The new operators of Wales and Borders rail services have unveiled their plans, promising to spend £800m on new trains and to increase capacity by two thirds.
KeolisAmey, who won the £5bn bid last month, says 95% of journeys will be on the new trains within five years.
It also announced four new Cardiff light rail stations as part of the South Wales Metro.
An extra 600 staff will also be recruited, the company said.
The French-Spanish joint venture will take over operations from Arriva Trains Wales for the next 15 years from October.
New trains and light rail cars will be in red and black colours – and carry Transport for Wales (TfW) branding, not company logos.
First Minister Carwyn Jones called it a “landmark moment in the future development of Wales”.
Announcement highlights and what it all means:
- All trains will be replaced and 95% of journeys will be on 148 brand new trains by 2023
- Half of all new trains will be assembled in Wales
- £1.9bn has been committed to improving passengers’ travel experience, including £800m invested in trains to boost overall service capacity by 65%
- £194m has been pledged to modernise Wales’ 247 stations
- There will be four Cardiff stations for the new Metro light rail: they will be at Gabalfa, Crwys Road, Loudoun Square and The Flourish in Cardiff Bay – and provide the capital’s first on-street tramway for 70 years by 2023
- An additional 600 staff will be recruited to the existing 2,200 transferring over from Arriva Trains Wales; there will also be 30 new apprentices for each year of the contract.
- From December 2018, there will be increased capacity on the Valleys lines and new services between Chester and Liverpool
- By the end of 2023, an extra 285 services each weekday are promised across Wales (a 29% rise). Some of the lines benefiting will be Ebbw Vale (a service to Newport by 2021), Wrexham-Bidston, Cambrian and the Heart of Wales
- Sunday services will be increased by 61% with an additional 294 services across Wales “creating a true seven-day-a-week service”
- Smart ticketing will promise more flexible fares and cheaper off-peak fares will be introduced including in north Wales and at half of stations in the valleys
- Seven extra trains between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth – and a new station at Bow Street in Aberystwyth; 16 extra services between Cardiff and Cheltenham
- An “acceleration” of the North Wales Metro, investment in stations at Chester, Shotton, Wrexham General and Blaenau Ffestiniog; other improvements include a new Liverpool to Llandudno service
- All stations will run on renewable energy; there will also be improved wi-fi and by 2024 85% of journeys will have end-to-end internet access.
- All stations will be deep-cleaned in the first year
- Rail users forums will be set up
- Active travel will be encouraged by the installation of new bike lockers
The new network map, including the proposals for the South Wales Metro, was released at a launch in Treforest.
The new operators emphasised the changes would not happen overnight and Wales’ railway “would be unrecognisable” in five years.
The Metro element will use “tram-train” technology, with light rail cars which can operate on conventional rail as well as in electric tram mode, while tri-mode trains will combine low-emission diesel, battery and 25kV electric power.
A “smart” electrification programme will need less disruptive civil engineering work and only one bridge in the Rhondda will need to be lifted.
KeolisAmey have to deliver the long-promised South Wales Metro – improving public transport links between Cardiff and the south Wales valleys and beyond – as part of the contract awarded by the Welsh Government.
It includes taking more than 124 miles of the valleys lines from Network Rail.
But it was also challenged to bring in newer trains, solve overcrowding issues for commuters and deal with the expected continuing rise in demand.
The first minister said: “People said they wanted affordable fares and newer, cleaner trains and we have worked hard to ensure this is reflected in what we are launching today.”
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said: “It is important that future investment provides visible and practical improvements to the rail travel experience on a franchise with the potential to grow transport links between England and Wales.”
KeolisAmey already runs Greater Manchester Metrolink and London’s Docklands Light Railway, among others.