The First Minister made the right choice about the M4 Relief road. Personally I have been opposed to the project since the 1990's. It's been dropped more times over the years than a questionable county striker. Whats important now - is what happens next to alleviate the traffic problems that regularly clog up our city - the M4 Relief road would have done little to resolve them - despite the promises. If we are serious about giving people a realistic alternative to the car in and around Newport (and elsewhere) then we need decent integrated reliable public transport - without that nothing is going to change.
What happens next is now of real significance - there are some small significant and long overdue projects - which would be big wins by way of infrastructure in Newport which should have been completed decades ago. A prime example is that of the proposed re-opening of the railway station at Caerleon - this has been in the structure plan since 1986 - but nothing has been done. Not to mention railway stations at Llanwern and Magor - approved in principle but with no ground broken as the years continue to pass. There are sone relatively simple potentially significant easy wins - which could have a big impact on the congestion problem in and around Newport and on the coastal plain. We need railway stations, with decent facilities and significant park and ride (with sensible walk to routes) at:
- Caerleon / Ponthir ,
- Magor, and
Across the south east, we can start with the Ebbw vale link to Newport needs to be re-timetabled and the line extended to Aberbeeg (as originally promised). Trains already periodically run on this line into Newport - when maintenance is under taken elsewhere. This reinstated service would enable connecting services to be run into Newport - giving commuters to Bristol and further afield an alternative means of getting to and from their places of work.
|The link to Ebbw Vale...|
Within Newport there is a need to develop a decent system of public transport - based around a light rail / tram network which connects Bettws / Malpas, Duffryn and Pill and Alway / Ringland with the city centre and the railway station(s). At present the residents of Bettws, Pill, Duffryn and Alway / Ringland have no alternative but to drive, use the much reduced bus service or walk. Trams are not a pipe dream they are already an important part of integrated public transport systems in Merton (in south west London), Sheffield, Manchester and elsewhere. They would work equally well in Newport, Cardiff and Swansea and feed people into our main line railway stations.
Elsewhere in the former county of Gwent there is much work that needs to be done. Our railway stations at Abergavenny, Pontypwl and Cwmbran, Caldicot , Severn Tunnel and Chepstow have all seen some degree of improvement but are barely fit for service. All these stations need improvement and need more stopping services and better facilities hand in hand with the development of secure reasonably priced park and ride facilities. There should be a feasibility study into reopening the branch line to Usk (with a station sited West of the River Usk (with decent park and ride facilities). Along with this there is a case for a park and ride railway station at Little Mill (especially with the proposed hoisting development at Mamihiiad). With all of this we need integrated ticketing - with one ticket coverage all modes of transport - it either well elsewhere in these islands - so why not here?
The National Assembly also needs to work systematically and over the long term to get long distance freight traffic off our roads and back onto our railways. If you are shipping a container from Neath or Newport to Nuneaton or Namur it needs to be on a train not trundling around the motorway network. Successive Scottish government have had done success with encouraging and incentivising the movement of freight from road back to rail. Hand in hand with this initiative there is a real need to fundamentally change the delivery cycle from last minute to more planned delivery cycle.
We need workable medium term solutions that will fundamentally impact on our options for moving about our city, the SE and the rest of Wales. What we don't need now is inaction, we gave had plenty of that, combined with poor if not down right bad decision making on the part if government at all levels, be it Westminster, National Assembly and local level - the consequences of which we are all living with every day in the south east and across the rest of Cymru / Wales. The tine for excuses us past - what's needed now is action on the ground to begin to sort out our congestion problems and to provide us with decent integrated transport that's fit for the 21st century rather the 20th.