Agenda and minutes

Strategic Transport Group - Wednesday, 5th February, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: County Hall, The Rhadyr, Usk, NP15 1GA

Contact: Democratic Services 

No. Item


Declarations of Interest


No declarations of interest were made.


Bus Services in Monmouthshire:

a)         Friends of the 65 Bus - presentation

b)         Withdrawal of the Severn Express

c)         National Express Coach Services: how it fits with public transport generally and comment on the withdrawal of services from Monmouth

d)         X3 service changes

e)         Proposed MCC Bus Strategy


a)    Friends of the 65 Bus - Presentation

The Strategic Transport Group received a presentation from Brian Mahony, Friends of the 65 Bus, to share the Group’s experiences that culminated in the reinstatement of the 65 Bus service. The Chair acknowledged the work and commitment of the team.  The presentation slides were circulated. following the meeting. Following the presentation, questions and comments were invited:


A Group member asked if there was evidence of growth since the reinstatement of the service.  Whilst there is no specific evidence available, new ticketing machines have been installed that will enable passenger data to be shared. Anecdotally, it is believed that passenger numbers have increased, but there is always room for improvement; if timetabling issues can be resolved, there will be better opportunity for growth.


A question was asked about the costs and subsidies; checking if this is at the expense of other services.  It was explained that the service costs £100,000 per year.  If it was withdrawn, it would cost £75,000 to secure alternative services for school contracts and the Grassroutes service.  The net cost therefore is £25,000 (equivalent to £500 per week). 


The Passenger Transport Unit Manager confirmed that the new bus was purchased via a Welsh Government grant (to encourage and develop rural/community bus services).  The new bus specification is Low Emissions and offers a nicer passenger experience.  It was confirmed that there has been passenger growth noting that the more passengers use the service the less subsidy is needed. The Group was reminded that the service is “not for profit” and solely to sustain its own operating costs.  It is hoped to carry out more marketing work with the Friends of the 65 Bus.  A bid for infrastructure in the next financial year, if successful, will enable provision of improved timetable cases and bus shelters.


A Group Member also welcomed the success of the 65 Bus noting that such services need to be sustainable, of good frequency, relevant to citizens’ transport needs and reliable.  It was suggested that an Uber-type App could eventually replace paper timetables.


A question was asked about services for tourists and walkers, noting that there are reduced services on weekends (Half service on Saturdays and no service on Sundays).  The need to connect with trains in Chepstow was also highlighted. It was responded that MCC is currently commissioning a review of all aspects of public transport in the county to better understand issues.  Work is also in progress with Transport for Wales on an app that will allow passengers to book tickets as the bus is in motion.  The Facebook Group is an effective means of distributing information but more members need to join.   Regarding future use of apps, it was pointed out that there is poor mobile phone/4G signal along the Wye Valley so paper timetables are still of great use.


It was queried if the service would ever be put out to tender, and suggested that services in other similar areas are  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.


Transport Grants

Christian Schmidt, Transport Projects and Programmes Manager


The Transport Projects and Programmes Manager explained how grants are allocated by Welsh Government for Active Travel.  The County will receive core allocation of £235,000 for scheme development and smaller schemes which can be spent across key settlements.


Additionally, the authority is entitled to submit bids for 3 more Active Travel schemes.  It is proposed to submit bids for packages of schemes relating to:


·         Caldicot Town

·         Monmouth Town

·         Usk Town Centre


With regard to the Local Transport Fund Grant, bids have been invited for existing schemes plus one new scheme.  A continuing scheme is Monmouth/Wye Bridge Junction (3rd Lane), for which the materials were bought and are in storage then no funding was awarded for this financial year.  Consequently, a further bid will be submitted.  Funding is also sought to contribute towards the Chepstow Transport Study. 


Ultra Low Emissions Fund where bids are invited for Electric vehicles (the detail is non-specific, and unclear if it includes charging points) by 14th February 2020 which may be difficult to achieve.  The fund used to purchase the 65 Bus is not now available unfortunately. 


The Cardiff City Region Transport Authority is submitting bids to the Metro Plus Programme to extend the benefits of the Metro to areas not benefitting from the rail franchise.


