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The South Wales Metro – A better connected region

Traveling around South Wales can be a painful experience.

Under investment in public transport infrastructure around the Cardiff region, has led to certain areas being ill-equipped, and other areas being untouched by public transport.

Poor rail links in South Wales

As shown in figure 1 opposite, there are a number of areas across the region that are poorly served by rail.

One knock on effect of the poor rail links is that the region has an over reliance on the road network. In particular, major roads like the M4 are also feeling the strain and struggling to deal with the volume of traffic traversing the roads on a daily basis.

The South Wales metro looks to change this.

With an investment of circa £5Bn, the metro will transform the way we travel providing faster, more frequent and joined-up services to the Cardiff region.

A growing population, a creaking infrastructure and a need to help support a changing economy, the south wales metro will be a step change in public transportation in the region.

The Metro will bring benefits to passengers, link communities together and help transform the economy. It will have a positive social, economic and environmental effect on the region, and will look to try and help shape the region’s future identity.

As well as the infrastructure improvements, a major shift in the metro will be the idea of a ‘hop on hop off’ type infrastructure, where people will be able to use a single ticket across a variety of transport modes.

The changing physical landscape of South Wales will be one of the metro’s greatest challenges, as well as the issues that will arise with inter-city improvements.

What will the metro look like?

A slight unknown as the final answer will be developed by the Welsh Government and the chosen Train Operating Company (TOC), but currently taking a leaf out of TFLs maps, the south wales metro looks a bit like this…

South Wales metro map

It is an interesting change of tact from Welsh Government to put a greater emphasis on the TOC to help develop and implement a better network.

This is a big shift away from the more traditional franchise model where the emphasis is on much more than operational efficiency and improvement and has a real focus on working together on capital improvements to the network.

Although nothing formal is set, it should be expected that an alliancing structure will be put in place between Welsh Government, the TOC, and the infrastructure delivery partners. This may well be alien to the TOCs and it will be interesting to see how they adapt to it, but also how Welsh Government bring in techniques such as behavioral assessment into the procurement to ensure the right partners are chosen.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles?

Almost…. To achieve the goals of the South wales metro a mixed transport network will likely be adopted. the Metro will likely include:

Modes of transport

  • An electrified rail system
  • Integrated transport hubs
  • Park-and-ride facilities
  • Better integration of services across
  • modes and operators
  • Active travel interventions

No planes as part of the metro network, but a potential benefit of the Metro will be the improved links allowing for Cardiff international to prosper and grow as a regional airport.

 Current progress

The South Wales Metro is a long-term incremental improvement programme, spilt into three phases.

Metro Phase 1: Metro Phase 1 is already underway. The extension to Ebbw Vale town and further capacity enhancement on that line, as well as other station enhancements across the network, are already complete or in progress.

Metro Phase 2 (2017-2023): Metro Phase 2 will focus on modernising the core Valley Lines and the wider South Wales rail network.

Enhanced services on the Valley Lines are a core part of the project. This scope of Metro includes all the lines in and north of Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan line, the Ebbw Valley and Maesteg branches, the Marches line to Abergavenny and the South Wales mainline.

The Valley Lines Electrification (VLE) project has been integrated into the Metro programme as the Valley Lines Modernisation (VLM) scheme

Future Phases (beyond 2023): If Phase 2 contains some form of light rail, then a range of rail based extensions will be easier to accommodate. This could form the basis of a long term incremental programme of further expansion.

A plea from a gog….

One of the great frustrations growing up in North Wales was how difficult it could be to reach the countries capital (especially when the rugby is on!). It is important for the Welsh economy that the metro is part of a larger joined up plan for the whole nation that ensures the long-term prosperity.

There are talks of a North Wales metro building on the impetus that its South Wales counterpart is generating. This again is a great initiative, and a great boost for the North, but leaves a large part of Wales still struggling for better infrastructure and a capital, that is still difficult to access for large portions of the country.

What next?

Recent PIN notices issued by transport for Wales have started the ball rolling on phase 2.

The larger of the two procurements is to appoint an Operator and Development Partner (ODP) that will:

  • Operate the Wales and Borders rail franchise;
  • Design and manage the development and implementation of capital works to deliver a Metro style service on the Core Valleys Lines and subsequent infrastructure management of the Core Valleys Lines;
  • Operate rail and related aspects of the South Wales Metro service;
  • Design and develop further schemes to improve rail travel in Wales.

A second PIN notice is related to the Design and Construction Opportunities arising from the ‘Metro’ programme in Wales.

Those appointed to this framework will work with the ODP to deliver their vision for the Metro.

As mentioned previously the model being put forward by the Welsh Government differs greatly from the more traditional franchise model found in the UK rail network.

To make such an ambitious programme of improvements happen, true cultural alignment will be required across the supply chain, with common goals shared. Expect to see an emphasis on this in the procurement as procuring in a traditional manner won’t allow for the key value creating enablers to be put in place.

With a requirement for a long-term alliance, Behavioral Assessment could form a key part of the procurement.

At Invennt we support clients across a number of mega projects from client organisations through tier 1 and tier 2 down to product manufacturers.

Call us to discuss how we can help your organisation unlock the opportunities the South Wales Metro offers.

Get in touch at or 07961071166.


Ben Pritchard

Ben joined invennt from Magnox Ltd where as a Framework manager in the Nuclear Decommissioning sector he led the procurement and commercial management of a range of frameworks and projects covering demolition, new construction, refurbishment and retrieval, processing and conditioning of waste.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Excellent news working outside the box with dynamic thoughts linking potential funds with integrated transport strategies. If yhis were adopted nationally our transport infrastructure would engender huge benefits for UK plc. Im raising a further £3.5bn for upgrading surrounding road and rail infrastructure in the Thames Gateway Zone and arterial connections.

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