Why are you building the South Wales Metro first?
Plans to invest in and develop the South Wales Metro have been in the pipeline for a number of years and have been made possible thanks to a mix of local authority (City Deal) funding and European Regional Development Funding.
We’re investing £5 billion in the Wales and Borders rail service as a whole and we’ve also started work on the North Wales Metro scheme which will take shape in the coming years. Plans for the Swansea Bay Metro are also in their early stages.
We need a better rail service now – why do we have to wait for the South Wales Metro?
We have ambitious plans for rail services in Wales and the borders which will take time to implement, but we’re also committed to providing our customers with the best possible service as soon as possible. This why we’re currently investing £40 million to improve our current fleet and fund additional services, customer experience and accessibility improvements.
We’re also introducing a range of improvements for our customers across the Wales and Borders rail service in December 2019:
- more four-carriage trains on peak services combined with other rolling-stock changes, creating space for up to 6,500 more commuters a week.
- introducing additional trains across the Wales and Borders rail network.
- modern trains with more space, onboard passenger information systems, accessible toilets, air conditioning, Wi-Fi and power sockets between Cheltenham and Maesteg, and between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale.
- more modern carriages on some long-distance services between North Wales and Manchester.
What is Metro?
The South Wales Metro is an integrated public transport network that will make it easier for people to travel across the Cardiff Capital Region, transforming rail and bus services.
Metro is all about making it easier to use public transport. It’s about making it easier to get to work or school, to get to your hospital appointment or to get out and about in the evenings and weekends.
Which areas will Metro serve?
People living in the following areas will all be able to benefit from the South Wales Metro:
- Blaenau Gwent
- Merthyr Tydfil
- Rhondda Cynon Taf
- Vale of Glamorgan
Who owns the railway?
Transport for Wales now owns a great deal of the railway in south Wales. In March 2020, we took ownership of the Aberdare, Coryton, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhymney and Treherbert lines from Network Rail, and have started work on delivering the Metro.
Who is doing the work?
The work is being carried out by Transport for Wales, and carefully selected contractors.
- Amey Consulting
- Alun Griffiths
- Balfour Beatty
- BAM Nuttall
What are the benefits of Metro?
Metro is going to have a host of benefits which will have a positive impact on south Wales.
- Quicker journeys, with reduced journey times
- Better connections between different types of transport
- GGreater capacity
- More frequent services
- More reliable services
- More accessible services
- Cheaper tickets and more affordable train travel
- Greener services
Why is the work needed?
Wales’ public transport infrastructure has needed upgrading for some time. Transport for Wales is currently in the process of delivering Metro, which will be a transformative development for the communities of south Wales.
This will involve a lot of work – including vegetation management to clear overgrown trees and hedges by the side of the track and installing new Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) which will power our new electrically powered tram-trains.
We'll also be installing state-of-the-art signalling, with a control centre at Taff’s Well, which is vital for our new services.
We also need to maintain our tracks to keep our services running smoothly and safely.
When will Metro be completed?
The project is estimated for completion in 2023.
What will the work involve?
To deliver Metro we’ll need to do a lot of work. This includes….
- Managing trackside vegetation
- Installing a new modern signalling system
- Installing new Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) which will power our faster, more environmentally friendly tram-trains
- Infrastructure for our new trains
- Improving existing facilities and building new stations
- Ongoing maintenance to make sure our services run safely and smoothly
Why are you using Overhead Line Equipment?
We are using Overhead Line Equipment to run our electrically powered tram-trains, which are smoother, faster, quieter and more environmentally friendly than the current diesel trains which currently service the valleys.
What do overhead lines look like?
They’re steel metal structures, built to last, which are about between 7 and 10 metres tall - slightly higher than the tram-trains. They will make our railway lines look quite different to how they appear now.
Are there going to be overhead posts everywhere?
Many post to support the new Overhead Line Equipment will be needed to deliver Metro, so it will make the railway look quite different. There will be Overhead Line Equipment installed at regular intervals up and down the lines to from Cardiff up to Treherbert, Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil. It’s suspended just above the tracks.
