Over recent years, I have made a number of representations to Arriva Trains Wales by raising concerns over the poor quality of services and the unacceptable levels of overcrowding faced by passengers on the Valleys lines.
In February, I once again wrote to both Arriva Trains Wales and Ken Skates AM, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Infrastructure and Skills, and I am pleased to confirm that, despite coming to the end of their franchise contract, Arriva have provided me with some positive commitments that will hopefully go some way in addressing the present situation.
One of these commitments, as you may have seen earlier this week, is the confirmation that the successful piloting of Sunday services from Aberdare will now become a permanent fixture, meaning that an extra two services both to and from Cardiff will continue to operate into the future. From 6th May, residents using the Treherbert line will also benefit from improved services as the 05:47 service to Cardiff Central will be doubling in capacity to a four coach train; whilst the introduction of five additional four-carriage trains with over 300 seats each are expected to be introduced to help support the Valleys lines later this year. I have pressed the need for any available extra rolling stock to be allocated to the Valleys Lines for several years, and the provision of additional capacity can’t come quickly enough as far as I’m concerned.
The increased capacity will hopefully see the overcrowding issues reduce whilst also encouraging more of our residents to utilise rail services, which will in turn reduce the congestion on our roads. A recent study conducted by Inrix, the traffic analysts, reported that the key A470 corridor is the most congested road in Wales with an average rush hour speed of just 7mph in some areas. It is vital that we ensure that our rail infrastructure is fit for purpose nationally given the sheer volume of residents that travel in and out of our County on a daily basis.
Here in Rhondda Cynon Taf, we have already taken proactive steps to prepare for future Metro improvements by investing in our Park and Ride facilities. Last month, our £23.6m Highways Capital Programme for 2018/19 allocated £1.4mto progressing the Phase 2 aspects at Abercynon, Porth and Pontyclun by increasing the capacity of each facility. Further developments are also ongoing at a number of other sites across the County Borough as part of the extra £1mfunding package announced last year.
Recent plans were also announced to invest £180m into Cardiff Central Station, with £40m coming from the wider £734m South Wales Metro project. This significant investment, supported by City Deal funding, would greatly increase the capacity and capability of the site to cope with the anticipated increase in the number of trains and passengers under the Metro plans - which could reach as much as 32 million by 2043. Essentially, the South Wales Metro cannot be delivered without securing this core investment and the development of Cardiff Central will act as a foundation for then extending improved connectivity into the Valleys and the wider Capital Region area. There has to be a step change in the provision of public transport in the Valleys if we are to develop and grow the economy.