SEWTA’S RAIL STRATEGY REVIEW WINS WIDESPREAD SUPPORT
The results of the public consultation on Sewta’s Rail Strategy Review – Electrification reveals overwhelming support for the transport alliance’s vision of future rail travel in South East Wales.
The majority (85%) of the 60 organisations and individuals who responded to the consultation expressed either general support of the strategy (55%) or support for specific measures (30%). There were, however, several suggestions that the rail strategy should be more ambitious.
Regional Transport Consortium 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 meeting in Newport on Friday December 6th 2013 will be asked to discuss the responses, and amend the strategy as necessary.
Much of the support related to electrification and its wider benefits. There was substantial support for the capacity improvements within the Cardiff Area Signalling renewal programme, including enhanced capacity between Cardiff Queen Street and Cogan, and new turn-backs (platforms) at key stations to enable optimisation of the train fleet in providing seat capacity.
There was also significant support for the Quick Wins proposed by Sewta in the strategy, including train lengthening, park and ride expansion, Station Travel Plans, and Station improvements including improved disabled access.
There was specific support for rail-link bus services across the region with respondents noting the recent loss of some services.
In terms of proposals for service improvements, there was significant support for Sunday service improvements, both generally and on specific lines, especially where there is no existing Sunday service such as the Maesteg and Coryton Lines. There was significant support for the proposed service increases between Cardiff and Bristol, between Ebbw Vale and Newport, and on the Chepstow, Abergavenny, Maesteg and Vale of Glamorgan lines.
With reference to network extensions, there was strong support for the Cardiff – Llantrisant / Beddau route, split evenly between the alternative route options (via Pontyclun or via Creigiau). There was also substantial support for the extension from Aberdare to Hirwaun, and for extensions on the Ebbw Vale line to both Ebbw Vale Town and Abertillery.
There was support for all of the new stations proposed in the rail strategy, with significant support for a new station at Caerleon, at Trecynon with the extension to Hirwaun, at Llanwern, St Fagans and Pye Corner. Several respondents were in favour of development of Severn Tunnel Junction Station as a strategic parkway station with improved highway access.
Some respondents suggested ways in which the Sewta Rail Strategy could be improved / modified. These comments related mainly to the strategic context, further electrification programme, prioritisation and programming and strategy delivery.
Passenger Focus, the independent public body set up by the Government to protect the interests of rail passengers, provided details of recent issues from their passenger surveys which reinforce priorities within the rail strategy. These include service reliability and seating capacity, but also value for money.
They also recommended increased passenger engagement, and adopting their recommendations for ensuring accountability to passengers, improving performance, dealing with disruption and provision of information.
Other respondents urged Sewta to secure assurances within the electrification programme for both committed enhancements and aspirations, specifically for the Abertillery extension and the Ebbw Vale – Newport service. It was also suggested that the Bristol – Cardiff service could be extended to Swansea on electrification.
Several respondents were concerned with the rolling stock strategy after electrification. It was suggested that there could be problems with cascading rolling stock from elsewhere, such as the lack of inter-working between Class 313 and Class 315 trains. It was suggested that a new build would be better than cascading elderly rolling stock.
An overview of all the responses can be viewed on the Sewta website: www.sewta.gov.uk/other-documents/studies-etc
The revised strategy will form the basis of Sewta’s input into and involvement in the Cardiff Capital Region Metro, and be a key input in the next round of National and Regional Transport Planning Documents. It will also help to inform Sewta input into Government and rail industry planning processes, including Network Rail’s Wales Route Study which commenced in November 2013, and the re-franchising of rail services, such as the Wales and Borders franchise due in 2018.
Chair of Sewta, and Cabinet Member for Communities at Bridgend County Borough Council, Councillor Phil White, said:
“Sewta is delighted that the consultation into the Rail Strategy Review – Electrification produced such wide-ranging and encouraging responses. It shows that the work of the Regional Transport Consortium reflects the aspirations of the people of South East Wales, their elected representatives and passenger organisations.”
Sewta is the alliance of local authorities charged with developing transport policy and delivering transport projects on behalf of the 10 local authorities in South East Wales and their partners, both in the transport industry and in organisations representing passengers’ interests.
Sewta’s membership includes the local authorities of Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Torfaen and the Vale of Glamorgan. Partners are the Confederation of Passenger Transport, Arriva Trains Wales, First Great Western, Network Rail, Bus Users UK, Passenger Focus and Sustrans. Sewta works closely with the Welsh Government.