Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government and Communities
Today I am announcing, with the support of the South East Wales Transport Alliance (Sewta), the creation of a Task Force to drive forward the development of integrated transport systems in south east Wales.
The Task Force will develop - by early 2013 - recommendations for a rapid transit system for South East Wales using rail, light rail, bus and active travel which meets the needs of the public, businesses and the environment, links communities and jobs, and builds on the South Wales Main Line and Valley lines rail electrification schemes.
The establishment of the Task Force builds on discussions with Cllr Andrew Morgan, Chair of Sewta, the Regional Transport Consortium whose membership includes all ten local authorities across south east Wales.
I will provide clear leadership to the development of a vision for an integrated transport system and to making it a reality on the ground and I look forward to chairing a first meeting of the Task Force before the Christmas recess.
Both the Welsh Government and our partners in local government are clear about the importance of this initiative and the need for us to work together to maximise the benefits from the unique opportunity that electrification provides.
At the same time, I also want to ensure that we are making the most of opportunities in north east Wales, building on the multi-modal opportunities highlighted in our recently published North East Wales Area Based Transport Study report. I will be working closely with Cllr Mike Priestley chair of Taith to develop a similar joint approach.
Good transport is critical for both economic growth and social inclusion and the reduction of poverty. Our absolute priority as a Government is to create jobs and enable growth – and it is clear that transport services have an important role to play in that.
I believe that it’s only fair that we ensure that everybody has a decent standard of living and is able to care for their families – providing affordable, effective and efficient transport systems that are well integrated can play an important role in enabling this.
I believe that services need to be modern and sustainable and that there is a huge opportunity to transform transport systems to match this aspiration starting in south east Wales, building on electrification, and in north east Wales, building on our recent transport study and looking to future opportunities for rail modernisation and enhanced cross border connectivity.
I want a system that links the most economically developed area of the region with the population in the more deprived communities. This will improve employment prospects and thereby reduce poverty. It will allow a truly regional approach to the planning of transport that links into wider plans for economic development, housing and regeneration and improving the environment.
I will be inviting the following partners to join the South East Wales Integrated Transport Task Force:
- Welsh Government
- Network Rail
- CBI Wales
- Wales TUC
- Train Operators
- Bus Operators (CPT)
I will be asking the South East Wales Integrated Transport Task Force to provide recommendations to shape and co-ordinate integrated transport services in South East Wales to provide benefits for the whole region and specifically recommendations for:
- a clear identity for this integrated transport initiative which reflects its fully pan-region purpose
- a timetable that supports unified integrated transport and that sets clear aspirations for maximum journey times and minimum frequencies to and from key points
- a set of minimum standards for ticketing, accessibility, affordability and accountability. Integrated ticketing will be a key aim.
- an appropriate governance arrangement to drive this forward, linked to Welsh Government and Welsh local government’s wider collaboration agenda
I expect the Task Force to apply a holistic approach to public transport, road travel and walking and cycling to maximise outcomes and develop a vision to illustrate the future of transport in south east Wales and a proposed management structure to drive this forward.
The resulting programme will be ambitious and long term, and I will be prioritising existing funding streams to enable its phased delivery over a realistic timetable. I will be looking to ensure that no financial opportunity is missed and that projects are allocated funding having considered how they could contribute to the vision and also looking to find ways to enhance the service the public is getting without creating extra costs.
There is also a key opportunity to develop a major, transformative project under the next round of European Structural Fund programmes.
In north east Wales, I will be working with Taith develop a prioritised, phased, programme to take forward the proposals set out in the North East Wales Area Based Transport Study. Again, this will mean looking about how to target our funding, indentifying other funding sources and finding ways to make money go further through service improvements.
We will also be making those important connections beyond Wales and ensuring that we are developing integrated transport solutions that link across the border and into the wider economic region which north Wales forms part of.
As with the work in south east Wales, a modernised railway could form the spine of an integrated transport system. We can build on discussions that I have already opened with the UK Government on the case for rail modernisation for north Wales and its key routes. This includes the North Wales Coast Main Line between Holyhead, via Chester, and Crewe, the north – south routes to / from Wrexham, Manchester and Cardiff and direct connections between north Wales and Liverpool.
The Welsh Government will be working directly with the UK Government on undertaking the necessary business case appraisal to make the case for these improvements, supported by the wider local government and business community in north Wales championing the economic case for investment.
I am determined that transport will play its full part in ensuring that every part of Wales can fulfil its potential and that everyone in Wales – regardless of where they live – can access jobs and key services easily and affordably. This announcement provides fresh impetus to that ambition and will enable us, in partnership with local government, businesses and others across Wales, to drive real transformation in our transport systems.