A METRO FOR THE VALLEYS

KARL GILMORE, Rail Programme Director at Transport for Wales, updates 

PHILIP SHERRATT on the Core Valley Lines modernisation programme

Major rail upgrades tend to work in generational cycles. For the Valley Lines in South Wales, the 1980s revival established the network of lines we know today radiating from Cardiff and feeding into the Welsh capital. But with that network still operated by the same British Rail-era DMUs, an upgrade for the 21st century is overdue.

That upgrade is being delivered as part of the South Wales Metro scheme. Originally the plan was to electrify the Valley Lines in a UK Government-led project which envisaged ageing EMUs transferring from London. But, frustrated at a lack of progress and poor experiences where it had funded Network Rail to deliver enhancements, the Welsh Government through its arm’s length body Transport for Wales grasped the nettle and decided the best way to deliver improvements would be to take control of the lines so it could lead on the upgrades.

The concept of the South Wales Metro is some 10 years old, having first been set out by Professor Mark Barry in a paper published in 2011, building on earlier work by local government transport consortium SEWTA (South East Wales Transport Alliance). Now that vision is becoming a reality: the Welsh Government-led procurement of the new Wales and Borders franchise challenged bidders to propose a concept which would deliver metro-style frequencies across the Core Valley Lines (CVL) north of Cardiff, as well as to eliminate diesel operation.

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