Major progress has been made on ambitious upgrades to Wales’ railways following £343m of investment to help deliver better journeys for passengers, the UK Government Transport Secretary Grant Shapps set out last Friday, August 21.
The raft of schemes to be funded includes kickstarting the design of the Cardiff Central station upgrade, advancing plans for cutting-edge digital signalling on the Cambrian line, and speeding up journeys between Cardiff and Swansea.
£5.8m has been released to fund work on a new, modern design for the Cardiff Central station upgrade, focused on improving access and ensuring platforms are suited for longer trains, boosting space and capacity for passengers.
The Transport Secretary has also announced £3m to advance plans for upgraded signalling on the 241-kilometre Cambrian line from Shrewsbury Sutton Bridge Junction to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. The planned state-of-the-art digital signalling system will modernise the network, improving the reliability of services, and supporting the introduction of a new fleet being rolled out across the network in December 2022.
In addition, almost £2m has been made available for the next phase of development work on proposals to speed up journeys between Cardiff and Swansea, Chester and Llandudno Junction, and the Severn Tunnel and Cardiff, through better aligned tracks and exploring putting additional services on the lines.
The announcement of these new projects follows major reforms to the network over the past months, such as completion of a fully electric route between Cardiff and London, and the devolution of powers over the Core Valley line to the Welsh Government.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
“The host of improvements we are delivering across Wales, from huge infrastructure upgrades to creating new and modern stations, are vital to deliver better, quicker and more convenient journeys for passengers within, into and out of Wales.
“We want to transform travel for passengers and, as we build back better from Covid-19, we will ensure our investment helps to level up all parts of the UK.
“By upgrading, improving and – crucially – modernising our railways, we will make good on our promise to deliver the reliable journeys passengers deserve.”
UK Government Minister in Wales David TC Davies said:
“Communities across Wales will benefit from this multi-million package of rail investment, aimed at delivering rail services that are fit for the future.
“From proposals to speed up services, improving access for those who need it most and boosting connectivity, these improvements form part of our broader plans to level up the nations and regions of the UK as we rebuild our economy following the coronavirus.”
It was confirmed in June that the Great Western Main Line is now fully electric, revolutionising train travel between Cardiff and London through quicker, more environmentally-friendly
And in March, the UK Government’s commitment to empower decision making in rail at a regional level was underlined with the transfer of powers over the Core Valley lines from Network Rail to Transport for Wales. This devolution is backed by £196m in funding for management, electrification, upgrades and other improvements on the network.
Additionally, almost £4m has been invested towards building a new station at Bow Street between Borth and Aberystwyth to help improve connectivity and ease congestion on roads in the area. The station is expected to open early next year.
A number of stations in Wales have also benefitted from millions of UK Government funding to improve accessibility for all passengers such as through new step-free routes. Grangetown, Pontypool & New Inn, Llantwit Major and Neath – were awarded a total of £1.5m in February 2020 to install new lifts under the AfA Mid-Tier programme, which funds smaller scale accessibility improvements.
All projects are expected to complete by 2024 at the latest.
Accessibility improvements at Cadoxton station, which include a new footbridge and lifts, are set to be unveiled on Friday, August 28.