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Cardiff Capital Region City Deal five-year progress report

Cabinet has received a five-year update on the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal – outlining progress on the South Wales Metro and wider investment to help develop exciting projects such as the Porth Transport Hub and Zip World.

A report to Members on Thursday, February 25,provided an update on the City Deal, which was signed in March 2016 and is an agreement between the UK Government, Welsh Government and the ten Local Authorities in South East Wales. It will generate a joint £1.2bn investment in local infrastructure through a 20-year investment fund, and has a small number of key targets – to create 25,000 jobs by 2036 and leverage £4bn of private sector investment.

The £1.2bn investment within the City Deal has two elements – the £734m Metro scheme which focuses on electrifying and improving the South Wales Valleys Lines, and the £495m Wider Investment Fund for investment in infrastructure, housing, skills and training, innovation, business growth and ‘Metro Plus’ transport proposals (utilising £375m from the UK Government and £120m borrowing from the 10 Local Authorities over the 20 year period).

South East Wales Metro – summary of progress

The Core Valleys Lines were transferred from Network Rail to Transport for Wales in 2020, and work to electrify 170km of track has started. Since the New Year, significant changes have begun on the Aberdare, Treherbert, Merthyr and Rhymney lines – with the revised completion of the overall work now 2024 due to the pandemic. Once complete, high frequency fast trains will run four times an hour in Aberdare and Porth, and 12 times an hour from Cardiff to Pontypridd, with upgrades to stations and facilities also delivered.

Good progress is being made in constructing the new £100m rail depot at Taff’s Well, and alongside Transport for Wales the Council is currently exploring options to develop a new railway station serving Treforest Industrial Estate. Construction of a new modern Transport Hub for Porth, which will create a bus/rail interchange at the existing railway station, is on course to begin on site in the coming months for completion by spring 2022.

During late 2020, the Council handed over the larger office building at its new Llys Cadwyn development in Pontypridd to Transport for Wales, which will be used as its headquarters and bring jobs and footfall into the town centre.

A series of other important projects to benefit Rhondda Cynon Taf are being explored through Welsh Government-funded studies. These include extending passenger rail services from Aberdare to Hirwaun, developing a mass transit corridor from north west Cardiff onto Beddau and Pontyclun, a strategic park and ride facility to serve the eastern end of the A473 corridor near Upper Boat, and improving regional east-west connectivity across the mid-valleys.

Wider Investment Fund – summary of progress

Key activities to date have included investing £15m towards ‘Metro Plus’ schemes which include £5.33m funding for the Porth Transport Hub, £40m towards the redevelopment of Cardiff Central Station, £31.5m for the Housing Investment Fund (including sites in Rhondda Cynon Taf) and a £4.4m loan to Zip World which is on course to open its new site in Hirwaun soon.

The total funding to date is £148.3m with match funding of £250.4m received, resulting in a forecast investment of £2.84bn in the region. Therefore, for every £1 invested so far, it has enabled a further £18 of other investment in the region. It is estimated that an initial 2,500 jobs will be created, along with 22,000 directly and indirectly as a result of the Metro. Zip World is expected to create 58 full-time and 20 part-time jobs, while the three local Housing Investment Fund sites have the potential for 190 direct and 250 indirect jobs.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “Cabinet has received an update on the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal’s progress five years on – focusing on the elements of the investment having a direct or indirect benefit to Rhondda Cynon Taf. We’ve always had confidence that the County Borough would receive a greater benefit from our investment in the City Deal than this funding would achieve on its own, and I’m pleased this is proving to be the case with the progression of many projects locally.

“The South Wales Metro and electrification of the valleys lines will have a huge benefit for economy and connectivity for Rhondda Cynon Taf, with work getting underway by Transport for Wales since the New Year. The new rail depot in Taff’s Well continues to make progress on site, and it is excellent news that construction of the Porth Transport Hub will start soon. Significant funding has also been made available through the wider investment element of the City Deal, among which was a loan to Zip World, enabling it to deliver the new attraction in Hirwaun which will greatly benefit our tourism offer.

“The City Deal update is very positive, showing how the 10 Local Authorities have used the last five years to improve the way they work together, while the partnership is giving the South East Wales region a much more powerful voice in attracting investment – which is adding to the value of individual councils.”

At Thursday’s meeting, Cabinet Members requested that the results of an independent Gateway Review, which will evaluate the impacts of the City Deal investments so far, is presented to one of their future meetings.