Sunday, 17 December 2017

A Metro for the Llanelli area

Speech delivered in the National Assembly on 13th December 2017

Yesterday the Cabinet Secretary told the Assembly that demand for public transport is predicted to grow by 150% in the next 13 years. If that’s correct then it is vital that we make the investment now to ensure that there is attractive alternative to car use in place.

Evidence from the most successful Cities across the world - where public transport is thriving - is that people will use buses and trains if they are easy to use.

Passengers need to be able to turn up and go.

But in many of the communities I represent, people’s experience of public transport is very different. They turn up, and it’s gone.

We’ve got bus services like the L1 from Morfa to Llanelli, which stop at 4pm

If you live in Kidwelly or Trimsaran there are just 3 services a day to Llanelli. And the last bus from Tumble leaves at half past six.

There are just four trains a day from Bynea to Swansea. And if instead you take the number 16 bus it will take nearly two hours - a trip you can make by car in 30 minutes

My constituents have been telling me that when they do take public transport it often turns up late, the heating will have packed up, or buses will only accept exact change.

Now that’s not most people’s experience, but anecdotal evidence like this is commonly cited by people who drive as a reason for not using public transport.

And if they can be persuaded to give it a try, it only takes a couple of bad experiences to put them off for good.

There is cross-party support to build the Metro systems. Our motion today welcomes the commitment to taking forward the Cardiff and the valleys Metro; the pledge to develop one in Northeast Wales; and for a study of one for the Swansea Bay city region.

I am holding a meeting with businesses in my constituency in Llanelly House on Friday to build support for the Metro in my region, and to get ideas of how to shape it to make things better for the communities I represent.

We quickly need detailed blueprints for all three Metro projects, and for these to be ambitious. Not just good services for the main towns and cities, but to reach out and link-in out-lying communities.

It is crucial too that we design a Metro with the whole journey in mind - door to door. So as well as buses and trains we need to think about how this links with walking and cycling for the journeys to and from stations.

Otherwise we could end up blowing a huge pile of money on a series of massive car parks at each station.

The research shows that people who use public transport walk and cycle more than those who do not because they use active travel at each end. We need to extend that by building in attractive walking and cycling infrastructure - including secure cycle storage - to link the stations with where people live.

The central design principle for all the Metro systems is that we need to make the passenger experience easy and comfortable. Unless we make it attractive to people who are used to travelling in a car of their own we are never going to achieve modal shift.

Right. So far, so familiar

The purpose of today’s debate, however - I hope - is for us to look at Metros differently. To look beyond its transport benefits to its wider regeneration ones too.

By improving transport connections to key settlements we are opening up the potential for bringing other benefits to those areas as well.

When a service improves, or a new station is built, the value of nearby land tends to increase as it becomes a more attractive place to build.

Businesses are drawn in not just to the individual metro station, but to the large urban centres that are now within easy reach at the end of the line - increasing their talent pool exponentially.

And it helps the unemployed, and the under-employed too, by making more jobs accessible - regardless of whether they have a car.

We know that those on the lowest incomes can spend a quarter of their income of running a car to get access to work. Affordable public transport can help remove that barrier to employment.

These potential benefits are well established.

But we’ve misread this potential as being inevitable.

With these new Metro systems - as well as getting the mechanics right - we need to make sure that - from the outset - we build in the additional levers that are needed to ensure that as we upgrade the transport system we lock-in the wider benefits that this investment will create.

For people to take advantage of the new jobs that will be accessible to them, not only do we need to ensure they have the transport means to access these new jobs, but that they have the qualifications, too.

This mustn’t be a broad-brush approach, but a targeted one.

But can I ask the Cabinet Secretary - where is the analysis of what new jobs will be accessible?

And of which specific new employers might be attracted to these communities as a result of a new metro station?

It’s only with this analysis that we can see where the skills gaps are, and how the existing population can be supported to meet these skills gaps - so we aren’t simply importing talent, we’re developing it.

On land prices, if we are to prevent profits falling only to private landlords and homeowners, Transport for Wales must have the power to act as a development corporation - with the ability to capitalise on rising land values in areas close to metro stations - so that they can lever in further funding to expand the metro network.

And in terms of attracting new businesses, what measures are in place to ensure new businesses increase the social value - not just shareholder value?

Will the appearance of a new Tesco metro put existing local businesses at risk? And could alternative approaches boost - rather than undermine - the existing foundational economies.

All of this needs to considered and designed in.

The Welsh Government needs to make sure Transport for Wales has all the tools, and the direction, to design Metro systems that don’t just improve public transport but change the life chances of the people in the areas we represent.

This is not just a project for engineers to play with buses and trains, and Ministers must make sure the different portfolios come together to capture this opportunity.


Metro Debate - 13/12/17

Wednesday 13 December 2017


Lee Waters (Llanelli)
David Melding (South Wales Central)
Nick Ramsay (Monmouth)
David Rees (Aberavon)
Jenny Rathbone (Cardiff Central)
Julie Morgan (Cardiff North)
Mick Antoniw (Pontypridd)
Mike Hedges (Swansea East)
Hefin David (Caerphilly)
Suzy Davies (South Wales West)

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

1. Recognises the importance of a modern public transport network to relieve pressure on Wales’s road network.

2. Notes the evidence that a fully integrated public transport system - including active travel - is needed to provide a practical and attractive alternative to car use.

3. Welcomes the commitment to the first stages of a south Wales metro.

4. Endorses the commitment to develop a vision for a north-east Wales metro, and the allocation of funding for the development of a strategic outline case for a Swansea Bay metro, and calls on the Welsh Government to identify funding for full feasibility studies as a next step.

5. Believes Transport for Wales must have the power to act as a development corporation - with the ability to capitalise on rising land values in areas close to metro stations - in order to lever in further funding to expand the metro network.

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