MCC has submitted a bid for Severn Tunnel Junction (STJ) Station upgrade to include funding to deliver the car park extension, footbridge extension, safer access routes and better passenger facilities.  Additionally, MCC will be proceeding with the missing elements of the footpath between Undy and Rogiet to also link with the STJ project.


Information was provided that there will be a Metro Phase 2, and bids will be submitted as follows, and in priority order:


      Further development of Magor Walkway Station;

      Abergavenny Station Interchange and Improvements;

      Chepstow Station Interchange and Improvements;

      Chepstow – Newport Bus Corridor ,

      Chepstow, Monmouth and Abergavenny Bus Corridor


Bid outcomes should be available by 31st March 2020.  It is likely that there will be part funding awarded and decisions on priorities may have to be considered in due course. 


There is also a regional grant for supporting bus services and the enhancement of community transport for all councils; Monmouthshire CC is the lead authority.


More information will be provided when available.  Questions were asked as follows:


      It was asked if there was any scope to add a cross border element to Active Travel bids referencing the possibility of opening the Tidenham Tunnel to Chepstow (some match funding for a cross border project may be available).  It was explained that Active Travel bids are limited to three and currently Chepstow is outside of the three projects identified.  Whilst it was recognised that the core allocation is quite committed, a note was made of the idea and also it was suggested that this could be added into the Chepstow Road Study engagement process.

      An update was requested on the proposed Llanfoist Bridge.  Also, a request  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Rail Stakeholder Engagement

Nichole Sarra, Stakeholder Manager, Transport for Wales

  • Comments on what we want for Monmouthshire in the short/medium/long term.
  • Timetabling issues
  • Ticketing Issues
  • Update on Rolling Stock Delivery Programme 


Phil Inskip

·         Local Station usage




The Chair welcomed Nichole Sarra, Stakeholder Manager (Borders), Transport for Wales (TfW) who explained that there are now 5 Stakeholder Managers with the role of encouraging stakeholder engagement and then providing feedback to the planners.  The following points were made:


·         December timetable change: A timetable workshop with stakeholders was held in November.  This was followed by a report in January. Transport for Wales has committed to run workshops twice yearly.  The next one will be in mid-March 2020 with a view to better connectivity and services.

·         Rolling stock: the majority of Class 170 trains are now in service.

·         Stations: A programme of deep cleaning is in progress due to be completed by the end of March.  The Station Improvement Plan for 2020 and 2021 is expected.  Regarding the Grand Union Train proposal (possible start in May 2021) it was asked if TfW trains can connect into/out of the London trains at Severn Tunnel Junction in May 2021.  Currently there are one and 2 hour gaps; Grand Union will have 2 hour gaps.  There will be a problem in connections due to a clash at Cheltenham with the existing GWR service. This change would save 50-100 cars coming down from Lydney. These points will be passed back to the train planning team.


In relation to train/bus connections at Chepstow, TfW attended Transition Chepstow to hear the issues and it was acknowledged that a multi modal approach is necessary.  TfW is committed to looking at Chepstow train services to provide an hourly service by 2022 with improved connectivity.  It was suggested that TfW runs the bus and train services; this point will be fed back.


A Member raised the issue of the need for better connections from Lydney to Bristol. A third river crossing between Lydney and Sharpness was mooted to provide a rail link to Bristol and London. 


The accessibility problems with Abergavenny Station were discussed, noting that the delaying factor is the signals.  Network Rail, DfT and TfW provide assurances that the scheme is progressing but the action group request timescales. It was explained that significant investment is planned for the station and work has started on cycle storage, Access for All design and the signal siting.  Nichole agreed to provide an update on timescales at the next meeting (or earlier, if the information is available).


A question was raised about the potential for easement to the routing guide.  If passengers are travelling from Caldicot to Bristol they can go into Newport and double back to Bristol Parkway to Bristol Templemeads.  Passengers are not allowed to double back from Lydney via Gloucester or Cheltenham to Bristol to provide the quickest service to Bristol.  By allowing this, would add 13 additional services a day between Lydney and Bristol with no additional trains, services or stops.  The Member was asked to forward the relevant information to Nichole.


