Wales politics

South Wales Metro upgrade 'ruled out' for some valleys lines

An image from the 3D animation of the South Wales Metro Image copyright Welsh government
Image caption The South Wales Metro promises a mix of more modern trains and faster buses

Ministers have been accused of dropping plans to electrify some south Wales valley railway lines in favour of a "bullet train for the Bay".

Plaid Cymru AM Adam Price made the claim after seeing maps outlining proposals for the South Wales Metro.

They include a light rail service from Cardiff city centre to the bay.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said "nothing has been cancelled" and it was too early to say what will be in the final contract.

Two private-sector bidders are competing to build the Metro and run the Wales and Borders rail franchise from October.

The Metro has been billed as a transformation of public transport in Cardiff and the south Wales valleys.

Services on some valleys lines have been shaded blue, meaning they are scheduled to be upgraded.

These include heavy rail lines from Cardiff Queen Street to Merthyr Tydfil, Treherbert and Aberdare which will be converted to light rail and electrified.

However, a proposal to electrify the line from Cardiff to Ebbw Vale has been "discontinued from future consideration at present", according to one of the maps.

Image copyright Transport for Wales
Image caption A Transport for Wales map shows the Ebbw Vale line in red, indicating an upgrade shelved

Lines in Cardiff are due to be converted to light rail in the next stage of the project, including the line that connects the city centre to Cardiff Bay, with a possible extension as far as the Porth Teigr development.

The maps are part of an environmental report published online by Transport for Wales, an arms-length company set up by the government to manage the rail franchise.

In the Senedd on Wednesday, Mr Price - Plaid's economy spokesman - accused Welsh Labour of failing to live up to promises about electrifying lines in the valleys.

He pointed to other proposals coloured red on the maps that had been "ruled out" such as electrification of the Maesteg to Bridgend line, an extension from Merthyr to Dowlais Top, and a plan to connect the Merthyr and Rhymney Valleys lines.

Mr Price likened the situation to the UK government's cancellation of plans to electrify the south Wales mainline to Swansea.

He said: "The Conservative [UK] Government were rightly accused of selling out on people who lived to the west of Cardiff - isn't the Labour [Welsh] government now doing exactly the same to people who live in the valleys to the north?"

Image copyright Transport for Wales
Image caption Blue and green for go - Cardiff light rail plans are still on track

A Welsh Government spokesman said the maps were not definitive and that plans could change.

The Metro will be delivered in stages, with the next one - Phase Two - running until 2023.

In the chamber, Mr Skates denied Plaid's claims, saying the government had consulted on and published "high level objectives" for the Metro.

He said there were two "world-class bids" for the contract - due to be awarded in May - from MTR and KeolisAmey, with two other bidders having dropped out.

"It would be premature for me to identify which projects are going to be taken forward in what form within the next Wales and Borders franchise and the development of the Metro until the award has been made," the minister said.

Mr Skates added: "We remain absolutely committed to upgrading the core valleys lines as part of the Metro vision so people can have more regular journeys."

Outlining the improvements the government wanted, the minister said providing at least four journeys an hour within the Metro was "appropriate".

Responsibility for the core valley lines is being devolved to Wales, but the UK government will remain responsible for the tracks and infrastructure on the rest of the network.

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