How the structures holding the overhead wires are spaced depends on several factors. These include the alignment of the track, whether there are two, four or more tracks side by side, and how near it is to stations and other structures like bridges and level crossings.
Their positioning is critical to the safety and operation of the railway.
Will an OLE post be placed near my property?
We’ve tried to minimise the impact of OLE posts at the design stage. But with approximately 2,500 structures needed for the project, it’s impossible to completely avoid some of them being near properties. With thousands of homes facing or backing on to our railways, we can’t consider individual requests.
Moving even one post just a few metres is incredibly difficult – it can quite easily have knock-on effects up and down the line.
Safety is at the core of everything we do, and we can’t compromise on this. The new equipment needs to be in a place where we can access it if we need it. For instance, for inspections or maintenance. It also needs to be a suitable distance from public spaces.
Can you cover the posts up with vegetation or fencing?
We’re very limited in what we can do to reduce the visual impact of the posts and we won’t be able to ‘screen’ them using vegetation or fencing. We need to keep the immediate area around the posts clear so they can be easily identifiable and accessible for maintenance and inspections by properly trained staff.
Having OLE near my property will devalue my home - are you prepared to compensate for this?
Several studies have found that in locations where public transport infrastructure is improved, house prices often go up too. Our new tram trains will also be significantly quieter and less polluting than the diesel-powered trains which currently service the valley lines, while providing quicker links around the Cardiff Capital Region.
Why do you need to cut back trees?
We’re cutting back trees as part of our vegetation management work.
Overgrown vegetation can cause serious problems on the railway, including late or cancelled trains or even accidents if they get in the way of signalling equipment. We also need to cut back vegetation to safely provide the electrical clearances for the public, staff and the infrastructure for OLE, as laid out in legislation
Once our vegetation management work is carried out, we’ll be back periodically to keep the trees and bushes under control so we can continue to provide a reliable and safe service for our passengers.
Will I be safe from overhead lines?
Overhead Line Equipment should be treated with extreme caution. It carries 25,000 volts of electricity, which is enough to easily cause fatalities. It’s also incredibly important to bear in mind that carrying items like fishing rods, umbrellas, helium balloons, people sat on your shoulders and even selfie sticks near the line is dangerous.
OLE is always switched on, no matter what time of the day it is, and Transport for Wales is legally obliged to take steps to put measures in place to prevent people from electrocuting themselves.
If you use the railway correctly, there is no danger from overhead lines. But trespassing on the railway boundary – which is illegal - puts you at risk.
The biggest risk of being on the line is being hit by a train. The new tram-trains which will serve the valley lines will be nearly silent in certain areas, there’s a heightened risk of trespassers being hit by a train.
For your safety, stay out of the railway boundary.
I live by the railway – will I have disruptions?
If you live near the railway, there’s a very good chance that our work on Metro will affect you.
This may include….
- Noise from piling works
- Road closures
- Changes to rail timetables and rail replacement bus services
We’ll be sending letters in advance to our neighbours who we might think will be affected when we can. In some cases, when we must act quickly, this might not be possible.
Do you need planning permission?
Transport for Wales’ delivery partners for Metro, Amey Keolis Limited / Keolis Amey Operations hold the license to operate a railway, and are deemed Statutory Undertakers, meaning they do not require planning permission for upgrades for the railway. Development that falls outside the permitted development regulations is likely to require planning permission.
Will the railway be closed?
We’re doing our best to keep disruptions to services to a minimum by working through the nights. However, in some cases we’ll have to close certain sections of the railway and provide rail replacement bus services through the daytime. We’d advise customers to check before they travel.
I'll be disrupted by noise – will you pay for my alternative accommodation?
Transport for Wales isn’t obligated to pay for alternative accommodation during rail works, but we are committed to keeping noise to a minimum. We will write to you in advance of particularly noisy planned works so, if necessary, you can make arrangements.
How many people are working on the scheme?
There are currently 375 staff working on Metro, which will ramp up to around 1,250 at the project’s peak.
Can I get a job working on the Metro?
