Written By: Karl Gilmore, TfW Rail Programme Director
It has been a very unusual first few weeks of the new year for most, with the pandemic heightening and further restrictions brought in throughout the UK.
Despite these challenges, at TfW we are keen to look for opportunity in the current environment. The high-level restrictions, whereby people are working from home and travel is extremely limited, has resulted in a low level of demand for our rail services.
In December, we identified this as an opportunity to pause rail services on part of our Core Valley Lines network and surge ahead with our plans to build the South Wales Metro, as well as carry out essential renewal work to our infrastructure.
Back in March 2020, TfW successfully acquired the Core Valley Lines railway infrastructure from UK Government and Network Rail for £581 million, allowing us to create 50 new jobs and transfer 27 colleagues to us from Network Rail. This was a key milestone that has not only allowed us to progress with our Metro transformation programme but through acquiring solo ownership and management, we’ve been able to work more flexibly and adapt to a constantly changing situation.
Being able to implement the suspension of rail services on the Core Valleys Lines, North of Radyr is a clear example of how, through ownership of the CVL, we’ve been able to move swiftly, capitalise on low passenger numbers, close the line and carry out major transformational engineering work, helping us to deliver our exciting plans for the South Wales Metro.
The 19-day window from Sunday 3rd January until Friday 22nd January is enabling us to progress with the next phase of the South Wales Metro. We’re undertaking a range of activities including vegetation management, foundation trial holes and ground investigations, design surveys, utility diversions, cable route installation, upgrading track access points and essential track maintenance.
At the start of 2020, we opened our Metro Hub at Treforest and started work on our £100 million depot at Taff’s Well. Throughout the year, facing difficult circumstances due to the pandemic, as well as floods, our teams and partners worked extremely hard to continue building the South Wales Metro.
Now, as we start 2021, we’re continuing to push forward with our teams working around the clock on the railway north of Radyr.
We’re still a few years off from seeing our brand-new tram-trains running on the Core Valley Lines, but it’s fundamental for us at TfW that the public and business community understand that the Metro project is now very much underway.
We’re undertaking a huge transformational programme that includes construction, engineering and infrastructure work. This revamp to our rail network will include electrifying 170km of track, upgrading all our stations and signalling to include building new stations.
We’re working with AmeyKeolis Infrastructure Limited as our Operator Development Partner and with Siemens, Alun Griffiths and Balfour Beatty as our Infrastructure Delivery Partners. Through our sustainable framework there are opportunities for SMEs and the local workforce to join our supply chain and get involved in the project. For those interested, I’d urge them to get in touch with Business Wales (businesswales.gov.wales) for further advice and support.
It has been a difficult start to the year for most of us because of the pandemic, but at TfW we’re proud to be looking to the future and building the South Wales Metro is a major part of that.
The South Wales Metro will transform the way we travel, unifying train, bus and active travel routes, and it will improve lives across Wales.