Regional transport consortium Sewta is again pressing the UK Government to invest in the future of South Wales, by promoting the business case for rail electrification. Sewta says that the bid to include all of the Valleys network and the line to Swansea is even more compelling.
Sewta (the South East Wales Transport Alliance) co-ordinates transport strategy, plans and programmes for the 10 local councils of South East Wales. The Sewta Board has been at the forefront of the campaign to persuade both the Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for Transport to support the Welsh Government’s proposals for electrification of the South Wales rail network.
The proposals would include the electrification of the Valley Lines network around Cardiff (including the lines to Ebbw Vale, Maesteg, and through the Vale of Glamorgan, as well as the lines to the north of Cardiff), and the Great Western main line to Swansea. The business cases were submitted to the Department for Transport in December 2011, but have been refined to reflect greater certainty on the costs. The Department must publish the UK Government’s priorities for railway investment over the period to 2019 by the end of July 2012. This presents a unique opportunity for a step change in rail services in Wales.
The total cost is expected to exceed £300m, which would need to be financed by the UK Government, and with the deadline for formulating investment priorities fast approaching, Sewta is redoubling its efforts to win the argument and the cash. The Sewta Board has confirmed that electrification is critical to the delivery of the Regional Rail Strategy.
Speaking after Sewta representatives had attended a meeting of the Cross Party Rail Group in the Senedd, Councillor Andrew Morgan, the Chair of Sewta, said:
“Sewta’s policy supporting electrification is underpinned by comprehensive studies that have shown the wide environmental and economic benefits of an electrified railway. Electrification has a strong fit with the Regional Transport Plan. The more work the Sewta Rail Group undertakes, the more compelling the argument for electrifying the Valleys network becomes.
“Evidence suggests that a fully electrified network allows for significant cost reductions (some estimates suggest upwards of 20 per cent) and more flexibility in how the trains work. There would also be benefits across the whole of the regional network, with investment in a more efficient and standardised type of rolling stock.”
“Furthermore, rail electrification has the potential to act as a catalyst for wider economic regeneration in the region, by increasing the travel to work area of the major employment centres in South Wales. It would provide for a more connected Cardiff City Region of some 1.4 million people, and would encourage modal shift with significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.”
“Sewta fully supports the call for a Metro network for the South East Wales Capital Region, and full electrification is necessary to make this aspiration a reality. Demand for rail travel in South Wales has been rising rapidly, exceeding growth on the UK rail network as a whole.”