£8bn vision for West of England transport network unveiled
Business and political leaders from across the South West will today reveal their £8bn 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.
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 Bristol and Cardiff reducing journey times between the cities from 50 to 30 minutes.
It also suggests that journey times between Swansea and Bristol could be dramatically reduced from one and a half hours 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.
David Davies MP, the Secretary of State for Wales, said: “Connectivity within South Wales and South West England is vital to growing our regional economy. I welcome the ambition of Western Gateway and am pleased to have recently announced significant funding to help develop a number of key priorities including tackling congestion on the South Wales corridor”
Jane Mudd, Leader of Newport Council and Vice Chair of the Western Gateway Partnership said: “This vision is key to making sure our area gets the rail system our communities deserve. An effective and fast rail network will be essential if we want to make sure we can decarbonise our transport system and reach our climate change goals.
“The Global Centre for Rail Excellence in South Wales will put the UK at the forefront of rail innovation and we need the infrastructure to match that.
“Welsh and UK Government’s recent announcement of funding for a new study to examine improvements to the South Wales Main Line shows a recognition that more needs to be done. This vision lays out what we as the area’s elected politicians see as the key areas to improve and I hope will lay the path for the faster and more reliable services we need.”
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.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol and Western Gateway Board member, said: “Better public transport between major cities like Bristol and Cardiff, along with wider investment in intercity transport, is essential to decarbonise and grow our economy. With over 80,000 car journeys taking place over the M4 Prince Of Wales Bridge every day, and predictions that this will increase, we desperately need long term solutions. I am proud of the cross-party leadership we have been able to provide through our partnership of local leaders and businesses.
“Developments like the £95 million we secured for Bristol’s Temple Meads and Temple Quarter show how investment in our area’s transport can drive wider regeneration providing a gateway to Wales and South West England. I look forward to making the case for central government to back this vision to unlock the full potential of our Western Gateway area.”
The Western Gateway is the Pan Regional Partnership for South Wales and Western England. Made up of local authorities, businesses and universities from across the area, the partnership aims to overcome productivity hurdles to add £34bn to the economy and power efforts to reach Net Zero.
Katherine Bennett, 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.”