Great Western Cities urge UK Transport Minister to speed up rail links

UK Government is being urged to seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to cut journey times by rail between Cardiff and Bristol to help boost the region's employment and economic prospects. 

The leaders of Cardiff Council, Bristol City Council and Newport City Council (representing Great Western Cities) have written to the UK Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, to push for rail-connectivity improvements between the three cities in time to coincide with investments in city-regional transport systems, which are being taken forward under respective City Deals. 

The three councils are also calling on UK Government to deliver the investments needed to radically upgrade Cardiff Central and Bristol Temple Meads stations. 

Leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas said: "There's a once-in-a-generation opportunity here to bring a series of travel improvements together which could benefit commuters and the local economies of Cardiff, Bristol and Newport. 

"If we can cut almost 20 minutes off journey times between Bristol and Cardiff - from 54 minutes to 38 minutes - huge possibilities are opened up for commuters travelling west and east and for businesses looking to employ people. 

"Both city-regions are investing in radically improving their regional Metro systems.  With the investment in the Great Western Mainline, train times to London are about to come down. An improved Bristol-Cardiff link, connecting the two city-regions and running through the business districts at Cardiff Central, St Mellons Parkway, Newport, Filton Abbey Wood and Bristol Temple Meads, is now the missing piece of the jigsaw.  It would also accelerate the investments needed to upgrade both Cardiff Central and Temple Meads.  If we get this right, we can create a Western Powerhouse to rival the Midlands and the North. 

"That's why we believe that reducing journey times, and increasing frequency at peak times, between the Great Western Cities of Bristol, Newport and Cardiff, should be a priority for the new Great Western Franchise. We are urging UK Government to join the dots and bring a plan to the table which will boost the whole economic area. It would be foolish to miss this opportunity with electrification and the metro all online, alongside our plans to help future-proof Cardiff Central Rail Station." 

The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP has been sent the letter and information from Great Western Cities (which details how initial modelling undertaken by Network Rail suggests that inter-city journey time could be significantly reduced from 54 minutes to 38 minutes. A reduction in rail journey times of this scale, allied to more frequent services between the three cities, would further integrate the respective city-regional markets, and ultimately increase productivity.  

Leader of Newport City Council Debbie Wilcox, said: "Newport stands at the heart of the Great Western Cities conurbation. The economies of Cardiff and Bristol play an important part in the daily lives of our communities and improved connectivity between the three cities is vital to securing better opportunities for all. As a partnership we are clear about the need to prioritise investment to reduce journey times and we would urge UK Government to do so. A cluster of digital business and support activities is growing around Newport Station and improved connectivity between the three cities will help attract further businesses which will help to boost the economy of the Great Western Cities economic area." 

The case for improving the connectivity between the three cities was set out in the ‘Britain's Western Powerhouse' report of 2016, which demonstrated that the connectivity case for the Great Western Cities is even stronger than for the Northern Powerhouse.  More people already commute between the Cardiff and Bristol metro areas than the Leeds/Manchester route even though the distances and journey times are similar.  

The letter also outlines that the removal of tolls on the Severn Bridge will have positive benefits, but risks increasing congestion and air pollution. A corresponding improvement in the rail offer would help mitigate these risks and form part of a holistic transport solution between the cities.  

Further Information


The Great Western Cities is a collaboration between Bristol, Cardiff and Newport which aims to harness the future growth possibilities for each city and to attract investment to deliver strategic national infrastructure, particularly strategic connectivity, into the West of Britain, rivalling the regional approaches of the ‘Northern Powerhouse' and the ‘Midland Engine.'