Wales calls on Westminster's help for M4 rail alternatives


Welsh ministers have called on the UK Government to ‘play its part’ in delivering improvements to the country’s railway network.

The devolved government has outlined proposals for new train services, stations and ‘joined-up transport’ in south-east Wales in its response to the South East Wales Transport Commission’s ‘emerging conclusions’ report.

A GWR bi-mode train on the London-Cardiff route

The report, published in July, noted the need for an integrated network of alternative transport options that do not depend on the motorway. The Commission was launched after Welsh ministers dropped plans for a new route for the M4 at Newport.

The Welsh Government said it backed the need for sustainable, long-term alternatives to the private car, with part of its response including the publication of aspirations and proposals that outline its ambition for rail services.

These would see a major upgrade of the South Wales Main Line in terms of capacity, line speed, rolling stock and widespread electrification – 'leading to improvements such as journey times of Cardiff-Bristol Temple Meads in 35 minutes and Cardiff-London in 85 minutes'.

The Welsh Government has also outlined its aspirations and proposals for North Wales.

It re-iterated calls for the UK Government to play its part in the delivery of its aspirations, ‘in recognition of the current devolution settlement’.

Ken Skates, minister for transport, economy and North Wales, said the Commission’s report ‘highlights the need for all partners to come to the table and play their part in turning its recommendations into reality’.

He added: ‘We are committed to delivering our responsibilities for buses, road improvements and active travel. The UK Government must now complete its long delayed rail review, fully devolve rail matters to Wales, and deliver a fair funding settlement so we can start to rectify the years of historic underinvestment by Westminster in the rail network in Wales.

‘We will press ahead with the actions we are able to take now, but the UK Government must play its part to deliver the major upgrades recommended by the Commission.’

Rail infrastructure outside of the Core Valley Lines is not devolved.

In April, Network Rail opened the newly electrified section of the railway between Cardiff and London after years of delay and the cancellation of plans to extend electrification to Swansea. Operator GWR runs bi-mode trains on this route, carrying a largely redundant diesel engine.

The Welsh Government’s other ‘aspirations and proposals’ for the South Wales Main Line include:

  • new local commuter services and stations including Cardiff Parkway, Llanwern, Newport Rd/Rover Way, Magor, M4 J33, St Clears, and Cockett.
  • addressing network bottlenecks at Ebbw Line Park junction and Cardiff West, and upgrading Marches, Ebbw Vale and Maesteg lines.
  • allowing interchange at key hubs between express main line services and other forms of transport.

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