The proposalRailfuture propose a two platform station on the Relief Lines between Magor and Undy. The site is two and a quarter miles west of Severn Tunnel Junction station and seven and three quarter miles east of Newport station. (For comparison the station at Energlyn and Churchill Park opened last December is between Llanbradach and Aber stations, that are themselves less than two and a quarter miles apart and now have a new station between them. In fact of the eighteen stations on the Rhymney line only four are further apart than two and a quarter miles and all four are two and a half miles apart.)
The proposal is for a community “Walkway” station as the site is within ten to fifteen minutes walking distance of the entire population of Magor and Undy (population 6-7,000 with a further 500+ houses proposed under the latest Development Plans) and sits perfectly with the recent Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 which became law in Wales on the 4th November 2013 to continuously improve facilities and routes for walkers and cyclists of which access to public transport is a part. The station would be co-located with the proposed Magor and Undy Sports and Leisure Association Community Centre (MUSLA), again deliberately located in the middle of the community to encourage walking to the site instead of car use.
The intention is to integrate the railway station as a valuable part of the social fabric of the community (Swiss model) so that it is not seen as some piece of infrastructure that is on the fringe of the community, only used for a few hours each day. Any ticketing franchise should be at the ‘Reception’ in the Community Centre so that income generated from the sale of tickets goes back into the community, unlike the ticketing franchises run as a private business for profit. Similarly the Community Centre could provide amenities such as a heated waiting area, toilets and catering/vending machines, requiring only minimal shelters on each platform.
As with the Community Centre itself, parking and use of a 'parked' car is deliberately intended to be discouraged and only limited parking in the region of 20 spaces provided, primarily for disabled and ‘Kiss & Drop’. The extension of the car park at Severn Tunnel Junction to 350 (and ideally the larger proposal in the present Transport Consortia’s Severn Tunnel Junction Development Plan of 500) spaces is actively supported by the Magor group for those who continue to want or need to use their car to access the railway. In fact the absence of adequate car parking at Severn Tunnel Junction puts at risk the Magor & Undy Walkway concept, as to provide extensive car parking at Magor would require using the Gwent Levels at the back of the station infringing on the levels area of SSSI.
The station site is where the B4245 road passes closest to the railway line. The Monmouthshire County Council traffic survey shows that some 11 - 12,000 cars a day pass along this road through the middle of the villages. The shift from car to train use is primarily aimed at capturing those who at present are not prepared to drive the two and half miles to the east just to catch the train at Severn Tunnel Junction to travel the two and a half miles back passing their homes for the seven and a half mile journey into Newport, and hence at present use their car for the whole journey instead. The site also has the advantage of direct integration with the buses as the bus services pass the entrance to the site of the proposed Station and Community centre every half an hour. Severn Tunnel Junction is not served by any of the commercial bus services as it is down a dead end road and requires a ten minute walk from the bus stop on the main road to reach the station.
There are outline proposals for another station between Severn Tunnel Junction and Newport, at Llanwern, which is five miles to the west of Magor & Undy Walkway and two and a half miles from Newport itself. This is intended to serve the Llanwern steel works site new housing redevelopment (Glan Llyn) and also to act as a Park & Ride for road traffic coming south down the A449 from Raglan, Monmouth and Ross off the M50. The Transport Consortia’s proposal is again for a two platform halt on the Relief Lines and a 380 space car park but no other facilities apart from a single shelter on each platform. The Llanwern proposal, should it go ahead, is like Severn Tunnel Junction complementary to the proposal at Magor & Undy Walkway and would be served by the same train services as would serve Magor & Undy Walkway station.
The target timescale for opening is 2018. This allows the introduction of the Cardiff to Bristol electric ‘suburban’ services, and being beyond the end of the present Wales & Borders Franchise avoids any costly franchise variations. The services can be priced as part of any replacement franchise, concession or government arms length Not for Dividend arrangement, whichever is finally decided on. This would be like the arrangement for the Portishead Line in the aborted Great Western franchise ITT, which can be priced at the time of the bid and ‘pulled down and activated’ at an unspecified date within the franchise term.
