Regional transport consortium Sewta’s Board Members will receive a comprehensive update on the Ebbw Valley Railway when they meet in Ystrad Mynach on Friday.
Officers from Sewta (the South East Wales Transport Alliance) which co-ordinates transport strategy, plans and programmes for the 10 local councils of South East Wales, will brief their Board on Sewta-commissioned rail studies on the Ebbw Valley Line. The briefing will include associated work undertaken by the Welsh Government and Network Rail. The report also identifies next steps to take forward rail development on the line.
The Board will also receive an update on the implications of the recent electrification announcement by the Secretary of State for Transport for the Ebbw Valley line. The need is noted, in particular, to maintain progress on the proposed enhancements on the line, to ensure wherever possible that these are in place, or are able to be taken into account, prior to electrification works being carried out.
The redoubling of the track for a new service to Newport is seen as particularly critical in this respect, with Welsh Government funding sources recognised as the key. For longer term proposals, these will need to be progressed sufficiently to be included in the future-proofing of the electrification proposals, so that passive provision is made for their future implementation.
Sewta has been able to fund progress of studies to date through its annual Delivery Plans, The development of the City Region / Metro proposals, and M4 Corridor Enhancement Measures Programme may also provide opportunities to take forward the Ebbw Valley enhancements. An EU programme is being developed for 2014-2020 with the potential opportunity for additional funding for infrastructure improvements, including the Newport service passing loop, and the proposed stations at Crumlin and Abertillery. The Ebbw Vale Town Extension and the proposed Pye Corner station have the potential to access funding for delivery in the shorter term.
The details of the Ebbw Valley Railway update are:
• Ebbw Vale Town Extension
GRIP4 (final design) work has been commissioned by Welsh Government from Network Rail. The scheme has the potential to be a “quick win”, as the alignment is in place and is all within council ownership, together with the site for the station.
• Ebbw Vale - Newport Services
A frequency enhancements study has been undertaken which identified the requirement for a 1.5mile passing loop from Crumlin to Aberbeeg at a cost of £17.3m to accommodate a second train per hour. The Welsh Government has commissioned a further review of the business case. Electrification could further improve the business case with an additional 4-5% potentially added to the demand forecast, and a reduction in operating costs of up to 30%.
• Pye CornerStation
This was initially identified as an “expensive” scheme at £5.7m due to the complexities of constructing the car park (50% of costs). A” value engineering exercise” has been undertaken which has identified a revised preferred option which could cut costs by 40% (to £2.882m) and increase car parking space from 43 to 70. A public exhibition was held, with 85% support obtained from the community. The existing Arriva Trains Wales timetable is based on modelling which already makes provision for Pye Corner Station.
• Crumlin Station
The main issues for the scheme are the land being in third party ownership and the culvert of the Ebbw River which is in poor condition. Scheme costs were initially estimated at £5.2m. A value management exercise has identified a revised option which is to bridge the existing culvert. Discussions have been held with Navigation Colliery Trust Representatives who are also looking to remove the roof from the culvert. They are satisfied that proposal is compatible with a potential link to a proposed development site adjacent to the station. A public exhibition has been held with 82% support from the community with no significant objections. Line speeds at Crumlin are currently low so there are no significant time penalties for services stopping at Crumlin. Construction of the station would not be detrimental to proposals for Ebbw Vale Town extension.
• Abertillery Spur and Station
Part of the existing track bed is used as a cycleway, but with enough space available for the provision of a single rail track. The track bed is already owned by Blaenau Gwent Council. A Six Bells footpath crossing needs to be retained, requiring a footbridge. The station location is a former Co-op store site in Abertillery. Total scheme cost anticipated at £16.7m.