Labour scrap valleys rail investment while backing ‘Cardiff ministerial metro’

A train passess Castell Coch near Cradiff. Picture: Train Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Welsh Government has been criticised today for abandoning plans to electrify the railway between Ebbw Vale and Cardiff.

But plans to build a light-rail service between Cathays Park and Cardiff Bay, branded as “nothing more than a metro line for ministers”, were ongoing.

Assembly Member Adam Price pointed to Transport for Wales’s Strategic Environment Assessments which note that the Ebbw Vale electrification project has been “discontinued from future consideration”.

Similarly ruled out was connecting Trelewis to near Quakers Yard, joining up the Merthyr and Rhymney line to create the so-called Circe Line of the Valleys.

There was also uncertainty over the electrification of the Bridgend to Maesteg line.

“The Tory UK Government were rightly accused of selling out on people who lived to the west of Cardiff,” said Adam Price, Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy.

“The Labour Welsh Government is now doing exactly the same to people who live in the Valleys to the north of the capital.”

The Welsh Government responded by saying it was as of yet too early to say what would be in the final contract.


The UK Government had provided the Labour Government £125 million which was originally earmarked for the electrification of the entire Valleys lines network.

Adam Price said that the Wesh Government had “abandoned” those plans “despite having the necessary funds to deliver on their promise”.

“This latest revelation is yet another blunder in what has been a calamitous procurement process for the next Wales and Borders Franchise, including the South Wales Metro,” he said.

“The people of Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and Bridgend will rightly question the Labour Welsh Government’s sense of priorities upon learning of their intention to build a light-rail service between Cathays Park and Cardiff Bay – proposals which seem to be nothing more than a metro line for ministers.”

‘Higher quality’

The Welsh Government responded by saying that they had not “cancelled” their plans.

“We will soon be announcing the service provider for a revolutionary rail service which will see passengers benefit from increased, higher quality rolling stock, more frequent trains and reduced carbon emissions,” Economy and Transport Secretary Ken Skates said.

“The Metro represents a significant part of this and we’ve always been very clear that this will be delivered in phases.”

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  1. Keith Parry

    The Metro Project always was pie in the sky. How much public money has been wasted on consultants and other hangers on? Time WG invested in buses that people actually use, twice as many as trains.

  2. Colin Mann

    This is how Labour mis-treats the communities who have given them loyalty for generations – conned by Labour!

  3. Rod hughes

    Sold a pup !
    It was always for cardiff connectivity the rest of wales can whisle ? Creat a castle to rule from before you give the slaves the freedom .
    Control there access to work and you control there expections . Time to change ?

  4. Graham John Hathaway

    The Cardiff centric, big minded rascal, that gobbles the not only the meat, but the corn seed of the valley renewal strategy. It’s the soften up for the M4 extension at Newport. I could write the script, If I was a comedian.

  5. Can’t share. I need this to be about the Labour Party rather the Welsh Government. Lot of anti-Assembly feeling at the moment, people don’t understand that the term ‘Welsh Government’ refers to the Labour Party, sharing will only stoke those feelings.

    • JR Humphreys

      What do Labour Party members think? And Young labour seem to be in a different party, or do I missread?

  6. Graham John Hathaway

    What do Labour Party members think?. Well the sober, silver surfers voted Wales out of Europe, and much to the dislike of the younger generations. I wouldn’t be best pleased if I was thus so. The gradual erosion of prosperity and investment in education is the biggest scandal of all. An aging population in the s Wales valleys and its insistence on voting in bundles still for a repeat prescription or dose of the same, there’s no reason why the old guard needs to change.

    As already posted : Doing the same failed thing over and over, is regarded as the first signs of madness. But what of the alternatives. The decision of the metro stand off and avoidance is beyond reasonableness, it is grossly unfair. How can anyone living outside Cardiff and supporters of the Government ( Labour ) who can see the prejudice of this decision still lie quiet and timid.

