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Campaigners call for Welsh Government action to reopen Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line

12 Apr 2023 4 minute read
Aberystwyth railway station. Photo by John Lucas is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Transport campaigners have called for government action to reinstate the railway line directly linking Carmarthen to Aberystwyth which originally closed as a result of the Beeching cuts in February 1965.

The Welsh Government published a feasibility study into reopening the line in 2018 which said there were no major obstacles to restoring the line, estimating it would would cost approximately £775m.

In 2020 Traws Link Cymru, which was set up in 2013 to campaign for the line to be reopened, also published a report considering factors it said should feed into any assessment of the economic viability of the line, including population and passenger numbers,  the demand for public transport and the issue of rural transport poverty.

However, at a meeting last week of the Thriving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Ceredigion County Council, Professor Stuart Cole, an independent transport consultant, ruled out the prospects of the line reopening for decades.

Professor Cole was asked by councillors if there was any definitive answer from Welsh Government on whether the scheme would go ahead any time soon.

He replied there was “no chance at all” of it reopening in “the next 40 years”.

Deeply disappointing

Traws Link Cymru (TLC) chairman Mike Walker described the response as “deeply disappointing” and urged the Welsh Government to bring pressure on Westminster to secure the necessary funding to restore the line.

Mr Walker said: “This is a deeply disappointing statement from Professor Cole and response from Ceredigion County Council. As he is heavily involved with the bus lobby, it is very clear that he does not take the need for reliable rail transport in the western half of Wales seriously.

“New electric buses that take up to three hours to connect two of our most major towns are insufficient and unsustainable.

“We have worked incessantly for a decade to convince the public of the need for a reliable rail service which will connect the entire nation much more effectively and we remain steadfast in our belief that one of the only ways to solve these issues is to build a rail corridor in west Wales.

“Indeed, this is a railway line that should never have been closed in the 1960s, and almost certainly would still be open today had contemporary economic and social factors been taken into consideration when the closure decision was made.

“But now this endless filibustering will do nothing to solve the deep problems faced by west Wales in terms of poor infrastructure, poverty, depopulation, and desecration of our communities and our native language.

“We cannot afford to wait a minute longer to ensure that people living in one of the poorest parts of western Europe have access to high quality public transport, with all the benefits that would bring in terms of access, mobility, connectivity, and economic regeneration.

“We have only to look at the reopened Borders railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank so see the social and economic stimuli that a new railway can bring to a region.

“Sadly, the refusal by the Welsh Government to countenance a new rail link in this area of the country is entirely in keeping with its recent decision not to allocate a single penny to West Wales from the Levelling Up Fund. It would seem that those of us living in the west and northwest of the country are no longer on the Cardiff radar.

‘In terms of the railway, any proposal to use the former track bed, of which 97 percent is untouched, should come with absolute guarantees that a reinstated railway will take precedence over any cycle path or nature trail, which is what Ceredigion County Council now seems to have in mind for the track bed, and this must be enshrined in law.”

Economics

Professor Cole rejected the accusation that he is heavily involved with the bus lobby, citing work he has produced for the UK Government’s Wales Office report on the expansion of passenger services along the Swansea District Line.

He is also Chair of the Heart of Wales Travellers Association and says he is a positive supporter of rail transport.

He said that his view that the public transport connection between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth has no possibility of being built in the next 30 years “is based on the economics of operating railways versus buses in a rural area”.

Professor Cole, who created the TrawsCymru network (the long-distance integrated bus network for Wales) and Bwcabus the connecting demand responsive bus operation said these are “the better solution for the Aberystwyth -Carmarthen route and for others in Wales where once there had been a railway.”


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Mawkernewek
10 months ago

I thought that it was odd the last article about this on 8th April, where councillors were told it wouldn’t reopen for at least 40 years. It was oddly written because it didn’t really make it clear who exactly had told the councillors, but this makes it clearer that is just one individual’s opinion.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago

From Beeching to Cole on a travel-sickness making, roadworks and traffic dependant, uncomfortable bus…

Ambition have they none…

As a country we deserve better…

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
10 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Perhaps those of us in Cymru with a Labour MP should start to pressurise that MP. The grounds would be that unless they commit, in a new Labour Government, to Cymru getting its HS2 compensation fund with at least £200m allocated to Aberystwyth-Carmarthen rebuild, we will campaign against them. The time for Pork Barrel politics is getting close!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

If the 2 free ports should come to pass there might be a need for some link between them on our side of the pond, although that might not be part of the plan for divide and rule reasons stated elsewhere…

HS2 money would come in handy…

CWL
CWL
10 months ago

The economic argument could be improved with an ambitious growth plan for Lampeter.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
10 months ago

This is top-down decision making. We must plan for our own future here in Wales. This will mean having control over our own taxation and revenue. Now, A new electrified rail network could bring faster and more reliable connections between north and south Wales. It could also be cheaper to run taking electricity from our own wind, solar and tidal energy instead of importing energy from outside. Beeching’s assessment of the economics of a service was based on steam power and fully manned stations. We need to take control of our own transport and economic policies and politics or regret… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
10 months ago

Ernie asks – “Is the current Welsh government up to the challenge?” Obviously rhetorical as this is a regime that can’t find a good use for £155 million yet pleads poverty like a parrot. A crew of defectives whose priorities are so garbled that within days of each other they announce steps to reduce safe private motoring by neglecting our roads while also announcing the reduction in funding for bus services. No doubt selected roads will be maintained to a high standard as these are the highways along which the ruling elite travel.

David Smith
David Smith
10 months ago

Obviously the ‘experts’ gave the right answers sought for HS2 to be built. I get the capacity argument but why does it need to be built to high speed standards on this small island? An open question for any such experts who might read this.

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