Councillors approve plan for new South Wales Metro railway depot
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Plans for a new railway depot for the South Wales Metro in Taff’s Well and highway works have been approved by councillors.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council had received two applications from Amey Infrastructure Wales and they were both given the green light by planning committee on Thursday, January 13.
The applications focused on highway improvements for phase two of the project and for phase three on the new South Wales Metro Core Valley Lines main depot facility at the former Garth Works Industrial Estate.
The depot application includes plans for a maintenance shed, office and accommodation building, a sanding facility, vehicle washing facilities, associated electrical infrastructure, a gatehouse, staff and visitor parking, internal tracks, train stabling area and overhead electricity line infrastructure, gantries and inspection platforms together with works on fencing, lighting, security and landscaping.
It also includes general highway arrangement plans, foot path cross-section plans and shared and segregated foot path and cycle path plans.
The phase two highway works include the remodelling of Ffordd Bleddyn and Cardiff Road with the construction of bridges to allow rail access into the proposed Taffs Well Rail Depot.
In July 2018, the council’s planning committee approved an application submitted by Transport for Wales (TfW) for the demolition of the existing building at the Garth Works site and the creation of a rolling stock depot facility together with ancillary works, car parking and improvement works to Taffs Well railway station.
This application is for reserved matters which include the layout, scale and appearance of the buildings, the means of access and landscaping.
There is also an application for discharging a number of conditions which include the construction environmental management plan, vehicle charging, the construction method statement, materials, boundary treatment, operational noise and the construction noise management plan.
The proposed depot will be used for the storage, maintenance, and operation of the new fleet of metro trains that will serve the existing Core Valley Lines (CVL) railway network.
The new fleet will consist of electrified CityLink Tram-Train metro vehicles supplied by Stadler.
The report said the Core Valleys Line transformation includes a number of upgrades that will modernise the network so that it can support more services of a higher quality.
As part of the investment required to transform the rail network, additional depot and stabling facilities are needed to accommodate the new fleet of rolling stock.
One of the main elements of the whole CVL transformation project is the construction of this new rolling stock depot at Taff’s Well.
There will also be an accommodation block of offices, welfare facilities and training rooms for the depot maintenance staff, train drivers and train crew.
A car park and gatehouse building will be built to the south of the depot to provide staff parking as well as a way of controlling access to the depot site.
Two responses have been received from the public about the phase three depot application.
The first of these queried the extent of what is being proposed under the scope of the application and pointed out that night time working at the wider site have impacted on residents as a consequence of the noise and use of lighting.
The second letter said that a restriction should be put in place in respect of the washing and sanding works so that no overnight (with effect from 7.00pm-7.00am) working should be allowed to take place.
It also said that the residents of Taff’s Well have had little opportunity to oppose these plans, with the depot being “imposed” on them under the support of Transport for Wales and the minister.
The letter said that the residents of Taff’s Well will experience an “unnecessary level of undue stress and environmental discomfort” if restrictions are not legally applied to protect them.
It went on to say that residents are reliant on Rhondda Cynon Taf to ensure that necessary measures are put in place to protect residents and that while the new electric trains may be quieter, the associated washing and sanding machinery will be loud, especially if allowed to operate at night.
The letter said the council should be satisfied that noise levels do not breach acceptable levels and if required the applicant should be requested to undertake further environmental studies.
It said that the council should give consideration to providing a pocket of local residents with noise monitoring facilities for a period of time when the operation begins so that assurances can be secured that the development is operating within acceptable levels.
The local councillor Jill Bonetto said the noise issue is obviously a concern and that she’d rather see it take a bit longer so there’s no work going on over night.
She said: “Residents’ well-being needs to be taken into consideration.”
She also suggested that some residents were given monitors to keep track of the train washing operations.
Councillor Gareth Wyn Hughes said it is a “significant development” and is “absolutely essential” if they’re going to see a shift from cars to public transport.
Planning officers, who have recommended approval, said in their planning report that the proposed works constitute perhaps the main element of the whole Taff’s Well rail scheme project, certainly in size and physical presence, and represent a “major development and significant investment” within the county borough.
They said that they think the development can be undertaken at the site without having significant adverse impacts on the surrounding area and that it complies with planning policies.