For job opportunities working on delivering Metro, check the individual contractors’ website. For opportunities to work for Transport for Wales, keep an eye on our jobs page.
How will you minimise disruption?
We want to keep as many of our essential services running as possible. A great deal of our work will be taking place at night, so people can still use our services to get about.
When closure of the railways is unavoidable, we’ll be putting on replacement bus services for you to get to your destination.
Rest assured we will be working with care and consideration for our neighbours.
How are you protecting the environment?
In the first instance, we will avoid wherever possible, any impact on biodiversity. If that’s not possible, we’ll seek to minimise our impact. We’ll also look to improve ecosystems if they’re in a poor state and degraded, and we’ll offset any trees we cut down by planting new ones.
We work closely with Natural Resources Wales to ensure that our legal obligations are carried out and to make sure our vegetation maintenance work is carried out in the least disruptive way for wildlife.
Where appropriate, we’ll also use the by-products of our vegetation work to make log and brash piles for wildlife to nest in.
How much will the project cost?
Metro is being delivered at a cost of around three quarters of a billion pounds with money coming from the European Regional Development Agency and the UK and Welsh Governments, via the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal.
What trains are we going to get, and when?
Passengers will start seeing our new Stadler Citylink tram-trains and Stadler FLIRT trains on the railways from 2023.
For more information, including 3D flythroughs of our new fleet, visit the Transport for Wales website.
Will you write to me when you work in the area?
When we have particularly noisy or disruptive works like piling planned, we will write to neighbours we believe will be affected in advance.
Bear in mind that it’s difficult to predict how far the noise caused by these works can travel – it can depend on factors like the weather, and trees and buildings in the nearby area.
Sometimes we have to carry out work at short notice – for instance, last minute changes to OLE installation plans. In these cases, we won’t be able to contact you in advance.
How will you keep passengers and neighbours informed?
The best way to stay informed of all Metro works, and what they might mean for you, is to follow Transport for Wales on social media. We’ll also be updating our website with details of disruptions and changes to services.
Why are some lines getting more frequent services?
The Welsh Government is taking ownership of the Core Valleys Lines from the UK Government which means TfW will be able to run faster, more frequent and greener services.
Where our services run on lines managed by our partners Network Rail for the UK Government, we can only run as many services as the infrastructure allows and further work to increase capacity would need to be undertaken.
The Welsh Government is continuing to press for the devolution of powers to improve Wales’ rail infrastructure, enabling decisions to be made in Wales.
Why are you only electrifying the Core Valleys Lines?
The Welsh Government took ownership of the Core Valleys Lines from the UK Government and electrification is part of a £738 million investment in these lines. Electrifying these lines means that we can provide faster, more frequent and greener services.
Other lines in Wales are still managed by our partners Network Rail on behalf of the UK Government.
What are your plans for extending the Metro network and opening more stations?
The South Wales Metro is designed to be flexible and to be extended. We currently have plans to build or relocate five stations, as well as a short on-street extension in Cardiff Bay, which will be a pilot for more new lines in the future.
We’re looking at potential new Metro stations and extensions, working with the Welsh Government and local authorities.
Why are you introducing different types of trains?
To develop our plans for the Wales and Borders rail service and the South Wales Metro, we needed to take account of a range of different customer requirements.
Most of the Wales and Borders network requires a trains suitable for long-distance services while the South Wales Metro requires trains best suited for shorter journeys.
How are you making sure that people have access to toilets on the South Wales Metro?
We’re committed to ensuring that our passengers have access to toilets on the South Wales Metro. We’re increasing the number of universal access toilets at our stations on the Metro network so that passengers will never be more than 20 minutes away from a toilet. With turn-up-and-go service frequency, passengers can hop on and off at their convenience.
All our new fleet of trains will be equipped with accessible toilets. On the Aberdare, Merthyr and Treherbert lines we’re creating a fast, frequent and modern Metro service that we can extend to new communities in future. This means we need to use tram-trains that can run on-street, but aren’t currently available with universal access toilets. We’re currently looking into potential options with manufacturers.