Using the Relief Lines allows the Inter City IEPs and Inter Urban Class one services a clear run on the Main Lines free of any potential conflict with the electric suburban stopping services off the Bristol line and the diesel suburban services off the Chepstow line. This is totally compatible with the proposals to the west of Newport for two new stations at Coedkernow / Celtic Lakes and St Mellons, on the Relief lines for the same reasons. As the four lines coming east of Cardiff are Up main, Down Main, Up Relief, Down Relief, these stations on the Relief lines require a slewing of the formation to enable the platform to be fitted between the Down Main and the Up Relief. However this alteration is avoided at Magor & Undy Walkway as the Bishton Flyover east of Llanwern brings the Up Relief to the outside of the Up Main, so at Magor the two Relief lines are on the outside allowing the platforms to be built out from the railway, avoiding the cost of slewing the track.
Magor & Undy Walkway has another advantage in that should it be the first or only one of the four proposed stations to be built services could as today continue to use the Main lines crossing on and off the Reliefs to serve the station (using the crossovers a quarter of a mile to the east at Magor and a mile and three quarters to the west on the approach to Severn Tunnel Junction station).
Magor and Undy sits within the “Severnside“ area, where research has shown that 48% of the population travel out of the area to work (Navigant consultants Severnside Total Place). Therefore this station will improve access to work whilst at the same time reducing car congestion and pollution. This fits economic, employment and environmental policies.
The campaignA fully constituted local action group MAGOR (Magor Action Group On Rail) has been set up. Phil Inskip, a member of the South Wales Railfuture Committee, was approached and asked to assist in getting the campaign going. He sits as a non-voting ‘Advisor’ on the committee in accordance with the constitution of the group, attends the monthly meetings and also accompanies the MAGOR Committee members to meetings with stakeholders, including elected representatives.
Following advice the Committee first gained the support of the local Community Council and then the County Council. The two County Councillors representing the Magor and the Undy wards are members of the MAGOR Committee, as is one of the Community Councillors who is also on the MUSLA committee to ensure close liaison and cooperation.
Railfuture identified and set up meetings with the Constituency Assembly Member for the area, and to ensure cross party support similar meetings with Regional Assembly Members of other political parties covering the Magor / Undy Area. This covered three of the four major political parties in Wales; the fourth political party does not have a Regional Assembly Member covering the Magor / Undy area. To cover this fourth political party he chose an Assembly Member of this party who sits on the Welsh Government Cross Party Group – Rail. Despite not officially representing the area, but on the basis of talking to all parties, a meeting was agreed to as the MAGOR group had already met two other members of this Cross Party Group – Rail representing other political parties. These were Regional Members representing the Magor /Undy area who had deliberately been picked because they were also on this Cross Party Group – Rail.
Having previously dealt with the local Member of Parliament for the area on various rail issues, Railfuture helped to set up a meeting between her and the MAGOR Group. She is a very strong supporter of the proposal and has come along and sat in on a normal MAGOR committee meeting as has the Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council on more than one occasion. After explaining the proposal to elected representatives from Community level through County Council and Welsh Assembly government up to Member of Parliament level and gaining their basic support, a public launch was arranged.
A previous Assembly Member and now a Lord of the Realm was suggested to act as Chairman for the Public Meeting and Launch, a role which he accepted. He had chaired the difficult public meeting at the start of the Severn Tunnel Action and he gave a master class on chairing a public meeting. With the Member of Parliament, Leader of the County Council, Chairman of the County Council, other Community and County Councillors and officers he controlled the meeting perfectly and gave every member of the public and representatives of the Train Operating Company a chance to have their say and express their views and question the committee, council and Train Operating Company. This set the campaign off to a very positive start.
