A blueprint setting out the transformation of rail and road infrastructure across the Marches and Mid Wales border could encourage increased economic investment and create more sustainable communities, according to one of the region’s architects and planning advisers.
Midlands Connect set out its Marches Road and Rail Blueprint at a transport summit in February. It includes significantly improving the Cambrian Railway, Heart of Wales Railway Line, and key trunk roads, including the A483 and A49. The proposals had been put together with the Welsh Government.
Doug Hughes, Managing Director and Principal Architect at Powys and Ceredigion-based Hughes Architects, and a member of the Mid Wales Growth Deal business panel, said the vision if enacted, could significantly improve the economic and social opportunities for those living in Mid Wales, as well as those in Shropshire and Herefordshire.
“Creating sustainable communities in rural Wales relies heavily on having a good transport infrastructure. Up until now, our rail and road networks in Powys and Ceredigion have lacked the investment they really need.
“The Welsh Government announced in February that its road programme was in effect coming to a halt on major projects as part of its drive to become net neutral. This will have serious ramifications on rural communities and businesses in Mid Wales and the borders.
“What’s encouraging about the Marches Road and Rail Blueprint is that it brings together key communications networks, encouraging improved links between rail, road, public and private transport. This in itself would make significant improvements to transportation within Mid Wales, as well as across our border communities.”
Mr Hughes said communications infrastructure was crucial to when it comes to supporting and growing rural communities.
“In turn, it’ll encourage greater investment from existing businesses as well as attracting new investment into the region and between the communities on either side of Offa’s Dyke. With that will come improved investment in housing, including much-needed social and third-sector accommodation,” he added.
The blueprint includes securing faster and a higher frequency of trains on the Heart of Wales Line from Shrewsbury, into south Shropshire and into Powys, including the integration of bus and rail for the communities along the line.
It also wants to cut journey times along the Cambrian Railway between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth, while maintaining direct services to Birmingham and optimising connections at Shrewsbury.
Mr Hughes said that combined with the Mid Wales Growth Deal, which is a £110m programme to catalyse economic recovery and growth in the region, backed by the Welsh and UK governments, people living and working in Mid Wales and the borders could significantly benefit.
“We need to see this blueprint develop into a strategic approach on both sides of the border. But that must ensure local and central government works closely with the private sector and other stakeholders to develop such opportunities for the people of the area,” he said.