Go-ahead for Valley railway upgrade
A multimillion-pound scheme to modernise railways in south Wales is to go ahead after the conclusion of a long-running wrangle between the UK and Welsh governments over who will fund the project.
On a visit to Newport, Prime Minister David Cameron is to unveil a funding package which will see the UK Government contribute £125 million to the Valley Lines electrification scheme, while also covering the full costs of electrifying the Great Western mainline to Swansea.
The Welsh Government will take over sponsorship and delivery of the Valley Lines project. Meanwhile, control over the Wales and the Borders rail franchise will be devolved, so that the Welsh Government chooses an operator after Arriva Trains Wales's contract runs out in 2018.
Mr Cameron said that the impact of electrification would be "huge", reducing journey times, increasing capacity and allowing the towns of the Valleys to benefit from the economic growth of cities such as Cardiff and Newport.
Speaking at an investment summit, Mr Cameron is expected to say: "I am delighted to announce today that we are going to press ahead with the electrification of the Valley Lines.
"After years of neglect, this part of Wales will finally get the infrastructure it needs with faster, more modern, more efficient trains and the impact will be huge - spreading the employment opportunities from Cardiff and out to the Valleys and helping hard-working people from all parts of this great nation to get on.
"This has only been possible because of the UK Government and shows our long-term economic plan in action and working for the people of Wales."
Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb said: "This is fantastic news for Wales and provides a major incentive for businesses to invest in the country. I am delighted that we can now seize this opportunity to transform the Valley communities.
"Effective transport links are a vital part of any modern economy and there are few areas in the UK more in need of the improved commuter costs, travel times and more frequent train services that this investment brings."
The electrification scheme, first announced in 2012, is expected to cut journey times from both Merthyr Tydfil and Treherbert to Cardiff to a little over 50 minutes.
As part of the deal, the UK Government will take over sponsorship and fund delivery of the Cardiff-Bridgend section of the mainline electrification scheme to Swansea, worth £105 million.
Shadow Welsh secretary Owen Smith, whose Pontypridd constituency is served by the Valley lines, said: "David Cameron has been doing the hokey cokey on funding the Welsh railways for over a year.
"First he claimed that he'd pay for the lot, including the full line to Swansea and commuter services to the valleys, then he reneged on the deal and claimed the Welsh Labour Government would have to pay instead, and now he appears ready to split the tab.
"Welsh rail passengers will be pleased he's finally made his mind up, even if, in the end, the Welsh Government is going to have to foot some of the bill."