A PROGRAMME to improve public transport in Wales has ended up in the sidings.
Four years ago the Welsh Assembly Government proudly announced more than a dozen projects over five years.
But four years on, just two of the schemes and no new stations have been delivered on time.
Some are delayed and others may never come to fruition.
However, experts said yesterday there was light at the end of the tunnel, because the WAG would gain powers to implement an integrated transport policy for the first time.
A key scheme in WAG's January 2001 list was enlarging Cardiff Queen Street station, for which £15m had been awarded to local authorities. With a fourth platform and another rail bridge over Newport Road, this would have reduced delays and crowding on the Valley Lines system.
But two years after the work should have been done, the station is unchanged.
According to the WAG's original list, rail infrastructure should have been improved by now for more frequent services to Aberystwyth, Merthyr Tydfil and the Rhymney Valley.
But there is no sign of any of these schemes.
New stations at Llanharan, near Bridgend, and the Caerphilly suburb of Energlyn have not been built.
The main scheme that has been delivered on time is the half-hourly service to Aberdare, which started in October 2003.
A year later the Aberdare trains were carrying 50% more passengers - indicating likely demand for investments not delivered in other communities.
The new Vale of Glamorgan train service, linking to Cardiff airport, is due to start this year but was originally to start in 2002.
The Ebbw Vale train service was not on the 2001 list but was added in 2002 after Corus announced closure of the town's steelworks.
The trains were to have started this year but are now delayed until late 2006 or 2007.
Experts say the five-year programme's failure is down to upheaval in the rail industry, Welsh councils being too small to deliver major projects and Labour's failure to devolve rail powers to Cardiff Bay.
Two Bills now in Parliament will change the situation. The Railways Bill will devolve some rail powers to the WAG, while the Transport (Wales) Bill will empower the WAG to set up regional transport authorities with enough official clout to implement big schemes.
But Neil Crumpton, of Friends of the Earth Cymru, questioned whether the WAG had a vision for public transport that would give people an attractive and convenient alternative to the car.
He said, "The Transport (Wales) Bill will help speed things along. But the vision for public transport still doesn't go far enough.
"Tram systems or light rapid transit systems in South Wales should be looked at."
Prof Stuart Cole, of the University of Glamorgan, said the reasons for non-delivery of rail schemes were complex.
"It's not simply a matter of WAG not making decisions. There were various partners involved, such as the Strategic Rail Authority."
Since January 2001 Railtrack had been replaced by Network Rail, and the old train franchises had been replaced by the all-Wales 15-year Arriva franchise.
The Transport (Wales) Bill would create a new relationship, said Prof Cole, director of Wales Transport Research Centre.
"There's an opportunity for WAG to work directly with Arriva.
There will be no SRA, no intermediary.
"The Assembly will be able to make judgments on expenditure between rail and road. Both are important.
"The Assembly will have one transport budget, which is a prerequisite for an integrated transport policy."
A WAG spokesman said, "The Assembly Government is committed to supporting and improving rail services across Wales, and is committed to a minimum investment of £20m annually - £100m over five years."
Peter Strachan, managing director of Arriva Trains Wales, said his company was working with WAG on several projects including £1m of station improvements in North Wales and a £2m scheme to put CCTV equipment on all ATW trains.
"The 15-year franchise gives us a solid base on which to plan for the future and we will continue to work with the WAG to identify and deliver real improvements," he said.