View from the Assembly – Penarth Times Column

View from the Assembly Penarth Times Column

Improving our local transport infrastructure is one of my main priorities. It is an issue that features heavily in my assembly postbag. I know lots of people cycle over the barrage whilst even more make a frustrating journey by car out of Penarth each day. Many Penarth residents commute to work on the train. Recently published figures show a 78% increase between 1998 and 2015 in the number of passengers using Penarth train station. With commuter demand set to rise it is essential that the region has a high quality, high capacity passenger rail network. As well as having huge social benefits improved transport links are hugely important to the economy.

Since my election in 2011 I have campaigned and supported the case for a South Wales Metro. A South Wales Metro will connect all the major settlements in the Cardiff City region with a high capacity/frequency, affordable, ‘turn up and go’ urban metro. Much of the plan set out in the Barry report by Cardiff Business Club is rail based. The primary reason is the sheer number of commuters. Every day 80,000 people commute into Cardiff, 28,000 commute into Swansea and 27,000 into Newport. With commuter demand set to rise by almost 50% by 2020, the only form of mass transit able to move that number of people efficiently is rail. We simply could not afford to build a large road network to cope with that increase in demand – never mind the environmental cost.

The Metro will include fast bus lanes, light rail or trams and electrified heavy rail. It also links with active travel – cycling and walking – to create a completely integrated network. The line to Penarth will be electrified which will mean shorter journey times, better reliability and a cleaner, greener way to travel. There will be significant economic gains for the area and the wider South Wales region, including improved access to jobs and becoming a better place to do business.

I am pleased that the Labour Welsh Government has committed £369million to the Metro project over the next 4 years to achieve its vision for a new, fully integrated transport network for South Wales; and is seeking a further £110m from the European Commission. The Metro is not just about infrastructure; it is about people and the opportunities, services and facilities available to them. It is a once in a generation opportunity to help reverse a long – term decline in the economic fortunes of the region and an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.