The comprehensive Union Connectivity Review into transport links between all four UK nations has been urged to consider a new line linking HS2 with Swansea through the Welsh heartlands as a new core “spine” of public transport in the country.
Proposals for an upgraded Heart of Wales Line have been submitted to the Union Connectivity Review which is being headed up by Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy.
According to the Heart of Wales Line Travellers Association (HOWLTA) the major upgrade of the line would link with HS2 via Crewe and allow better connections between Birmingham, Crewe, Manchester and Swansea, as well as link up with the Great Western Main Line at its southern end.
The improved line would run from Crewe to Shrewsbury then head south through mid-Wales connecting smaller towns such as Craven Arms, Knighton and on towards Llanelli where it connects with the West Coast Main Line (see map below).
The current line is deemed insufficient for the level of services that could be used on the line.
In March it was revealed that transport connections with Scotland and Wales were top concerns for Hendy, whose interim review called for improved services from HS2 to Scotland, North Wales as well as better freight capacity.
The major cities of Birmingham and Manchester have a total population of almost 6M and are a key source of visitors to Wales. Crewe, which is to be linked with HS2 in Phase 2a will become a key connection when the new high speed line is complete.
The submission was prepared by professor Stuart Cole, Emeritus Professor of transport (Economics & Policy) University of South Wales with input from members and transport / tourism specialists.
Professor Cole is also President of HOWLTA The findings of the submission have also been sent to the Welsh government as well as MP’s drawing up a new transport strategy for Wales.
According to HOWLTA, there is a need to develop better services along the heart of Wales line both in terms of track capacity, rolling stock and service provision to enable this piece of infrastructure to help grow the economy and raise productivity. The line links mid-Wales with Birmingham / Crewe / Manchester as well as the South Wales Main Line to Cardiff / Swansea / South West Wales.
A number of regional bodies are working to assess the wider opportunities that the HS2 extension to Crewe could bring to the western rail corridor, including the rural Welsh railway lines.
The Union Connectivity Review is due to be published this summer.
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