Sue Essex said: 'The Strategic Rail Authority have reacted immediately and are inviting expressions of interest today. Following discussions with the Welsh assembly government, and having met the environment, planning and transport committee, the SRA are aware of our keen interest in restarting the franchising process and they will be treating this as a priority.
'This is a significant development and a vote of confidence in our policy of supporting the development of rail services. The assembly government is committed to funding a major programme of infrastructure which will lead to the re-opening of the Vale of Glamorgan line to passengers and capacity enhancements on Valley Lines and the Cambrian Line. The possibility of opening the line to Ebbw Vale is also under consideration.
'We will be working closely with the Strategic Rail Authority in ensuring that we have an operator who will over time introduce improved services in line with the assembly's commitments in the Transport Framework and Review of Public Transport.'
A preferred bidder will be announced next Autumn with the new franchise in place early 2003.