The comprehensive Union Connectivity Review, a thorough examination of transportation links across the four nations of the United Kingdom, has received a pressing request to explore the possibility of establishing a new railway line that would connect HS2 with Swansea through the Welsh heartlands. This ambitious proposal aims to create a central "spine" of public transportation within Wales, providing improved connectivity and enhancing accessibility throughout the region. The Heart of Wales Line Travellers Association (HOWLTA) has taken the initiative to submit plans for an upgraded Heart of Wales Line to Sir Peter Hendy, the esteemed chair of Network Rail and the driving force behind the Union Connectivity Review.
The envisioned enhanced line would establish a vital link between HS2 and Swansea via Crewe, offering superior transportation connections between prominent cities such as Birmingham, Crewe, Manchester, and Swansea. It would seamlessly integrate with the Great Western Main Line in the southern region. The proposed route envisions a path originating from Crewe, extending southwards through the picturesque landscapes of mid-Wales, and encompassing smaller towns and communities like Craven Arms, Knighton, until eventually reaching the vibrant town of Llanelli, where it would intersect with the West Coast Main Line.
Presently, the existing state of the Heart of Wales Line is regarded as inadequate to accommodate the potential demand for services. Recognising this limitation, Hendy's preliminary review underscored the urgent need for improved transportation links between HS2 and Scotland, as well as North Wales, emphasising the paramount importance of enhancing freight capacity to facilitate efficient movement of goods and services.
Birmingham and Manchester, boasting a combined population of nearly 6 million individuals, play a significant role as major sources of visitors to Wales. With the forthcoming connection to HS2 in Phase 2a, Crewe will assume a pivotal position as a vital hub for seamless transfers between different rail lines, serving as a gateway to the wider transportation network upon the completion of the high-speed line.
The comprehensive submission for the upgraded line was meticulously prepared by Professor Stuart Cole, an esteemed Emeritus Professor of Transport (Economics & Policy) at the University of South Wales. Drawing upon the expertise of members and specialists in the fields of transportation and tourism, the submission was designed to present a compelling case for the revitalisation and expansion of the Heart of Wales Line. Professor Cole, who also serves as the President of HOWLTA, has ensured that the findings of this submission have been disseminated not only to the Welsh government but also to Members of Parliament engaged in the development of a new transport strategy specifically tailored for the country of Wales.
HOWLTA ardently underscores the pressing need to improve track capacity, enhance rolling stock, and optimise service provision along the Heart of Wales Line. By fortifying this vital piece of infrastructure, HOWLTA envisions the line serving as a catalyst for economic growth and heightened productivity throughout the region. Crucially, the Heart of Wales Line effectively connects mid-Wales to prominent urban centres such as Birmingham, Crewe and Manchester, and integrates seamlessly with the South Wales Main Line, thereby connecting Cardiff, Swansea, and South West Wales.
Several regional bodies and organizations are currently engaged in assessing the broader range of opportunities that could arise from the HS2 extension to Crewe, particularly with regard to the western rail corridor, which encompasses the rural Welsh railway lines. These evaluations aim to uncover the potential benefits and synergies that could be harnessed by integrating the proposed HS2 expansion with existing regional networks. As the Union Connectivity Review progresses, with its publication expected during the summer, stakeholders eagerly anticipate the insights and recommendations that will shape the future of transportation connectivity within the United Kingdom and, more specifically, the transformative potential it holds for Wales.