Regular rail services between Ebbw Vale and Newport will run for the first time in more than 60 years thanks to a £70m Welsh Government investment.
Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters launched the new service today (Thursday, February 1) on a visit to Llanhilleth railway station.
Thirty trains a day will now run between Newport and Ebbw Vale thanks to a £70m Welsh Government loan to Blaenau Gwent council to increase infrastructure on the line.
Lee Waters, Deputy Climate Change Minister, with a responsibility for transport, said: “I’m so pleased the service between Ebbw Vale and Newport is finally in place. It has taken a long time and required a lot of investment but the doubling of the frequency of trains will make a difference to all the communities along the route. This would not have happened without the Welsh Government stepping in with investment.
“At a time when we are used to big infrastructure projects going over time and over budget we should applaud the fact this complicated project has been on time and within budget. My huge thanks to Blaenau Gwent council, Network Rail and Transport for Wales for working together to pull this off.
“People will now be able to travel direct to Newport or Cardiff every hour, on new track and in new trains.”
Welsh Government has a long history of investment in rail services on the Ebbw Vale line. Passenger services restarted in 2008 after closure in 1962. Stations were reopened at Rogerstone, Risca and Pontymister, Crosskeys, Newbridge, Llanhilleth and at a new park and ride site – Ebbw Vale Parkway.
Following the initial opening in 2008 passenger growth exceeded all expectations with one million journeys made after the first 18 months of the new services.
Passengers on the line will see further improvements this spring when, as part of a Welsh Government £800m investment, Transport for Wales will start running new trains on the line.
The works launched today also included the extension of the passing loop between Crosskeys and Aberbeeg and the installation of a new platform and lifts at Newbridge and Llanhilleth stations.
Alexia Course, Chief Commercial Officer at Transport for Wales said the new services were a result of “excellent collaboration” between all partners.
She said: “We’re delighted to have launched our brand-new services between Ebbw Vale and Newport this week.
“These will be a game changer for people on the line, doubling the number of trains per hour and opening up shorter journey times for anyone heading towards Manchester, Bristol, or London.
“What has been evident throughout has been the excellent collaboration by all parties on this project and a real desire to deliver this for the people of southeast Wales.”
Network Rail’s route director for Wales and Borders Nick Millington said: “It is brilliant news for passengers and communities that new services are running on the upgraded Ebbw Vale line.
“This transformation will open up jobs, training and leisure opportunities for people living in the area and will encourage more people to use public transport, supporting our decarbonisation aims in Wales.
“I’d also like to thank passengers and communities for their patience while we completed this upgrade and remind people that with new services being introduced they should take extra care at level crossings.”
Councillor John Morgan, Cabinet Member, Place and Regeneration and Economic Development at Blaenau Gwent Council commented: “I am pleased that this much improved rail service is now up and running thanks to the Council working in collaboration with our partners in Welsh Government, Network Rail and Transport for Wales. Improving and delivering accessible public transport is a key priority for the Council.
“A more frequent rail service will no doubt improve opportunities for inward investment, access to employment both within and outside of the local area and improves public transport for everyone in Blaenau Gwent. The new direct rail service to Newport will also makes it easier for those people looking to make connections as they travel to other destinations for leisure and business.”