Plans for a £7.1 million upgrade of Pontypool and New Inn railway station have taken a major step forward after Torfaen council agreed to contribute its share of funding to the project but councillors have also urged that the number of trains stopping at the station increases amid fears the development will otherwise be “a white elephant”.
The project will see a park and ride built with 160 parking spaces which will be accessed off new slip roads from the A4042. A new footbridge and a lift will also provide access from the car park to the station’s single island platform. The project will be the first Cardiff Capital Region Metro Plus scheme to be delivered.
At a council meeting on Thursday, Torfaen councillors approved funding of £1.5 million for the project, which already has planning permission. The remaining funding will come from the Cardiff Capital Region and Welsh Government. However, concerns were raised about the frequency of stops at the station and that no toilet facilities will be provided as part of the development.
Cllr Nick Jones said that currently only two out of three trains stop at the station. "What we’ve got a very real danger of is that people who want to catch these trains that don’t stop will still travel to Cwmbran to be able to get on to these trains,” he said. "The council must be ‘forceful’ in lobbying for more trains to stop at the station.
Cllr Robert Kemp said: “The last thing I would want to see is that this development is going to be a white elephant. “It’s in need of a financial upgrade and I welcome it, but we have got to ensure it is fully used.”
The meeting also heard that toilet facilities will not be included as part of the development due to maintenance issues.
Cllr Richard Overton welcomed the improved access for disabled people and parking spaces but added there was “a lack of ambition in certain areas”. You still will not be able to buy a magazine, a cup of coffee or go to the toilets,” he said.
But council leader, Cllr Anthony Hunt said the upgrade would address issues that currently put people off using the station, with improved walking, cycling and bus links. “This deals with key issues that blight the station and limit its influence on the rest of the borough,” he said.
Cllr Stuart Evans said improvements would help people who do not own cars and work outside the borough.
Rachel Jowitt, chief officer for neighbourhoods, planning and public protection service, said the project will become “a pathfinder” for other Cardiff Capital Region transport projects.
“Having a modern, improved station in Pontypool puts us in good stead to lobby for enhanced stopping frequency,” she added.