Swansea Metro should use driverless technology, says AM

By Arwyn Jones
BBC Wales political correspondent

Image caption, The Swansea Bay metro should be used as a "test bed" for new driverless techology, AM Lee Waters has said.

Swansea should lead the way in new technology by using driverless vehicles in a new public transport system, an AM has said.

A £1bn regional metro has been proposed and a feasibility study is due to start in April.

Labour AM Lee Waters said Swansea would be years behind other cities if traditional trams or trains were used.

The Welsh Government said the potential of new technology would be considered.

Speaking to Sunday Politics Wales, Llanelli AM Mr Waters said Swansea would be 30 years behind cities such as Manchester and Sheffield if a traditional metro was introduced.

He said Swansea Bay should "leap frog" other areas by testing new technology, with timetables being replaced by apps to call up public transport in a similar way to taxi service Uber.

Mr Waters said driverless vehicles could be used to pick people up from their homes and take them to their destination, rather than travellers having to rely on timetabled buses and trains.

"The key for getting people to replace car journeys with public transport, is having what is called a turn up and go public transport system, that's why it works in London - you don't have to wait very long before something turns up and that's clearly not the case in Wales," he said.

Mr Waters said there were parts of Llanelli where the last bus left at 16:00 and the area could not rely on the train network.

He said the Swansea Bay metro could be used as a "test bed" for the rest of Wales to try out driverless technology and wireless recharging.

"We are starting from a blank sheet of paper almost, let's go straight to the future solution rather than playing catch up."

Image caption, A map of rail routes which would form the Swansea Bay Metro were proposed in 2017

Last year Economy Secretary Ken Skates told BBC Wales driverless cars could be tested on roads in Wales.

UK ministers claim driverless cars could be on UK roads by 2021 and the Connected Autonomous Vehicles sector could be worth £52bn in the UK by 2035.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Early work on the Swansea Bay metro should consider all of the potential that new technology can bring to regional transport systems.

"This is also why we are investing £100m in the Tech Valleys Technology Park, to ensure that Wales' communities and businesses are in the best position to benefit from automotive innovation."

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