Leaders from across South Wales and Western England have revealed their vision for how the area’s train services should look by 2050.
Led by the Western Gateway Partnership, in collaboration with Transport for Wales and the Western Gateway Sub-National Transport Body, the new vision shows how the area could nearly halve current journey times in between cities in the area and drastically improve journeys to London and elsewhere in the UK.
Currently the area lags behind other parts of the UK with slow train times in-between major cities and rural communities. Cardiff in particular has been identified by the Government as having the “least well directly connected major city” in the UK.
With ongoing national investment in rail services elsewhere in the UK, leaders and businesses have teamed up to make sure the area is not left behind.
The vision promotes increasing capacity to allow up to four trains per hour between Cardiff and central Bristol reducing journey times between the cities from 50 to 30minutes. It also suggests that journey times between Swansea and Bristol could be dramatically reduced from one hour and a half once an hour to 60 minutes with three trains an hour, through funding Transport for Wales proposed improvements to the South Wales Main Line and upgrading the Severn crossing.
The plans estimate that improvements would cost between £1-2bn in the short term to deliver already committed and planned developments up to 2035. In the long term, the full range of development up to 2050 has been estimated to cost £7-8bn. This is compared to the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme which is estimated to cost £17.2bn and HS2 which is likely to cost £72.3bn in total.
Councillor Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council and Vice Chair of the Western Gateway Partnership: “Working with our transport bodies and industry, we have a huge opportunity here to vastly improve connections across the border between England and Wales. Through our partnership, we’ve identified many shared strengths between both countries and these sectors will get a huge boost through an improved rail service.
“It has been a difficult time for rail in recent months, but this vision gives a deliverable long-term ambition, putting confidence in our nation to build back better. With more journeys between Bristol and Cardiff than Leeds and Manchester, we know the demand is there and believe it is time Government acknowledged that our area should be next in line for investment to unlock our potential.”
Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway, said: “Our area has so much to offer. With 14 of the 15 largest aerospace manufacturers based here and home to the largest group of high-tech cyber businesses in Europe, we are ready to help deliver a greener, fairer future for the whole of the UK and beyond.
“This vision sends the signal that we are ready for the investment needed to unlock our potential. A better rail system with improved connectivity and new station is key to creating the jobs and homes the area needs and our partnership is ready to work with Government and the private sector to deliver this.”
The full Western Gateway Rail Vision 2050 can be read on the partnership website