Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 14:47 UK

'Far reaching' Wales rail vision

Arriva Trains Wales train
Train passengers in Wales are expected to rise by 25% in 10 years

Extra platforms, new stations, longer trains and more tracks are among the measures being proposed in a 10-year plan to improve Wales' railways.

Network Rail's consultation document aims to provide a service that better connects north and south Wales.

It said improvements were needed to cope with an estimated 25% rise in passengers numbers in Wales by 2018.

Rail users are urged to give feedback to the "realistic" but "far reaching" proposals over the next three months.

Among the options being suggested are:

• Adding more track between Wrexham and Chester and upgrading signalling at Abergavenny to improve the frequency and journey time of trains between north and south Wales.

• Providing new platforms at Cardiff Central, Pontypridd and Caerphilly to help the long-term vision of 16 trains per hour through the south Wales valley network.

• Building new stations at Llanwern in Newport and Energlyn, Caerphilly, to support residential development in these areas.

• Adding more track between Llanelli and Carmarthen to improve performance and consequently, encourage more people to use the train at Gowerton.

• Creating a new freight terminal and connection at Blaenau Ffestiniog to allow trains to carry more slate waste.

Currently, around 31m people are estimated to use the railways in Wales each year but that is expected to rise to around 40m by 2018.

Dave Ward, route director for Network Rail, which has drawn up the Wales Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) said the options were "realistic" and "cost-effective yet far-reaching measures to get the best out of the network."

"Consultation is a key part of the route strategy process and we look forward to hearing the views of a wide range of interested parties, including local authorities and user groups," he said.

"The final strategy document will present policy makers with a factual analysis, allowing them to make decisions on what projects to be funded and advanced."

Rail consumer watchdog Passenger Focus welcomed Network Rail's strategy and encouraged passengers to respond to the proposals.

Simon Pickering, the watchdog's manager for Wales, said: "This is a very important stage in the development of Wales' rail services and it's an opportunity for the whole community to have a say in how the railway is run over the next 10 years.

"The number of people using the Welsh railway has grown steadily over recent times and the success of new lines in Ebbw Vale and the Vale of Glamorgan demonstrate the need for continued investment.

"Passenger Focus will be looking closely at this document and ensuring Welsh passenger views are represented."

The consultation closes on 22 August and the final strategy will be published by end of the year.

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