NICK Smith MP has welcomed news that work on its vital rail service could help Blaenau Gwent become a thriving hub for commuters.
Mr Smith has been campaigning for improvements for the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff line for several years, helping to push for the extension of the line into Ebbw Vale’s town centre and championing the case for electrification.
Now the Welsh Government have confirmed they expect the Cross Keys to Aberbeeg passing loop will be finished by March 2016– and will then consider additional services on the route as a result.
In a letter from Minister for Economy, Science and Transport Edwina Hart, the Minister states the Ebbw Vale town centre extension should also be finished by Spring 2015.
“I would expect additional services on this route to be considered in the specification of the next Wales and Borders franchise”, the Minister writes.
Mr Smith said it was another building block to making Blaenau Gwent attractive for businesses and commuters alike.
“A glance around the country shows time and time again that if a town has a train service that gets people to jobs quickly and regularly, it gets a massive economic boost”, he said.
“I want that for Blaenau Gwent. The Ebbw Vale to Cardiff line has exceeded all expectations and it deserves to be built upon.
“An improved service means it becomes more relevant for even more commuters, and that means opportunities for our youngsters to get to the jobs they need. That’s why I will continue to campaign for a half-hourly service on the line while we have the chance.”
Mr Smith has run the Move on Up campaign in recent years, surveying commuters on what they want from the service and then taking those results to the Welsh Government to help inform the choices they make.
“I have long been an advocate for strengthening the infrastructure of Blaenau Gwent and stressed to my colleagues in Cardiff of the importance of giving Blaenau Gwent the chances it needs”, he said.
“The A465 improvements mean businesses can seriously consider this borough as their base, and a better train service just adds to that cause.
“There is still a debate going on between the Welsh Government and Parliament about funding for electrification, and I will continue to add my voice to all those clamouring for this situation to be solved so the entire Valleys line gets this important upgrade.
“I hope the Labour-led Welsh Government continue to build on their work around the borough and give us a real chance to be one of the success stories of the next five years”.