retire. It [the Metro] is an expensive long-term project.’
He said Mr Jones’ leadership could also help overcome the constraints of the Government’s limited transport budget.
‘If you move it out of the transport budget to the budget the first minister has, he has a call on everybody’s budget, if that’s what the Government wants to do,’ he said.
Prof Cole added dealing with the Metro separately was sensible in one respect, but stated: ‘We’ve still got this issue of the Metro being seen as one item and the two big road schemes – the M4 Relief Road at Newport and dualling the A465 Heads of the Valleys road – as something different. I would want to see both of them integrated.’