08 February 2008
Cllr Hedley McCarthy, Leader of Blaenau Gwent Council, said: “This marks an historic week – passenger train services to Ebbw Vale have successfully re-opened after more than 45 years.
“Blaenau Gwent Council and our partners worked together to resolve the outstanding issues and the line has been accepted by Network Rail as fully ready for passenger services.
“Arriva Trains Wales began the new hourly passenger train service from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff on Wednesday 6 February 2008.
“The railway - and its bus links - are an integral part of our plans for building a stronger and more resilient local economy in Blaenau Gwent.
“I was on board the first train that left Ebbw Vale when it pulled out of Ebbw Vale Parkway at 6.40am and as the sun came up many of us on board realised that this was a new dawn for the railway and for our communities.
“We will now be working with Arriva Trains Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government to involve local schools in the Ebbw Valley Railway project.
“My intention is that we give our support as a Council to school and class education trips on the regular hourly passenger trains.
“During the building phase the railway project we helped organise visits by the contractors and British Transport Police to schools along the route – warnings about safety were paramount.
“Now we have an exciting opportunity to use the railway – and the bus link services at Ebbw Vale and Newport – for educational visits. We can develop information packs, help schools organise projects on with heritage and natural history themes.
“I am sure that our partners at Arriva Trains Wales will be looking to extend their own education programme to the Ebbw Valley Railway in the spring and summer months.
“We have the chance to arrange for our schools to reach out – and I am looking forward to working with Arriva Trains Wales and our partners to achieve this.
“Blaenau Gwent Council took the lead in building of one of the most important new public transport links seen in Wales in recent years. Thanks to our staff and our colleagues in Network Rail, Arriva Trains Wales, Capita Symonds and contractors Amey Rail as well as the Welsh Assembly Government itself we are have achieved our first goal.
“Passengers are using the new service – and first reports are that the trains are proving popular and Arriva Trains Wales deserve our thanks for running the first trains so efficiently.
“But we have more to do. My prioirity is opening the new station at Llanhilleth. For the future, we will continue to lobby the Welsh Assembly Government to add the rail links to Newport and Abertillery to the transport programme for Wales. Network Rail should give serious consideration to the Ryder Cup at Newport in 20120 and I urge the Welsh Assembly Government to do likewise.
“On behalf of my own Council colleagues, I would like to congratulate our partners for the excellent co-operation that has helped us all achieve so much during this final phase of inspection, snagging and adjustment.”