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20 May 2016

Metro is a significant opportunity but ‘no silver bullet’ warns new report

Reference number: PR190516W

Despite its importance to regeneration, the proposed Metro scheme is not a silver bullet for the economic problems of South East Wales, warns a new report published today. 

The Federation of Small Businesses Wales commissioned leading regeneration and local economies researcher Dr Mark Lang to examine the potential impacts of the Cardiff Capital Region Metro scheme.

His report casts a critical friend’s eye over the project, highlighting that similar projects elsewhere in the world have not necessarily produced positive urban renewal and regeneration effects.

He points to studies looking at similar projects in San Francisco and Bilbao which found little direct impact on land use and potential negative effects on small businesses near transport hubs respectively.

Dr Lang notes that while the poor transport network and the poor economic performance of South East Wales cannot be ignored, transport infrastructure investment alone cannot address the underlying problems of the region.

“The balance of international evidence suggests that transport investment is not, as some would argue, an economic ‘silver bullet’,” said Dr Lang.

“Context is critical, and in that respect South East Wales, and Wales more generally, needs to have a more open and honest debate about what sort of country we want to be and what is important to us.

“Only by addressing this question, can we design the right economic context within which infrastructural investments such as the Metro have a chance of delivering meaningful outcomes.”

Dr Lang makes a number of recommendations in his report, suggesting how the scheme can be better tailored to meet the needs of communities, and maximise the opportunities for the scheme to benefit the region.

They include a call for research to understand how towns and cities in South East Wales are connected, combined with a comprehensive evaluation of how best to support the growth and development of small businesses and local economies across South East Wales.

He calls for a reappraisal of the Metro map to ensure transport investment meets the economic and social needs of South East Wales, and the use of more effective pre and post-investment indicators of success, to accurately monitor the impact of the Metro. This will be critical in the context of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

He also makes a strong case for a conversation with communities and local businesses across South East Wales to consider their priorities for a more resilient future economy of their towns and the region as a whole.

FSB Wales Policy Unit Chair Janet Jones said she hoped that the report would help contribute to the plans for the Metro scheme so that it could make the most positive contribution possible to the communities that it will serve.

“Whilst there is broad support for the Metro project important questions remain over what sort of economic impact the scheme will have,” she said.

“At FSB Wales we are particularly concerned that any regeneration benefits from the project must be felt not only at Cardiff, but in communities across South East Wales that are served by the Metro network.

“The Metro scheme may be one of the biggest single investments in infrastructure in South East Wales and forms an important part of the Cardiff City Deal. We need to ensure that it produces the best possible outcomes for our communities.

“I very much hope that all those associated with the project will take time to read through this report and consider some of the key points that it raises as the Metro moves towards fruition so that every effort can be made to ensure that the Metro scheme can have the greatest impact on the prosperity of the region in the years to come”