An aerial view of Ebbw Vale with rows of houses running north south up the picture on the left, and a road and railway winding up the valley divides the picture. There is a modern large Industrail building on the right. The sky is overcast

Network Rail in Wales enhances Ebbw Vale line

An aerial view of Ebbw Vale with the valley road and railway winding through the scene Network Rail

The South Wales commuter line between the former coal and steel town of Ebbw Vale and Cardiff is on track to get its long awaited Christmas present. Infrastructure works to improve capacity on the branch will allow additional trains on the line, and herald through services to nearby Newport. The new hourly service will add to the hourly trains that connect communities on the line with Cardiff.

The UK national infrastructure agency, Network Rail, is at work in Wales to deliver the final stages of what they call a multi-million-pound upgrade to the Ebbw Vale line. The previous weekend closure of the line (30 September and 1 October) facilitated track laying as part of a seventy-million pound (82 million euro) upgrade to the mainly single track branch. A further lengthy possession is scheduled before the end of the year.

Boost the local economy

As of Monday (2 October) commuters were delighted to see the bus replacement train service reintroduced on their line, serving communities up and down the Ebbw Valley. The first passengers on Monday morning were able to ride over the new tracks installed at Newbridge station and in the Crosskeys area. The work will enable enhanced capacity on the line, and let the Welsh government’s direct operator Transport for Wales launch new services from December, including a new hourly passenger service between Ebbw Vale Town and Newport.

Diesel train arriving at Rogerstone station in rural Wales. A few people stand on the single platform. There are trees all around
A train from Cardiff arriving at Rogerstone station in Ebbw Vale in South Wales.

However, there’s considerable work to be completed before those long campaigned for eastbound services are introduced. Before the introduction of new services, there will be a 19-day closure of the line from Wednesday 15 November to Sunday 3 December (inclusive) to allow for the final stage of work to take place. Once complete, the line will see the introduction of two trains per hour – one to Cardiff and one to Newport. Network Rail says that will open up leisure and business travel opportunities and boost the local economy. Currently there is an hourly service to Cardiff only. Infrastructure improvements and the introduction of direct trains to Newport have been campaigned for since the line opened with limited capacity in February 2008.

Construction of new platforms

“We are now entering the final phase of work which will transform how passengers travel on the Ebbw Vale line”, said Nick Millington, Network Rail’s route director for Wales and Borders. “We are proud to provide low carbon journeys and support Welsh Government ambitions including its modal shift away from private cars. It will also help connect communities and boost the local economy.”

A view of engineering work underway at Llanhilleth station where a second platform is being installed. The scene is largely rural, with a big crane in the background
Llanhilleth platform work

The reconfiguring of the line has been funded by the local authority and a loan from the Welsh Government. The UK Department for Transport and Network Rail have provided a further seventeen million pound (20 million euro) to deliver signalling upgrades and track renewal.  Work on the line has taken place throughout this year, including the construction of two new platforms at Newbridge and Llanhilleth stations, along with signal improvements, and track work in various locations along the route, which serves eight stations.

Reaching the final phase

The eighteen month long enhancement project has meant significant disruption for users of the line. That’s something for which communities have been thanked, and their patience is about to be rewarded. “We’re pleased to see the Ebbw Vale line improvements reaching their final phase”, said Colin Lea, Transport for Wales performance and planning director. “This will provide two trains an hour all the way to Ebbw Vale Town, half to Cardiff and half to Newport. “We’d like to thank customers for being patient while our partners at Network Rail have been delivering the work over the last eighteen months.”

The Ebbw Valley Railway branches from the South Wales Main Line via a triangle of junctions to the west of Newport. The national operator Transport for Wales Rail provides the hourly passenger service between Ebbw Vale Town and Cardiff Central, and will operate the new hourly service to Newport. The line was opened in 2008 as a predominantly single track formation. It was originally built in the mid nineteenth century with freight as the main traffic for the line.

However, the current layout does not offer provision for freight services – although light logistics and secure parcels, conveyed on board scheduled passenger services, is an option that could be explored in future. The last dedicated freight trains ran in 2003, serving a steelworks at Ebbw Vale, which closed in the previous year. Ironically, the last freight service to run from the steelworks carried a load of scrap metal from the site.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for and

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