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Ebbw Valley Railway, South Wales

The facts

Client: Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (Lead), Caerphilly County Borough Council, Newport County Council
Location:  Ebbw Valley, South East Wales
Services:  Project Management, Environment, Transportation and Engineering.
Sector:   Rail
Contract Type:  Bespoke NEC 2, Detailed Design & Build
Project Value:  £35m
Key dates:

  • Initial Feasibility - 1998
  • Design Commenced - 2003
  • Contract Awarded - November 2005
  • Handback to Network Rail - December 2007
  • Passenger Services Commenced - February 2008

The project

Ebbw Vale is a typical Welsh Valleys town - lines of neat terraced houses etched into the hillside, a rich industrial heritage, and a strong sense of community.

However, following the decline of the coal and steel industries places such as Ebbw Vale have endured a sometimes painful economic downturn - with residents having to look harder and further afield to find work.

The £30m Ebbw Valley Railway was developed as a response to these difficulties. Since opening in 2008, the line has provided a direct rail link railway link to Cardiff - helping to regenerate the town, valley and the surrounding area.

The result of ten years of determined effort from initial feasibility and the obtaining of funding, through to design and construction, the railway re-establishes rail passenger services between the town and the burgeoning Welsh capital for the first time in 46 years. The project also involved the upgrading of 18 miles of former freight line and the building of six new stations.

This is the first UK railway of its type to be procured and delivered by a local authority (Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council via funding from the Welsh Assembly Government and Welsh European Funding Office)..

Capita Symonds provided a full multidisciplinary service on this project, working in close partnership with lead client Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, plus Caerphilly County Borough Council; Newport City Council; the Welsh Assembly Government; Network Rail; Arriva Trains Wales; and contractor Amey Rail.

The new line is already improving accessibility to business, employment and leisure opportunities for the local community. It averages an impressive 11,000 passenger trips a week while the first year’s figures of 570,000 trips comfortably topped the forecast 400,000.

It is also helping to provide an holistic strategy to improve the public transport network across the area by offering viable, sustainable alternatives to the car (the project has cut public transport journey times between Ebbw Vale and Cardiff by 30%).

The project serves as an example of how local authorities can manage and procure an unusual and challenging project that will be a valued asset for future generations. What’s more, it also demonstrates how engineering and construction professionals can have a real impact, transforming lives right across the community.

In October 2009 the line celebrated carrying its millionth passenger - less than two years after it opened.

Awards

  • RICS Wales 2009 Welsh Project of the Year (winner)
  • RTPI Cymru 2008 Project of the Year (winner)
  • Insider Property Awards 2008 Best Civil Scheme (winner)
  • RTPI National Awards 2008 (commendation)
  • Regeneration and Renewal Awards 2008 (commendation)
  • CILT National Awards 2008 (finalist)
  • Wales Innovation Awards 2008 (best practice).