Renewed Call for Electrification to Cover Entire Valleys Network; MOVE WOULD INCREASE TRAVEL-TO-WORK AREA

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Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON

THERE were renewed calls last night for the electrification of Welsh rail lines, with one organisation calling the case for the bid to include all of the Valleys network and the line to Swansea "even more compelling".

And Professor Stuart Cole, one of Wales' leading transport experts, said the project, expected to total more than pounds 300m, could determine how the region is perceived internationally by potential investors. He said: "They have the perception that investment is being made by the UK Government in South Wales and clearly it's an area worth looking at."

Prof Cole added that the reverse was also true, that a failure to invest on the part of the Government would signal a lack of faith in the area's potential and discourage others from doing so.

He is also convinced that a fast, reliable network is essential for the development of employment opportunities.

"Cardiff is the economic powerhouse of South Wales," he said. "It's a big job generator and we have to get people quickly from their homes to their place of work."

He argues that Swindon's reputation as a back-office hub for London-based businesses followed the launch of the Intercity 125 service and that if trains can reach Cardiff in 1hr 40mins the Welsh capital will be able to compete for investment.

A decision is expected by July 17, when parliament breaks up for the summer recess, and there is cautious optimism that the Cardiff to Swansea line will be electrified.

Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that the electrification of the Valleys lines will go ahead but details of the extent of the project are unknown.

There will be disappointment if electrification does not extend beyond the core network north of Cardiff and include reach out to include Ebbw Vale and Maesteg.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, who is chair of Sewta, the South East Wales Transport Alliance, which co-ordinates transport strategy for the region's 10 local councils, said: "Sewta's policy supporting electrification is underpinned by comprehensive studies that have shown the wide environmental and economic benefits of an electrified railway. …