Stadler Citylink for Transport for Wales

UK: Proposals have been published for the development of a tram-train network to serve housing developments on the Northwest Corridor between Cardiff and Llantrisant.

Commissioned from transport consultancy Cogitamus, a report making the case for the project was launched on June 10 by Mark Drakeford, Senedd member for Cardiff West, and Mick Antoniw, member for Pontypridd.

The report looks at a route making use of the existing City Line railway from Cardiff and then following a safeguarded former railway alignment to M4 Junction 33 and Creigiau. Possible extensions could run from Creigiau to Cross Inn and Pontyclun and from Cross Inn to Miskin, Talbot Green, Llantrisant and Beddau.

The tram-train scheme would be a long-term project requiring funding at a UK level, and implementation is envisaged no earlier than 2027-29. The total cost is estimated at more than £500m, although this includes £100m for the remodelling of Cardiff West Junction to enable the operation of more than 8 trains/h on the City Line to Cardiff.

In the interim, the report suggests that quick wins deliverable over the next two to three years could include work to increase capacity at Cardiff West Junction to allow 4 trains/h on the City Line, and the development of a network of express bus routes.

‘Solution waiting to happen’

‘With the development of new housing comes the need for the wider infrastructure to support those homes, and the people who live in them’, Drakeford explained. ‘As well as schools and health services, transport is a key to making these new communities work, and to respond to the impact which new housing produces on existing residents.’

Antoniw added that the ongoing South Wales Metro project to convert existing suburban rail corridors to tram-train operation would bring ‘a real step-change in rail and bus services’ in Cardiff and the surrounding Valley areas, but ‘now it is time to look ahead and to identify those areas where the introduction of the next phase of Metro services will have the greatest economic and environmental benefit’.

He believed that ‘one of the most exciting aspects of this project is the potential to bring back into use miles of disused railway lines which run from the centre of Cardiff, out through the northwest of the city and into Taff Ely to Llantrisant. These lines have been protected from development and the availability of these purpose-built corridors means that construction costs can be constrained.

‘Finding ways to bring a former train line back into being, using contemporary transport possibilities, seems to us to be a solution waiting to happen.’

Drakeford said ‘we recognise that this project will take substantial investment of public money, at a time when that is in very short supply. But the case set out in the report is compelling, and deserves serious consideration, even if the timescale for any implementation has to reflect the availability of the necessary funding.’