The network of alternative transport proposed by the commission
(South East Wales Transport Commission)
Six new train stations between Cardiff and Newport have been recommended by a report looking into issues around the M4 in south Wales. The South East Wales Transport Commission has published its findings into creating an alternative to the proposed M4 relief road after the plans were finally scrapped in July 2019.
In a report just published, the commission outlined the huge problems with congestion on the M4, particularly around the Brynglas Tunnels. It has suggested an "alternative" transport network running from Cardiff and Newport to connect the eastern and western parts of south Wales.
In total, the recommendations for a cohesive railway, bus and cycle system would cost between £590million and £840million to create - including six train stations and an overhaul of other public transport systems.
What was the purpose of the commission?
To investigate "sustainable" ways to tackle congestion on the M4. The commission itself came out with the decision not to go ahead with the proposed M4 relief road around Newport. It comes after their previous fast-track recommendations which included replacing the current variable speed limit with a new average 50mph speed control, and measures to improve lane discipline on the approach to the Brynglas tunnels.
What is the problem?
There is a need for "significant" new transport options. It found there was an "acute " congestion problem on the M4, particularly on the approach to the Brynglas tunnels.
The biggest cause of this traffic, they found, was the sheer volume of traffic at peak times, especially rush hour for people commuting. It is also due to the fact that people "do not have good alternatives to the motorway", the commission found, with rail, bus and active travel networks all failing to accommodate the journeys people make.
At peak times, there is around 3,000 to 5,000 vehicles using the road approaching the Brynglas Tunnels per hour.
The M4 is largely used for journeys between 10 and 50 miles, with many of those trips starting or ending in Cardiff, Newport or Bristol. The most common journey taken on the M4 is between Cardiff and west Newport.
In all cases, it found cars to be the quickest and cheapest method of travel when compared to current public transport options.
What is the solution?
The commission is recommending a system called a 'Network of Alternatives’ for travelling in south Wales. It would concentrate on travel from west to east to mirror the M4. At the heart of the network is what is called a railway "backbone" which would be used to complement plans for the South Wales Metro System which will run from north to south.
The recommendations include:
Increasing the number of stations between Cardiff and the River Severn from three to nine. Rail stations have been recommended at Newport Road, Cardiff Parkway, Newport West, Newport East, Llanwern and Magor.
Creating new rapid bus and commuter cycle corridors across Cardiff and Newport. These would run parallel to the new proposed railway stations which follow the M4.
Creating a network of bus and cycle corridors within Newport
Making a ticket system across all services using a "cross-city zonal fare system"
Creating a cycle hire scheme
Co-ordinating bus and rail timetables, with services running every 15 minutes. Train service frequencies should be "at least" four trains per hour wherever reasonable.
Making sure transport fares are "affordable for all"
The commission also says while it accepts there are "capacity restraints" in the Severn tunnels, it supports Welsh Government proposals for additional London and Bristol Temple Meads trail services to Cardiff, Swansea and west Wales.
A number of upgrades have been recommended away from the main railway line. The commission recommends upgrades to:
The Maesteg line - particularly the reinstatement of the Garw loop, to allow two trains per hour along the line
Completing the Ebbw Vale Line - including the branch to a new station at Abertillery, as already proposed
by Welsh Government, to allow for four trains per hour and to provide services directly to Newport
Upgrades to the Bridgend station - to allow increased capacity for terminating services from east of Cardiff
Changes to Newport station - to improve capacity and journey times. The commission says there is a "particular opportunity to upgrade platform one, as this could allow for ‘cheek to cheek’ interchange with bus services."
Where would the new stations be?
Another visualisation of the suggested Newport West rail station with bus and active travel interchange (Image: South East Wales Transport Commission)
A Newport Road station has been described as an "origin" station for the large number of people that live nearby. It could act as a key point between Cardiff Central, Cardiff Bay and the prospective Crossrail service.
A Cardiff Parkway station has been recommended in St Mellons. The report said the station "has the potential to connect a significant number of people in north-east and east Cardiff with the railway if properly connected to the bus and cycle network." It is also described as a potential "multi-modal transport interchange between Cardiff and Newport".
A Newport West station is recommended in close proximity to Tredegar Park, Celtic Springs and Cleppa Park. This could be an important "destination" station given how many people work in the area, as well as providing access to residents in the large housing areas nearby. By creating a station by the A48 it would also provide bus access to employment sites, alongside an active travel route over the River Ebbw and under the A48.
A Newport East station is recommended for the Somerton area. This is due to the high population density in this part of Newport. The report said this would be possible "without significant track realignment or signalling alterations".
A Llanwern station would serve the large amount of housing developments planned for the area. The report also endorses a Welsh Government park and ride proposal for Llanwern station, with consideration also given to pedestrian and cycle access.
Magor station has been recommended as an "origin station" for the local community.
There is also potential for two further stations on the Marches Line and Ebbw Vale line, the report adds. These are Carleon station, which has not had a rail connection since the 1960s and Maesglas in west Newport, which could provide access to Tredegar Park including to commuters from Ebbw Vale.