    And what of the Assembly members who are supposed to represent the hinterland of the capital, and beyond. What is the justification in overload of resources in Cardiff. Hello, there is a Wales outside, honestly.

    As posted by Rob, this is now blindfolded stuff of party games where you now feel decency is out of control and making sensible comment is irrelevant from a domination of single party mentality.
    We are in desperate need of change.

  7. Adam Price’s comments are indicative of the chaos that underlies the policy-free area which is the Transport Department of the Welsh Government.

    With no coherent strategy, and only cobbled-together projects that lack a rationale, the waste of taxpayer funds over the last decade is a scandal and deserves scrutiny by the Welsh Audit Office.

    From the risible and damaging New M4 proposal to the unnecessarily complex rail franchise to the over-ambitious Metro to the provision of new housing without planning for adequate transport to serve it to the farce of Cardiff’s bus station, transport is in a complete muddle.

    None will ease the everyday hassles of moving in the congestion that besets Cardiff. This is destined to increase, with negative impacts on the quality of life, safety and the economy of the city and its people and visitors, and be exacerbated by the lower marginal costs of travel by electric cars.

    Time for a comprehensive rethink. Starting with the fatuous pursuit of Agglomeration Benefits in a small-scale city. Or the questionable wisdom of pursuing unsustainable mobility, when it is access that people need and the government should focus on. Or the emphasis on economic growth when the distribution of its benefits and disbenefits are so inequitably and haphazardly shared, and when it, often elusive, cannot be sustained.

    • Warren Davies

      Great reply.

      I’d love to see an expanded version, especially expanding on your final paragraph, forming an article for this website.

  8. T N D Anderson

    Oops. Last comment should have shown my name in full.

  9. John Young

    Could any current Labour voters out there comment on this latest utterly Cardiff centric decision, yet again stealing investment from other parts of Wales purely to benefit Cardiff ?

  10. Tudor Rees

    Mae angen i’r pleidiau cydweithio, i sicrhau cyfran deg o’r arian mae Llywodraeth San Steffan yn pennu ar gyfer rheilffyrdd “Englandandwales” er mwyn datblygu trafnidiaeth i’r gorllewin i Gaerdydd ac i’r Gogledd o Bontypridd.

  11. Graham John Hathaway

    The latter comments of contributors and particularly TN D Anderson, of greater insight than I, speaks of an unwakeable nightmare. The brewing of a perfect storm. The plea from Tudor to vote together, to develop better transport policy. Why are we not. Will the labour voters, says John, not rise up, and cry unfair.
    Why aren’t you. Stir from your slumber, rise with might, down trodden and oppressed may be, but where is your backbone. Can you not see, the decisions are a knife in the gaping wounds of an stoppable loss of life blood elswhere in Wales. A transport policy is like a Micky mouse cartoon. A Tom and Jerry classic.
    It’s what made early Wales one the greatest Nations of the industrial revolution. It’s ability to create a transport policy to ship its products across the world. Evolution of canals, rail and road. The first to, very rustic but a train to pull 100 tons of coal and 60 passengers from Merthyr to Abercynon. Before Stockton and Darlington.

    This is now a disgrace. The very pump priming of funds for road improvements via the infrastructure grants of the EU are a fading memory. Hey but glee all round, we have HS2 to look forward too. Now it’s time to shut the lights out , and queue on the A 470. It’s what we least deserve, but are left with. I wonder why? I think we know.

  12. The valleys rolling stock is very old, polluting and unreliable. New(er?) stock can and will be leased which will improve matters as indeed would electrification. There is a big but, however, we really need major investment along the new Heads of the valleys road to bring in the Industry and services that will make train services that only serve a small part of Cardiff well, less essential. Go North of the M4 and you find an economic wasteland, you only have to look at the Treforest Industrial Estate for a microcosm of all that is wrong with Industrial Policy in Wales. Close to the A470, the M4, Cardiff, three valley line train services and a workforce that can be employed for less than city wages given valleys housing costs should make it eminently suitable for regeneration, yet much of it lies rotting or me too businesses eeking out a living. Caerphilly is close by with industrial space capable of further development. Despite this there are bif traffic jams on the A470 as people cram themselves into a tiny corner of wales to earn a living decimated by traveling.

