Plans for Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro to gather pace in the autumn
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Work on a transport plan which could lead to new railway stations in South West Wales, better connected buses and an integrated ticketing system will gather momentum this autumn.
That is when new guidance on regional transport planning will come from the Welsh Government, a meeting of council chiefs was told.
Leaders were given an update on the planned Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro, which aims to lead to more frequent train services, new stations potentially in Landore, Cockett, Felindre and Penllergaer, Swansea, and better bus provision in and around the main towns of Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Swansea.
Longer-term, the metro could result in rail services extending from Neath up to Onllwyn and Cwmgwrach, and from Ammanford to Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen. It is still very early days for the metro project.
A council officer told a meeting of the South West Wales corporate joint committee that electric buses were due to replace diesel ones on the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth route next year, with trials of hydrogen ones plying proposed on some routes in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire.
“A lot of investment and legislative is needed for bus development,” said the officer. He added that real-time information and integrated ticketing for passengers were very important.
Committee chairman and Swansea Council leader, Cllr Rob Stewart, said: “I think the holy grail of this one is we make sure we get a reliable, affordable service that reaches our communities with the best possible network we can.”
Members heard that a UK Government-funded railway station at St Clears, Carmarthenshire, would be the first new station to be built in the region, and that government funding would be critical for the development of the metro concept. The committee will write to ministers on this latter point.
There are metro projects for North Wales and another, more advanced one, for Cardiff and South-East Wales. “We need to be second in that queue,” said Cllr Stewart.
Neath Port Talbot Council leader, Cllr Steve Hunt, said as a “valley boy” he would always lobby for investment in rural areas. He said investment was key for the metro’s future and that the money had to be spent wisely. He also felt that a subsidy may be needed “so we can get more bums on seats in the future”.
Carmarthenshire Council’s cabinet member for resources, Cllr Alun Lenny, said a priority for his county was faster rail services from Cardiff to Carmarthen and further west.
A Pembrokeshire Council officer said: “For Pembrokeshire, that connectivity is vital.”
Deputy leader of Pembrokeshire Council, Cllr Paul Miller, said regional leaders may need to have “a bit of an arm wrestle in terms of priorities”.
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