Our metro programmes are central to the vision of an accessible, sustainable and efficient transport system – encouraging people to change their travel by making it easier to choose to walk, cycle or use public transport.
To date, the Welsh Government have invested over £800 million in a fleet of brand-new trains which will operate across Wales, including the metros network.
A duty for Corporate Joint Committees came into force in June 2022 to produce Regional Transport Plans for the four parts of Wales which they cover; North Wales, Mid Wales, West Wales and South East Wales. The Metro programmes will underpin the work of the Corporate Joint Committees (CJCs) in developing Regional Transport Plans.
The groundwork for this has been set by our metros programmes and the work of the Burns Delivery Board in South East Wales, providing a strategic view of rail, bus and active travel connectivity for the regions in which they operate.
North Wales Metro
In North Wales, the ambition of Welsh Government is to transform the rail, bus services and active travel offer – reducing rural isolation and opening-up employment and leisure opportunities across the region. This will, in turn, support economic development as well as creating a more sustainable future for tourism.
They are already making tangible progress, reinstating direct services between Liverpool and North Wales for the first time in generations and providing active travel connectivity to and from railway stations and bus interchanges in Flintshire, Wrexham and Gwynedd.
Over a quarter of journeys are already made by walking and cycling – over the next 20 years they aim to increase this to over a third.
To support this change, the Welsh Government have already significantly increased investment in this area. Through the North Wales Metro programme, they have developed network plans to improve connections to stations in Bangor, Flint, Holyhead, Llandudno, Llandudno Junction, Colwyn Bay, Shotton, Deeside, Wrexham, Rhyl and Prestatyn. This process will continue in the North and start in the South.
The North Wales Transport Commission recently published its Progress Statement, setting out key themes emerging from their work to date. Historically, the debate on transport in North Wales has focused on long distance routes for commuting, but the commission’s analysis of travel patterns shows the majority of journeys taking place are short and local. These are trips where walking, cycling or using public transport is viable, providing there is a public transport or active travel alternative.
Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro
Work on creating a truly integrated transport network in the Swansea Bay area continues to progress well, albeit the overall programme is at an earlier stage of development.
While the detailed development and design work being carried out using the Wales Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG) is essential, the Welsh Government recognise that more immediate interventions are required to improve public transport and active travel within the region.
As part of this, Transport for Wales are developing two large scale pilots for Swansea Bay and the Haven Waterway that will see the introduction of a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses by the mid-2020s. This supports the wider decarbonisation of the bus fleet in Wales and the new vehicles and depot facilities will be complemented by bus corridor improvements, delivered in partnership with local authorities and bus operators.
Welsh Government will continue to press the UK Government to re-instate the programme of electrification of the South Wales Main Line between Cardiff and Swansea as a strategic priority for Wales, which will bring significant benefits for the region, but also provide the foundations for the future Swansea Bay Metro development.
South Wales Metro
A significant amount of work is already being undertaken on the South Wales Metro to upgrade the rail network, public transport hubs and active travel routes which many people are already benefitting from.
Anyone travelling north of Cardiff will see the rapid progress being made in building a new £100 million Integrated Control Centre and train depot at Taffs Well. This facility will support the operation of trains into the south Wales valleys and house the new fleet of tram trains. It will help to deliver more weekday and Sunday services, as well as housing a fleet of trains.
By 2025, Welsh Government will have delivered their commitment for approximately 95 per cent of rail passenger journeys in Wales to be on new trains.
They are consistently reviewing their bus networks with local authorities and industry partners to develop more effective and efficient services as part of a comprehensive and integrated public transport network. Their transport interchanges are being improved to provide customers with a more enjoyable experience and safer environment. Cardiff’s new multi-modal transport interchange at the heart of the city will include significant improvements to Cardiff Central Railway Station and the brand-new Cardiff bus interchange, as well as on-street bus stops, taxi, active travel provision and improved connectivity to Cardiff Bay.
In areas like rail which are not devolved, we need now more than ever for UK Government to fulfil its funding obligations to continue making progress.
It is clear there can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to public transport – it will require flexibility and agility to meet the needs of the different towns, villages, cities and rural communities across Wales. However, by supporting people to change the way they travel and by making the sustainable choice the easy choice, we can avoid the worst effects of climate change and create a greener, healthier future for people now and for future generations.