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07/02/2019

AMs back drive for more control of Welsh rail developments

Words: Roger Milne
Rail line / Shutterstock_88160386

Welsh Assembly Members (AMs) have come out in support of the Welsh Government’s bid for more powers and funding for rail services in Wales.

The backing came after a debate in the Senedd on 5 February when transport minister Ken Skates complained that the current “imperfect” settlement “undermines our commitment to encourage inclusive economic growth, to deliver balanced investment across regions and to develop a railway that meets the social needs of our rural communities".

He stressed that “with the right powers and the necessary funding, we could be doing much more – more services to improve access to jobs and leisure activities, more attractive journey times to encourage people to move from their own private vehicles, and more stations to connect our communities”.

AMs largely agreed with the minister that rail delivery in Wales was “complex, fragmented and underfunded”.

Skates insisted that “a fair devolution settlement for Wales would allow us, over the next 10 years, to fund schemes such as the reopening of railway lines, electrification of the south and north Wales main lines, and new stations across the network.”

Next week the minister is due to meet Keith Williams, former chef executive of British Airways, who is carrying out a review of the UK rail industry for the UK Government.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Professor Mark Barry, the academic behind much of the Welsh administration’s strategic thinking on rail, has argued that existing plans to connect the centre of the capital with Cardiff Bay (including a new station at Loundon Square) do not go far enough.

He is reported as advocating the closure of the western carriageway of Lloyd George Avenue as a road and “used instead for a realigned Metro line operating to tramway standards from Central and Herbert Street all the way to the Wales Millennium Centre and potentially beyond”.

“This will free up the current rail corridor for an ambitious landscaping, regeneration and mixed-use development project as was always the original intent back in the 1990s.”

He has also made it clear that he believes that the main line into Swansea should be upgraded with more and faster services with connections to a new “dedicated Swansea Bay urban area rail metro”.

Image credit | Shutterstock

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