Network Rail has unveiled a £200m plan to boost the rail capacity of the Cardiff and Valley area by 2015.
The congestion-busting scheme will remove the rail bottleneck on the city line, allowing extra four trains per hour to run through the Cardiff area. This will unlock the potential for more and longer trains to serve the Valley lines and to boost the railway’s capacity, bringing 600 more seats during rush hours.
The massive upgrade will allow more freight trains to operate through Cardiff, supporting business. Rail services will also become more reliable as the signalling equipment becomes more robust and efficient.
Passenger demand in the Cardiff and Valley area is increasing at 8% on average each year. It is forecast that the number of passengers travelling in the Cardiff and Valley areas will exceed 12m per year by the end of 2015. With 900 trains already travelling through the Cardiff area to support current demand every day, the railway needs more capacity by the end of this decade.
Mike Gallop, principal programme sponsor for Network Rail said: “This scheme will take the railway in Cardiff and South Wales Valleys into the next frontier. The benefits of this scheme are huge as it lays the fundamental building blocks to unlock the untapped potential of this area, whilst paving the way for electrification and meeting a growing demand. Wales relies on rail – a reliable and robust railway forms a key pillar for a healthy economy and this scheme will help Wales continue to thrive.”
The scheme will modernise the dated signalling infrastructure to be compatible with electrification and the advanced European Railway Train Management System (ERTMS) respectively.
The existing track layout, built in the1930s, at Cardiff East Junction will also be untangled and extra tracks will also be built on parts of the railway in Cardiff and South Wales Valley.
New platforms will be created at Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street, Barry, Tir-phil, Caerphilly and Pontypridd to accommodate more and longer trains. Extra efforts will also be put in to improve the accessibility and station environment of Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street and Pontypridd.
The main engineering work is set to start by autumn 2011 and is planned to be completed within three years and in time for new trains to be introduced to the Valley area by 2018.
Network Rail is currently tendering for different contractors, including signalling, buildings and track, to help deliver the scheme, whilst the detailed design plan is being finalised and some minor preparatory work begins onsite.