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Faster to go through England than reopen north-south Wales railway say Transport for Wales

07 Jun 2021 3 minutes Read
Transport for Wales trains currently have to pass through Hereford. Picture by Geof Sheppard (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Reopening previous rail lines through mid-Wales would not be effective as means of connecting the north and south of Wales because the route would be slower than the current route through England, according to Transport for Wales.

The Welsh train operator said that there were currently “no plans” to build a north-south Wales route as it would face “many significant challenges”.

Asking why there wasn’t a railway directly linking the north and south of the country, they answered “The simple answer for this is that there is – it just so happens to run via England.”

A line through England also had the “added benefit” of serving Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford, they said.

In an article published on the Transport for Wales website they added that “at the present time, there are no plans to build a new route linking North and South Wales. It would be the largest infrastructure project in Wales’ history and would take decades to develop, facing many significant challenges”.

“Simply reinstating the former rail routes through Mid or West Wales would not be enough. The routes would not be suitable for a North-South intercity service, because their meandering nature would mean journey times would be far longer than via the current route.

“Alternatively, an entirely new route could theoretically run direct between North and South Wales, with fewer stops and a much straighter alignment developed for higher speeds. However, this would be even more challenging to design and build, as it would require forging a brand new route through mountainous terrain.

“There would have to be extensive consultation about where the route would go, and which towns would be served by it. It would have to pass through unspoilt landscapes, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, and would probably require heavy engineering solutions such as long tunnels and large viaducts.”

‘Obvious’

As such, the article says, the initial priority is to upgrade existing lines so that they can carry more trains and provide faster journeys, including the current north-south route via the Marches Line.

“Along with providing the North-South link, it has the added benefit of serving three large settlements in the borders region – Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford – which act as major interchanges for services to North West England, Mid Wales and the West Midlands respectively,” the article says.

The article also includes a history of Wales’ railways, which notes that many of Wales’ railways were closed when the motorcar became the favoured mode of transport.

“Due to low and falling passenger numbers and high maintenance costs, they were obvious candidates for closure when British Railways faced mounting financial losses in the 1950s,” the article says.

It adds that as a result of these cuts “North Wales looked more towards North West England for its commercial opportunities, while South Wales looked towards London.

“It took until well into the twentieth century for this to change, when the idea of Wales as a nation started to become more important.”

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Smith
Smith
5 months ago

They’re not wrong.

Mr Jones
Mr Jones
5 months ago
Reply to  Smith

I completely agree and I know I’m going to get downvoted for this, but I too long for a north south rail connection through Wales, it is shameful right now that we have to go through another country to go from north to south. However, right now Wales needs to upgrade and modernise it’s current track, many of the valley lines weren’t electrified and it is only thanks to TfW and the Senedd that we got those lines devolved so we can work on them without UK gov telling us what to do. The Aberystwyth-Pwllheli line isn’t electrified either, we… Read more »

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Jones

The referenced project and all that you describe need not be mutually exclusive nor exist as in a prerequisite relationship though.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
5 months ago

I’m personally not bothered that part of the line goes through England. Our mountainous terrain makes this quite unavoidable. My problem is the extortionate prices they charge us to use the trains. Return from Llandudno to Cardiff = £96. How can that be justified?

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

I have often wondered why there aren’t more long distance buses in Wales. I worked in Israel in my youth where these buses are plentiful, successful and well used. Just a thought ….

Ann Swindale
Ann Swindale
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

We do have the Traws Cymru services but they take a bit of working out to get the connections. I travelled from Hirwaun to Porthmadog via Newtown by bus in 1968 and my mother made a similar journey in the 80s. It was a spectacular journey but took a whole day!

Smith
Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

Exactly. Who cares where the line goes as long as you get there. It could go through Brazil for all I care

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Smith

The point quite clearly is the network doesn’t “Get you there” as regards any number of places, and in further instances it only does so in an inordinate amount of time. So while you may have thought you were being clever with your dismissal, you just highlighted exactly what the problem is.

Richard
Richard
5 months ago
Reply to  Smith

Your positivity is infectious. I like someone with get up and lay down. No wonder Wales is regarded as a backwater when the only aspiration is apathy.

Last edited 5 months ago by Richard
Richard
Richard
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

You do know Austria & Switzerland have lines that go through mountains. Oh, sorry. It’s Wales. You prefer our taxes spent in and on English infrastructure with HS2. Very sad.

