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Railwatch 084 - June 2000

De Cymru

South Wales

By Peter Clark

Vale success Prospects for a long-awaited resumption of passenger trains on the Vale of Glamorgan (Barry-Bridgend) line appear to have brightened. At a meeting in February of the local authority's working group (on which RDS South Wales is represented), a target reopening date as early as September 2001 was suggested as possible. This seemingly tight schedule depends on prompt evaluation and acceptance of the business case by the SRA, followed by design work, construction and negotiations with the train operators. A transport grant settlement for 2000-01 will allow work to proceed. Two new stations are envisaged - Llantwit Major and Rhoose (for airport). RDS's suggested station at Gileston-St Athan could possibly follow later. We await future progress with interest. One slight cloud on the horizon is the apparent intention to operate the line as a self-contained local service, presumably Cardiff-Barry-Bridgend, whereas we have always advocated a more strategic role for the route with through trains between east and west making use of it. But this could develop through franchise replacement arrangements (see below).

WalesRail Much interest has been shown, particularly by the Welsh Assembly, in proposals for all the non-inter-city services in Wales to be provided by a single train operator, instead of the current four operators. Geographical and economic considerations would necessitate cross-border services being included and following initial submissions of interest by up to three companies, the SRA commenced a study of how feasible a Wales-centred franchise would be and exactly what it would contain. Thus Wales is not in the second tranche of franchise replacements, but may be in the third. Prism Rail was the only company to make its ideas public, holding a series of meetings around Wales at which RDS was well represented. In general, their proposals, if implemented, contain much that we would welcome, being largely in agreement with our Development Plan, even going further in some cases. But there are notable exceptions. Apart from a welcome and overdue recognition that more trains to Fishguard are needed, west Wales does not fare as well as we would want, while there is no commitment to run trains to Ebbw Vale. Instead, a connecting bus is proposed. Apart from the latter, the other bus services envisaged would sensibly fill gaps in the rail network, rather than replace trains. This is not bustitution as normally understood, contrary to the impression given in Railwatch83's front page article. The big question is of course to what extent Prism's proposals would be funded. There is also a large credibility gap to bridge, in view of the present Prism subsidiary's actions west of Cardiff.

Transport Grant awards Integrated transport schemes account for just over half of the £40million announced by the Welsh Assembly for 2000-01. As well as the Vale of Glamorgan scheme (see above), other infrastructure work in the SWIFT area is provided for. Road schemes definitely going ahead include the Cwm bypass near Ebbw Vale. No decision on the parallel rail line has yet been taken.

The £340million scheme to build a duplicate M4 motorway around Newport was rejected by the Assembly's environment committee, as was the airport access road project in its present guise. While this is encouraging, we have probably not heard the last of these schemes which have powerful interests gunning for them.

Development plan Some encouraging responses have been received. We have met two Assembly members at their

request, to discuss our proposals for Valley Lines and west Wales respectively, and others have asked to meet us. We have also been asked by two Assembly members for our views on Caerleon station reopening. Many other recipients have offered words of support and encouragement. The Development Plan can be accessed from the internet on http://www.chartist.demon.co. uk/rdsw/dev-plan.htm.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

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