The man who came up with the vision for the south Wales gives his verdict on KeolisAmey's plans to make it a reality; KeolisAmey will also run the next Wales & Borders rail franchise.
He came up with the vision for the south Wales Metro and here Professor Mark Barry gives his verdict on the ambitious plans from KeolisAmey to deliver the [pounds sterling]738m project - as well as ways that the network can be furthered improved.
So now we now more about the next phase of the South Wales Metro really will be a radically improved and innovative network for the core Valley Lines from Merthyr, Rhymney, Treherbert, Aberdare and Coryton to Cardiff city centre, Penarth and Barry.
Under KeolisAmey's plans we will see four trains per hour from all points on the network periphery and many more on the core routes into Cardiff from Pontypridd, Barry and Caerphilly.
And I think the two trains per hour specified for the Coryton Line will be quickly revised up to four and the City Line will probably require a little further infrastructure work to get to four.
It will exploit new types of heavy rail (HR) rolling stock serving the Vale of Glamorgan Line to Rhymney and on-street capability via a tram-train light rail vehicle (LRV) on routes north of Cardiff via Pontypridd and to Cardiff Bay a delivering faster, more frequent services and capacity.
And flexible extendibility is built-in via the tram-train capability and an initial tranche of new stations delivers greater accessibility.
The wider commitment to invest to upgrade every station across Wales is also impressive.
The new metro stations will be at Gabalfa, Crwys Road Loudon Square,the Flourish opposite the Millennium Centre in Cardiff and at Nantgarw (near Coleg Y Cymoedd and the planned DWP office).
This is a significant increase in public transport accessibility. I also expect to see more details in due course of how Ebbw Vale will be re-connected to Newport.
In due course I expect a few more stations to be added to this list.
For example, Pontypridd bus station (inconceivable for the largest bus station in the mid valleys and next to the rail line not to be integrated)and at Herbert St (taking pressure off Cardiff Central) and Wedal Road (Cardiff), originally set out in the Metro Impact Study commissioned by Welsh Government in 2013.
I'd like to see the additional station works expanded and accelerated so they are all delivered by 2024.
So now let's get behind Welsh Government, Transport for Wales (who have done a remarkable job in running this procurement) and Keolis/Amey to build, deliver and operate this next phase of the South Wales Metro -- it is vital that this essential foundation is completed successfully.
All you need to know about the new rail franchise in Wales and Metro plans
There will be some finessing of the scheme and some adjustment during detailed design and implementation to tease out the maximum benefits.
However, if all goes well it will be operating in the early to mid-2020s; pretty much along the lines of the vision I originally developed, with the support of the Cardiff Business Partnership & published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs, in 2011, followed up in further studies in 2012/13 and developed later with Welsh Government.
I am pleased with how this is all turning out. Going further back, it really delivers Prof Marquand's vision for an electrified commuter rail network across the Valleys he published in, South Wales Needs a Plan, back in 1936!
Nor am I forgetting the work of groups like Sewta and other local authority proposals going back to the work to reopen lines in mid and south Glamorgan in the 1980s and later the Ebbw Valley and Vale of Glamorgan in the 2000s.
Wales and Borders Rail Service and South Wales Metro
In Cardiff, Metro presents a unique opportunity to develop anew integrated public transport grid right across the city.
Some further metro rail measures and new cross city express bus services east to west which interchange with the metro lines to Pontypridd at Gabalfa and the Rhymey line at Wedal Road station (which also needs to be added to the scheme)will provide a real alternative to car use and the resulting congestion and air quality impacts.
Here are the Swansea Bay Metro plans that will also reduce the train time to Cardiff to 30 minutes
In doing so, new public transport network planning capability, commercial arrangements and perhaps some bus franchising maybe needed.
An on-street extension from the Flourish, across the docks to tidal siding freight line via Splott/Tremorfa onto the main line at Rover Way opens up huge development potential in the south of the city and provides a means to route some future tram-train services from say Ebbw Vale to the city centre via Cardiff Bay, freeing up capacity at Cardiff Central.
Similarly, the completion of the link between the bay line and Cardiff Central, probably to connect to the City Line, also presents a valuable extension opportunity linked with urban realm improvements all the way from central to Cardiff Bay along the current bay line & Lloyd George Avenue.
There is also the prospect of completing the Cardiff Circle Line at Radyr.
The extendibility capability via tram-train is not just about on-street operations down into Cardiff Bay and the city centre, but extending the metro through the new Plasdwr housing in north west Cardiff onto Creigiau and Talbot Green.
It's also about re-imagining the whole of the region and using this new transport capability to enable a more equitable spread of economic activity across south east Wales.
This also means developing a statutory and much more strategic capacity to undertake and use planning in south east Wales on a regional basis.
Given the application of tram-trains on much of the core valleys through Pontypridd -- which enables more flexibility in developing new routes - then those involved in local development planning, economic development, community regeneration, housing, etc should be tasked to explore ways better connectivity can help sustainably grow the regional economy.
In doing so they should be thinking out to 2030 and beyond and developing ideas for future phases of the metro once the core is complete in the early to mid-2020s.Much of the work set out in the 2013 Metro Impact Study now has a new relevance.
The increasing importance of Pontypridd as a regional centre also demands that we consider how we can improve its accessibility even more than is provided by this next phase of Metro.
This article is based on his own ideas or those already in the public domain and not those of Transport for Wales, the Welsh Government or any other organisation.
The proposed Flourish Interchange at Cardiff Bay