Last edited 5 months ago by Richard
j humphrys
j humphrys
5 months ago

Obviously, nothing will be done before independence!

Carl Iwan
Carl Iwan
5 months ago

Has the word imagination or, dare I say, vision ever crossed the minds of TfW ? Wales needs a West coast mainline – a line from Bangor, through to Caernarfon, Aberystwyth, Caerfyrddin and Abertawe and on to Caerdydd. This Westcoast Mainline could become a lifeline for the fortunes of the west, transforming its economy and prove a great attraction. Think hydrogen-powered trains with observation cars along the stunning coast – a real destination in its own right. Of course it would cost – hardly relevant when the political will allows – think HS2 and Crossrail – but it would also… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Iwan

It’ll need Indy, Carl. Love your ideas, though! I think West is the way to go.

Dave Evans
Dave Evans
5 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

It would never be done under independence either. Wales has no GDP outside 3 cities, with an international border with England day trade and tourism would be seriously diminished, its even more silly an idea than Scotland independence! How is anything like that going to be funded? The delusion the country would become rich under unfunded socialist leadership is pure make believe!

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Dave Evans

With barely-literate naysayers like you in existence, perhaps you’re right!

Carl Iwan
Carl Iwan
5 months ago
Reply to  Dave Evans

……ever heard of Slovakia or Estonia – having rid of the shackles of their dominant neighbours, their new found confidence and well-being have blossomed. A salutary lesson for Wales despite the naysayers!

Lucinda Owen
Lucinda Owen
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Iwan

Love this idea.

Ben Cornwell
Ben Cornwell
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Iwan

The difference between HS2 and a Welsh main line is that HS2 will serve many times more people and businesses and hence generate far more revenue. Wales isn’t that big or rich so we’re not getting fancy infrastructure projects, much as we would all love to see them.

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Cornwell

Places already served, and while I acknowledge the argument about capacity requirements, it in no way needs to be built to high speed standards (with the costs incurred to make it pin-straight and tunnelled for much of the length) for such a short route. We’re not only not getting projects, money is being taken from our funding settlement to pay for this, that any idiot could see, extremely non-Welsh project.

Carl Iwan
Carl Iwan
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Cornwell

MY POINT WAS NOT TO REPLICATE HS2 BUT TO SEE THE POLITICAL WILL FOR A WEST-COAST MAINLINE [a tiny fraction of the cost of the former]

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Iwan

…Bangor to Caernarfon and on to Porthmadog and Aberystwyth to Caerfyrddin are the two missing links to a railway enthusiast’s gold mine! Not to mention a local and tourist alternative to the car and bus. Where is the spirit of enterprise shown by the genesis of the Cambrian Railways, the Talerddig Gap for instance (the HS2 of it’s day, maybe). Another triumph, The Vale of Rheidol Railway. International tourism has been dealt a body blow and a joined up ‘Circle Line’ railway experience would benefit the whole of Wales immensely and add to the glorious ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’… Read more »

Herby
Herby
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Iwan

Well said!

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
5 months ago

Well The Mountainous terrain of Switzerland has never been a problem for a very successful Swiss Rail Network.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
5 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Yes, that’s very true – and beautiful scenery too, I have also had some lovely rides on Switzerland’s railways. Maybe something Wales could aim to emulate in the longer term as it would take a lot of development (tunnels, new lines etc.)? In the shorter term I hope TfW will look at current routes and prices. At the moment it is simply too expensive to use the railways, which is very sad and unfair.

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

You mean that small mountainous country, surrounded by larger nations, that is affluent and self-sustaining? What is the key difference between there and Wales then?

Dave Evans
Dave Evans
5 months ago
Reply to  David Smith

Slight difference is Switzerland is extremely capitalist and free market, Wales has a tenancy to vote for leftists who will forever keep them collectively poor.

Herby
Herby
5 months ago
Reply to  Dave Evans

Exactly. We haven’t got the mindset or the will. Socialism in action.

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Herby

As long as we have defeatists like you around, evidently lacking capacity to ask *why* such political leanings are in place, it will ever be a self-perpetuating cycle.

