Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change
Our Metro programmes are central to the vision of an accessible, sustainable, and efficient transport system we set out in Llwybr Newydd.
They are fundamental to delivering on our carbon reduction targets and achieving modal shift – encouraging people to change their travel behaviour by making it easier to choose to walk, cycle, or use public transport.
To date, we have invested over £1.6 billion, with individual programmes at different stages of maturity - from early development to design and delivery. This includes over £800 million invested in a fleet of brand-new trains which will operate across Wales, including our Metros network. A full list of the schemes which make up our Metro programmes will be published shortly within the National Transport Delivery Plan.
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 planning process will bring together local authorities, Transport for Wales, and other key partners in the development and delivery of transport services.
Regional Transport Plans will support local partners to work at a strategic level to take the aims set out in Llwybr Newydd - the national Wales Transport Plan - and deliver them in a way that is tailored to their context. It will ensure that services meet the needs of the people and communities they serve.
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, our ambition 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.
We 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. We’re also progressing work on a forward-thinking masterplan for Holyhead that recognises its critical role in both public transport connectivity and for economic development.
Over a quarter of journeys are already made by walking and cycling - over the next 20 years we need to increase this to over a third. To support this change, we have already significantly increased our investment in this area. Through the North Wales Metro programme we 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 and Swansea Bay and Wales West metro areas.
Last week, the North Wales Transport Commission published its Progress Statement, setting out key themes emerging from their work to date. Historically, the debate on transport in North Wales has focussed 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. This represents a paradigm shift in thinking on transport in North Wales, and the commission’s final report will set out recommendations for how this can be realised.
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, we recognise that more immediate interventions are required to improve public transport and active travel within the region.
As part of this, TfW 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.
We recently introduced combined bus / rail ticketing on the Traws Cymru bus service T1 linking Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, which is proving popular with passengers. Steps are being taken to extend this to other parts of the network. The Traws Cymru T1 Services (Aberystwyth to Carmarthen) has also received investment to convert the eight vehicles and depot facilities to battery electric operation.
We will continue our mission to develop safe and well-connected active travel routes across Wales by increasing our Active Travel Network development capacity and capability in West Wales. As part of our ground-breaking Active Travel Act, all local authorities in Wales must produce maps of walking and cycling networks in their local area, known as Active Travel Network Maps (ATNMs). Anyone can visit Data Map Cymru’s website to view these maps showing existing and future planned provision for walking, cycling and wheeling in Wales. These maps will form an essential foundation for the development of Regional Transport Plans in each of the four CJC areas in Wales.
We will be increasing capacity on services to West Wales and between South West Wales and Manchester. We are also developing options for additional and faster intercity mainline services, complemented by a comprehensive, high frequency bus network serving urban areas in Swansea, Neath, Llanelli, and Port Talbot.
We will continue to press 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 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 Taff’s 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 us deliver more weekday and Sunday services as well as housing our new fleet of trains. By 2025 we will have delivered our commitment for approximately 95% of rail passenger journeys in Wales to be on new trains.
We are reviewing our 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. Our 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.
To simplify payment on our public transport network, we are investing in a Pay as You Go ticketing scheme using contactless debit/credit cards. A trial for rail and bus services operating between Cardiff and Newport will start later in 2023, building on successful pilots in North Wales last year.
The Burns Delivery Board’s second annual report, published today, demonstrates the lasting impact of the South East Wales Transport Commission’s work. The Delivery Unit continue to support local authorities to deliver measures to improve walking, cycling and use of public transport in the region.
The Unit have successfully secured £2.7m of UK Government funding to do the next stage of studies to enhance the South Wales Mainline. Transport for Wales are carrying out this work, which will inform the next stage of decision making.
As well as the Unit developing options for regionally important infrastructure such as a Newport-Cardiff bus and cycleway, I was delighted at the end of last year to join the Board in opening new innovative local measures - secure bike storage services in central Cardiff and Newport. This will complement a new programme of adult cycle training, bike maintenance training and workplace travel planning that the Unit have arranged to start soon.
The Unit’s collaborative approach; working in partnership with three local authorities to develop a sustainable transport network that works for everyone across the region, is one that I am keen to replicate through the development of our Regional Transport Plans across Wales.
Our public transport system is one of the most important national assets we have. It connects people to one another, binds communities together and enables businesses to grow and expand for provision of a vibrant economy. It’s one of the most powerful and dynamic tools for community cohesion, social justice and inclusive economic growth that we possess.
The challenge of delivering this vision has been further complicated by the significant reduction in our spending power following the UK Government’s financial crash. As a result of the Autumn Statement, the Welsh Government’s overall capital budgets will be 8.1% lower in 2024-25, which will mean we need to take some difficult decisions across all modes on what we can afford to progress immediately. 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.