A point was raised about comparative costings, as people in rural areas are having to pay much higher fares quoting the £33  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Local Issues

A)   Chepstow Transport Study: WelTAG Phase 2


B)   Matters raised by the North Monmouthshire Area Committee


1.     Inappropriate parking at Nevill Hall Hospital

2.    Health and Safety issues for track workers relating to open flush toilets on the trains.

3.     New trains will not include toilet provision.

4.     Parking issues at Abergavenny Railway Station.

5.     Removal of the early morning X3 bus service.

6.     Bus routes in Llanellen not being gritted

7.    Ongoing issue regarding lack of a bus stop at Park Road in Abergavenny to replace the Lower Frogmore Street Bus Stop removed as part of the now completed pedestrianisation scheme.


Re: reconfiguration of Strategic Transport Group meetings, it was decided, by the Area Committee, that a way forward would be to form a sub group comprising of members of the North Monmouthshire Area Committee and the Central Monmouthshire Area Committee meetings to look at local transport issues.


The Head of Service, Strategic Projects (Fixed Term) provided an update on the Chepstow Transport Study, noting that the study is a cross border collaborative project.  Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG) Stage 1 is complete and

Arup has been commissioned to undertake WelTAG Stage 2.  An initial meeting has been held. Many recommendations arose from WelTAG 1; the three main ones being a By-Pass, Improvements to public transport and a new junction to the M48. 


Some funding has been received, or is expected, from Welsh Government, Welsh Office and Gloucestershire CC.  The study has been funded (£275,000) and Monmouthshire CC is underwriting part of it.  It is anticipated that funding will be required for additional study work as the study progresses.  There is a 12 month timescale.


Other studies include:

·         Welsh Government has commissioned a study on High Beech Roundabout in Chepstow this financial year with a purpose of reducing traffic congestion.

·         A Chepstow/Newport Corridor study has been commissioned by Welsh Government and Transport for Wales to look at transport issues and improvements in the South Monmouthshire / Newport area.

·         Highways England has commissioned a study to look at the 2 road crossings of the Severn.

·         South East Wales Transport Commission has organised a study arising from the cancellation of the M4 Black Route.


The following matters were raised by the North Monmouthshire Area Committee:


·         Inappropriate parking at Nevill Hall Hospital: It was explained that there is a problem with the buses travelling through the congested hospital circular route with an example given of a bus being stuck for an hour due to obstructing cars.  An update was provided that a meeting is arranged with Officers, Stagecoach and the Health Board.

·         Health and Safety issues for track workers relating to open flush toilets on the trains: The Transport for Wales (TfW) representative was asked to feed this information back.

·         New trains will not include toilet provision: The Transport for Wales (TfW) representative was asked to feed this information back.

·         Parking issues at Abergavenny Railway Station: The Transport for Wales representative confirmed that these issues are already identified and highly rated for improvement.

·         Removal of the early morning X3 bus service:  This matter was raised earlier in the meeting.

·         Bus routes in Llanellen not being gritted: This matter has been passed to the relevant officer.

·         Ongoing issue regarding lack of a bus stop at Park Road in Abergavenny to replace the Lower Frogmore Street Bus Stop removed as part of the now completed pedestrianisation scheme.  It was reported that the design has been approved by Welsh Government.  It was commented that this project needs to be completed as early as possible. No timescales are available, but a decision on funding is expected by April.  Additionally, the recommissioning of the Penypound bus stop should be resolved soon.


Regarding reconfiguration of Strategic Transport Group meetings, feedback was provided from the North Monmouthshire Area Committee where it was suggested that there could be sub groups to focus on  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Forward Work Plan pdf icon PDF 59 KB


·         Update on GovTech

·         Consultation on the Chepstow Study (WelTAG Stage 2)

·         Reconfiguration of meetings

·         Wye Valley Road condition: The Head of Service, Strategic Projects (Fixed Term) provided an update that resurfacing work is scheduled for this year.  More details will be sought and reported back in due course.

·         Renewal of speed safety signs at Larkfield to the motorway roundabout.  Welsh Government will be looking the area as part of the High Beech Roundabout study

·         Bus station infrastructure in Monmouth

·         Monmouth town centre: Concern was expressed that there is a proper plan for diversion of bus services when the planned work starts.


To confirm the notes of the previous meeting held on 11th September 2019 pdf icon PDF 103 KB


 The notes of the previous meeting were confirmed as a true record.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 


The date of the next meeting was confirmed as 29th April 2020