‘Economic renewal’ promised in Welsh rail plans

AMBITIOUS plans to improve Welsh railways with a total investment of almost £5 billion will help to trigger an economic renewal, according to the country’s transport minister.

Arriva Trains Wales will bow out as the national operator after the last trains run on Saturday night, when Transport for Wales will take over as the lead manager, with contractor KeolisAmey providing the services and employing the staff.

One of the first obvious changes will be a widespread rebranding as Transport for Wales Rail Services to emphasise the start of the new era, while new trains are already being built or are on order. A £738 million South Wales Metro will form a major part of the upgraded service

Transport secretary Ken Skates said: ‘Our plans go beyond a traditional transport project – they have to become the spark for wider economic renewal.  They have to help individuals, businesses and communities who need a reliable, integrated transport system to help them find a new job, support their business to expand, and bring new investment to their town.

‘The Metro project is not only about dealing with today’s transport problems, but how we provide opportunities for the future —and not just in transport terms, but the impact that the Metro infrastructure will have on economic possibilities for people throughout south Wales.’

The changes will take several years, but include £800 million-worth of new trains, an extra 600 jobs and 30 new apprenticeships each year, as well as smart ticketing.

Metro routes in South Wales will be electrically operated, while some battery hybrids are being delivered from Vivarail, which is converting former London Underground cars.

From December 2022 there will be a 28 per cent increase in Sunday mileage.

Speaking at the ‘Metro and Me’ conference for business leaders today (8 October), finance secretary Mark Drakeford told delegates: ’Our plans go beyond a traditional transport project. The Metro will increase social mobility and widen access, connecting people and communities to employment opportunities, and education, health and leisure facilities.’

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