    There is a valleys task force in the bay and I am not sure if it is an Assembly or Governmental group, but other than speaking of the bleeding obvious after years in government, I cannot see any real changes coming from Labour. For me it is not just what is(or is not) done, but the glacial speed of any movements to help. If Ken Skates spent less time at GE at Nantgarw where no big numbers of new jobs are being created (as it is all about job preservation there) and spent more time looking for industry that will have to move to an available workforce in ready made buildings, rather than what has been the endless supply of labour moving to the jobs, we might get somewhere. In a post Brexit future, labour will until AI really kicks in, have a short window of additional importance. It is a one-off opportunity as the Brexit effects, and make no mistake some will be positive, kick in.

    I write the above in full knowledge that vast swathes of Wales might seem unaffected by my points, but because of population density and overall fiscal performance, these areas are critical. The M4 in Newport must be considered as very much a one off and must be improved. For the future, however, South of the M4/North of the A55 are healthy in general. it is the communities that are further afield and are not pretty that need help.

    What is good for Fochriw, Severn Sisters or Llandovery is good for Wales.

  13. sianiflewog

    Vote welsh Labor – get a load of Marxist Leninist nutters whose only interest in the perpetuation of their situation. If you vote ML serves you right.

    We need a new party left of centre with an interest in our Cymru and a) our culture b) our environment and c) with an overt emfasis on social justice (you can choose the order).

    From what i read on the comments above, it looks like the time is ripe – hen bryd i gicio PLC allan!

  14. John Young

    What we actually need is a party whose sole aim is to promote policies that are purely for the benefit of Wales.

    And the only way to ensure that those policies are enacted is if Wales is Independent.

    It won’t be long.

  15. Sounds like an outbreak of common sense. A packed tram with few seats and no loo would be an awful way to travel from Merthyr or Treherbert. And a change of mode for everyone on through journeys such as Cadoxton to Treforest or Penarth to Cathays or Ponty to Barry Island would have been chaotic. Let trams do what they do best, bring a quality, fast service to places that can’t be reached by heavy rail like Pentwyn, and build on the existing rail system with bigger, newer trains.

  16. Tame Frontiersman

    “Ministerial Metro Line”: now there’s a phrase that reminds one of the “Welsh Office Express”, “Option A” in the 1982 Serpell Report- the proposed apocalyptic reduction of passenger services in Wales to the London and Cardiff line.

    I don’t understand the politics of announcing rail schemes and then cancelling them. I’ve read the sales pitch for rail electrification, but I don’t really get the cross-party support for electrification in Wales, though I do see how the contractor involved in installation and maintenance will make a tidy profit. I don’t understand why Wales is told it wants something so 20th century. In England the Department for Transport have pledged to phase out diesel engines by 2040 and replace them with battery and fuel cell motive power meeting the environmental objectives of electrification without the massive trackside infrastructure cost.

    If our politicians were interested in significantly improving travel times between Cardiff and Swansea, shouldn’t they have got involved at an early stage in the procurement process for the replacement of the InterCity 125 to ensure a train design that could safely overcome the line speed restrictions West of Cardiff? (the specs for the new Hitachi IEP trains state that “the bogies have a bolsterless configuration and are designed for stability and cornering performance” but it is not made clear whether this merely compensates for the increased carriage length or provides an improved cornering performance over the shorter InterCity 125 Mark 3 carriages.)

    Rather than electrification, shouldn’t the priority be for reconnecting more Welsh communities to the rail network; increasing capacity, reliability and connectivity between Welsh communities and to the ports and airport; getting more traffic off the roads and that North-South link through Carmarthen and Aberystwyth? And yes, for sure, to derive maximum benefit from the very considerable investment, there must be planning of local economic development – ribbons of economic development along the railways – to make maximum advantage of these new rail links.

