Mark Drakeford, AM is backing calls for investment in a Metro rail system which is key to the economic regeneration of the South Wales area.

He has added his name to a motion for debate in the National Assembly welcoming support for an integrated rapid transit system based on the valleys rail network and calling for a partnership approach to secure the massive investment needed.

The Metro was proposed in a recent study commissioned by the Cardiff Business Partnership which set out an ambitious transport plan with Cardiff as the hub of a Cardiff City Region with fast transport links to Newport, the Vale of Glamorgan, Bridgend and the South Wales Valleys. More than 100,000 people commute to Cardiff every day from these areas and the increasing level of commuting depends on the region’s transport infrastructure. The report says a 21st century transport system including the development of the Metro, links to the Bristol, Birmingham and Swansea City regions and a major upgrade of the current rail links to London and Heathrow are key to the economic renaissance of South Wales.

Major investment in the Metro system would be needed to transform the existing rail network into a 21st Century urban transit system including comprehensive electrification; improved track and signalling; faster, higher capacity and more efficient rolling stock and some extensions to the existing rail network. The rail network would be augmented by new tram or tram-train routes with new stations to widen access and reduce car dependency.

Mark Drakeford is chairing a meeting of the European Programmes Partnerships Forum in Swansea today (Thursday 1 December, 2011) to look at the impacts on the economy of the current round of European Convergence Funding and to plan for any 3rd round of funding for which Wales might qualify.

Mr Drakeford said: “Investment in major transport improvements like the Metro which help people to live and work in South Wales are very much part of what the European Funding Forums are discussing. If the ambitious plans for a 21st century transport system for the Cardiff City Region go ahead it will be with funding from the next round of European Convergence Funding. We must make sure that we use future funding for projects which take jobs to people and people to jobs.”