WELSH Transport Secretary Ken Skates has outlined changes, totalling nearly £5bn, set to transform the country's rail services over a 15-year contract period.

It is less than a week to go until Transport for Wales takes over the running of passenger rail services for Wales and the Borders, and improvements include increased services on the Wrexham to Bidston line which travels through Flintshire.

Some of the improvements, which will bring about a transformation in rail travel for people and communities the length and breadth of Wales and its borders, will be immediate, including a new customer website and app, new branding appearing across the network and enhanced Welsh language service provision – while other will be introduced as soon as possible.

These include plans to spend £194m on station improvements, including the building of five new stations, and the deep cleaning of stations from this December.

Mr Skates said: "Our plans go beyond a traditional transport project – they have to become the spark for wider economic renewal. They have to help individuals, businesses and communities who need a reliable, integrated transport system to help them find a new job, support their business to expand, and bring new investment to their town.

Other major benefits of the new Wales and Borders rail contract include:

· An additional 600 staff will be recruited to deliver the service in a range of roles and 450 new apprenticeships (30 every year) will also be created over the life of the contract.

· £1.9 billion will be invested in improving passengers’ travel experience, including an £800 million investment in trains, boosting overall service capacity by 65 per cent.

· By 2023, 95 per cent of journeys will be on a 148 brand new trains, half of which will be assembled in Wales.

· The Central Metro will be operated by 100 per cent electric traction, with the electricity sourced from 100 per cent renewable sources, 50 per cent of which will be sourced in Wales.

· By the end of 2023, passengers will be able to take advantage of an additional 285 services each weekday across Wales (a 29 per cent increase). This will include improvements to the Ebbw Vale and Wrexham – Bidston lines as well as the Cambrian and Heart of Wales lines.

· From December 2022 there will be a 28 per cent increase in Sunday mileage, creating a true seven-day-a-week service.

Smart ticketing will ensure that fares are more flexible and cheaper off-peak fares will be introduced including fare reductions in North Wales and at approximately 50 per cent of stations in the valleys.