A crossrail for Cardiff, the guarantee of sub-90-minute fast trains to London and a roadshow to attract the world’s sovereign wealth funds feature in plans to put the Welsh capital at the heart of one of the pre-eminent regions in the UK.
With Britain’s largest cities fighting for Westminster’s attention and investment and demanding their own revenue-raising powers from corporate and property taxes, business and community leaders in and around the Welsh capital today will unveil their plan to rebrand themselves Cardiff Capital Region.
As with Manchester and the development of the so-called northern powerhouse, transport and travel connections are at the centre of Cardiff’s pitch.
In a plan that it equates with the capability of Crossrail to unlock chunks of the London economy, Cardiff Capital Region envisages a blueprint to interlink the old communities of the Welsh Valleys through the city to the developments of Cardiff Bay.
The plans will build on the £500 million electrification of the Valley Lines railway and push the adoption of a proposed Metro network interconnecting light railway and tram systems within Cardiff and beyond. The idea is that no part of the ten local authorities that will make up Cardiff Capital Region will be more than 40 minutes away from the city centre and all at the touch of an Oyster-style travel smartcard.
Connections out of the region need to be brought into the 21st century, too, says the region’s prospectus Powering the Welsh Economy, which is demanding journey times between the Principality and London be cut from two hours, longer than the journey time in the 1980s, to under 90 minutes, and for direct rail connections into Heathrow.
It also calls for Cardiff to get a proper international air terminal from its existing airport, which can handle the biggest aircraft like the double-decker A380.
Roger Lewis, Cardiff Capital Region’s chairman, believes that such investment will be attractive to the sovereign wealth funds. Qatar investment funds are already behind the development of the huge liquefied natural gas terminal in Milford Haven, west Wales, and the gas pipeline into the UK. It is understood that Mr Lewis and his colleagues have had talks with overseas funds.
The prospectus envisages booting up the south Wales digital economy and investing in 21st-century skills via the region’s three universities. Mr Lewis said: “Transport connectivity is the transformational catalyst for change. It is what will help attract jobs and skills.
“South Wales, with its iron ore and coal, was at the beating heart of the industrial revolution, but we largely missed out on the second industrial revolution [of mass industrialisation and electrification in late Victorian times].
“Now we are experiencing the third industrial revolution and the Cardiff Capital Region intends to be at its heart.”