    KeolisAmey consortium and MTR are the only 2 bidders left in the selection process for the new operator of the Wales and Borders (W&B) franchise.

    Wasn’t/isn’t Amey a contractor on the electrification of the GWR Main Line which Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee a year ago described as “a stark example of how not to run a project” when the cost escalated by £1.2 billion in a year?

    MTR Corporation Ltd originated in colonial Hong Kong. As well as interests in urban rail schemes, MTR is a major property developer and landlord. In Hong Kong the funding of railway schemes is linked to the uplift in property prices that will occur from a new rail scheme and both MTR and the Hong Kong Government benefit from this. Might this suggest where MTR’s interests would lie if MTR won the W&B franchise?

    Transport for Wales (TfW) are undertaking the procurement process for the next W&B franchise and Metro. There is not much information on the TfW website. As TfW is a company wholly owned by the Welsh Government (“the Welsh Ministers”) Companies House publishes some information on-line about its present and past “officers”. The “chief executive” gives his country of residence as “Scotland” Of the other 5 “active” officers, only 1 states his nationality as “Welsh” and 4 of the other 5 give their occupation as “civil servant” (I digress, but why is Wales not having its own civil service, unlike Northern Ireland which does, so rarely discussed?) the 5th gives his occupation as “company director”. Click on his name and a long list of companies comes up. Noticeable is the word “Amey” in many of these company names. (though in fairness, he did resign from these companies in May 2016 and before his appointment to TfW in September 2017; therefore there could be no possible conflict of interest – could there?).

    You will note my use of the masculine personal pronoun (I’m posting this comment the day after International Women’s Day 2018). The rail industry is still dominated top to bottom by men.

    TfW are expected to move into new offices in Pontypridd by 2021. Should passenger on the line from Pontypridd to Cardiff take heart that they at least are guaranteed a significant service upgrade? Willmott Dixon and Walters started work on the old precinct/tax office site in January, but note: there is a generous allocation of parking space in the plans!

    Q: So who do I think should be running the railways in Wales? .

    PS I am not a rail insider or engineer. I am not a government insider or journalist or blogger. I travel on trains. I have been on a tour of the Senedd. The above comments are the musings of a citizen concerned by what he has found on-line and disappointed that Wales doesn’t seem to have the fearless MSM journalism needed to get behind these and other issues.

  17. If any area is ripe for battery driven trains it is the valley lines with multiple stops for energy regeneration and with much time spent stationary for charging. The train for that option has for once left the station ahead of time! For me the better option would have been the leasing of a newer(not new) generation of train until the technology that is bounding ahead is ready. If Elon Musk’s operation does not the go belly up, he will get the technology that has little infrastructure cost, reduced energy consumption, increased speed, increased reliability, toilets that do not flush onto tracks and comfort to us. In the meantime, the benefits of longer platforms, better reliability and more trains could have been with us within a few years.

  18. The Metro scheme is suffering a slow death by a thousand cuts. In the end we will be stuck with outdated trains delivering the same service- they will just be painted a different colour. Idiots like Alun Cairns and Chris Grayling tell us that electrification is old hat and that electric/diesel hybrids are supposedly cutting edge. Hmm. In that case why are Crossrail and HS2 being built electrified?

    Let’s not forget that it is Welsh taxpayers partially funding this transport investment infrastructure in SE England. Meanwhile GWR are boasting about new trains on the local network in Bristol- these “new” trains were built in the early 90s and have been cascaded down as the commuters in leafy Maidenhead et al now have smart new ELECTRIC trains for their commute. Contrast this to the Pacer sardine cans on Valley Lines. Once more we get the crumbs from the table, and are expected to be grateful for it.

    Meanwhile the Welsh government is in a tail spin about transport with the M4, Metro and new rail franchise up in the air. At the same time massive housebuilding is going on around the M4 from Capel Llanilltern in the west to Pontprennau in the east, with little or no public transport provision.

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