The UK Government has announced a £2.7million investment to explore new and improved rail links between south Wales and England.
The study will develop options for new stations and services on the South Wales Main Line, which runs from Swansea to Royal Wootton Bassett, near Swindon in the west of England.
The project aims to relieve congestion on the M4, as recommended by Lord Hendy’s review of transport connectivity across the UK in 2021.
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Transport minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton told the House of Lords: “I am delighted that we are announcing today a £2.7million investment by the UK Government to develop options for new stations and services on the South Wales Main Line, which could relieve M4 congestion and support growth in the region.”
Labour peer Baroness Wilcox of Newport said she welcomed the new investment, but wanted reassurance that improvements would materialise after previous disappointment.
She said: “That’s a very welcome announcement from the minister because, in terms of figures, we’ve got 5% of the UK population, 11% of track miles, but just between 1% and 2% of rail enhancement funding.
“So, if this funding will take place as stated, and will actually happen as stated – because we were going to have electrification to Swansea and it didn’t happen – but minister, you assure me then that the Government will show the people that it understands the importance of upgrading the relief lines between the Severn Tunnel and Cardiff?”
Lady Vere said: “The Government is working very, very closely with the Welsh Government.
“It is the case that a newly established Wales Rail Board, which reports both to the Secretary of State for Transport and for the Welsh minister in charge of climate change, and that will consider all the different options that we have in Wales and bring forward those which are the most needed.”
She added: “This £2.7million really kicks off the start of what could be very significant investment – there would be five new stations and it will also look at improvements between west Wales and Bristol Temple Meads.”
The new study, announced alongside the Welsh Government, will be funded by UK Government.
A series of options will be considered, among which is the development of five new stations between Cardiff and Severn Tunnel.