Railfuture had been active in getting the County Council to set up a Joint Rail Working Group with councillors representing the Chepstow, Caldicot, Rogiet (Severn Tunnel Junction) and Magor areas along with representatives of the passenger user groups STAG (Severn Tunnel Action Group) and BT4C (Better Trains For Chepstow). We proposed that a representative of the MAGOR committee should be included which was agreed so a member of the MAGOR committee was invited and now also sits on this Lower Wye and Severnside Joint Rail Working Group. Following this a County Council “Individual Cabinet Member’s Decision” formally endorsed and backed the provision of a station at Magor & Undy as a policy of the County Council.
A model for identifying potential new stations on existing lines had been developed as part of a PhD Thesis at Southampton University, and validated on lines leading into Cardiff. Railfuture obtained formal permission to use and quote from these evaluations, providing valuable initial evidence of the viability of a station in the Undy area. This showed that a station at Magor/Undy had a Financial Benefit Cost Ratio of 2.06, which after applying the usual socio-economic factors as is standard practice for transport and railway evaluations, went up to a Benefit Cost Ratio of 3.30. These BCR and Value for money calculations were higher than any of the several proposals for new stations at the time under development by the South East Wales Transport Consortia, In fact the Energlyn station that opened three months ago evaluated at the same time and using the same method came out at Financial BCR of 1.36 and Social BCR 1.81, an evaluation almost half the predicted level of a new station at Undy.
This powerful evidence was presented to elected representatives as to why the new Magor & Undy Walkway station should be seriously considered.
The proposed station in the Lower Wye and Severnside area is in an area seeing some of the greatest increase in rail patronage in Wales. Over the ten years of the Arriva Trains Wales – Wales and Borders Franchise the ‘line’ growths have been Treherbert line 12.96%, Aberdare line 31.27%, Merthyr line 39.04%, Rhymney line 39.73%, Maesteg line 49.63%. By comparison the Cinderella line (Lydney, Chepstow Caldicot and Severn Tunnel Junction) on which Magor & Undy Walkway station would sit has seen an incredible 126% growth. Severn Tunnel Junction last year alone showed a 9.1% growth compared with the national growth of 2.3% and Arriva Trains Wales growth of 1.1%.
One of the County Councillors on the MAGOR committee, with Railfuture, arranged for the Member of Parliament to call the leader of the Cardiff Metro proposals to a meeting. As a result of this meeting, the Metro Tram/Train proposals again extend out as far as Severn Tunnel Junction and include in the plan Magor & Undy Walkway as a proposed interchange with ‘Heavy’ rail services. So the Magor proposal fits with and does not conflict with the Metro proposal that is at present being worked up for delivery.
The MAGOR committee has been busy meeting the businesses in the Magor Undy Area to canvas support. The Hilton Hotel at Magor, the Wilkinsons (Wilko) distribution centre, local shops Curry and public houses have all donated prizes for the action group’s stand at the local Fayre. The two schools were visited and involved in competitions to name the engine and the driver on a cartoon MAGOR fridge magnet to further raise the profile within the community, while fund raising continues to cover the cost of undertaking the formal Grip 1-2 studies to update, validate and detail the high level BCR evaluations by Southampton University.
The MAGOR group has formally joined Railfuture as an Affiliated Group.
The Network Rail Electrification Project Engineer has been contacted and asked to provide passive provision in the design of the electrification equipment to avoid/minimise any abortive work when the station is built. The Engineer passed this on to his electrification design team. The Train Operating Companies were initially briefly advised of the proposals and have now been invited and agreed to attend the local Committee meeting for a more in depth discussion. Meetings have been held with Arriva Trains Wales and First Great Western. The local Member of Parliament is at present trying to secure a meeting with the Network Rail electrification team as they had appeared reluctant to meet with the Community and County Council (Joint Rail Working Group) until they had fully finalised their proposals. A meeting before all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed appeared desirable to enable maximum input while accepting that answers would not yet be available from Network Rail for many questions.