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Dave Evans

Wales voting for leftists is an effect, not a cause. We vote that way like deprived places generally do, because of self-interest, looking to government to lend a helping hand out of the doldrums. Exactly the same reason why affluent shires, wealthy cities and farmland constituencies vote Conservative in England, self interest. Until we have the levers at our hands to bring in a laissez-faire implementing government, and crucially one which ensures the market and commerce is run in the interests of growing the indigenous Welsh economy, that will never change. Your reference to Wales having a “Tenancy [sic]” is… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

They don’t get it do they? 200 miles (approx) to go 45.7 miles!

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
5 months ago

Years of neglect is not going to be rectified overnight but it is only through independence that we can start undoing the damage. It will never happen if we stay in the Union.

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
5 months ago

All those towns along a North South rail link would benefit economically and socially. Speed is not always the best way if evaluating any scheme. Get on with the planning.

Quornby
Quornby
5 months ago

Charles Coombes took the words from my mouth.

Llywelyn ein Llyw Nesaf
Llywelyn ein Llyw Nesaf
5 months ago

Wales’ biggest infrastructure project? Take decades?

I believe the estimate for the cost of linking up Caerfyrddin to Bangor, including line upgrade on the Cambrian Coast, is around 1.2 billion, or a little more.

Cymru is spending 4 times that on HS2, which will also take decades.

Time for some new management for TfW, ones who concentrate on delivering Transport for Wales, not transport for the English borders.

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
5 months ago

Actual numbers in a comment! Have an upvote from me.

Ben Cornwell
Ben Cornwell
5 months ago

However, a Welsh route on the old lines would serve many Welsh villages very nicely and provide a huge boost for their economies I suspect. On the down side, that’s not actually helping that many people because they are all very small places. I’d love to see the old lines reopened to put these places on the map, as well as a new high speed line. But I appreciate the cost is prohibitive!

Paul
Paul
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Cornwell

Villages – that’s the problem. Any new line should only have a stop every 20 miles of so. Otherwise the journey will take far too long. The only way to stop at towns and villages would be to build potentially four lines (two fast and two slow) as is the case for the line between Cardiff and London (with the exception of the Seven Tunnel), this is how a HST can run from Cardiff to London and local stopper trains stop at intermediate stations. If you want a train to call at local villages your plan will be significantly more… Read more »

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul

The North Wales Coast Line manages it just dandy with an alternate fast/stopper service, at least for the Anglesey bit.

G.Bevan
G.Bevan
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul

You don’t need new lines to have a service that connects all the stops on a line. You just have slow and express trains. The slow train stops at every station or has request stops as we have on the Carmarthen to Cardiff line and through/express trains that stop at main stations. It is just about being imaginative and investing in services and improving connectivity.

Mark Morgan
Mark Morgan
5 months ago

I’m looking at travelling by public transport from prestatyn to Tenby soon. Now this is where the problem lies 😬😬 especially if your travelling from Aberystwyth to carmarthen it takes 7 hours and £75 for a single when if travelling by car maybe 90mins at most. You don’t see many people from North Wales in the south and u don’t see many people from south Wales in the North. Its more expensive travelling by train from llandudno or anyweher along the north wales coast to Tenby or similar. But by comparison travelling from llandudno to London. Its around £25 less… Read more »

Paul
Paul
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Morgan

Ticket prices need to change, I completely agree. I travelled from Cardiff to London last week and to save money I bought three off peak returns and even the pricing for that wasn’t proportionate.

Cardiff – Swindon – £26.50
Swindon – Reading -£27.90
Reading – London – £21.90

50% of the journey (Swindon to London) cost just over 66% of the price.

Paul Emms
Paul Emms
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Morgan

Wtaf. It takes 4 and a quarter hours to drive from Prestatyn to Tenby. You are in a muddle

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Morgan

Divide and conquer. As the pathetic quoted article states, Wales has “Looked to” parts of England, true. But this is not an inevitability, it’s an effect of transport policy.

Stuart archer
Stuart archer
5 months ago

I do find this difficult to believe.

There MUST have been a line during Victorian times, when the railway network was the best in the world. Further, I find it rather poor that there is no cheaply avaibke means, of transport from South to North Wales.

If a rail installation will be too complex and/or costly, what about a water taxi service??

Paul
Paul
5 months ago
Reply to  Stuart archer

Could I recommend Gwyn Briwnant-Jones’ book Railways of Wales circa 1900?

In which he imagines the situation of a booking clerk at Amlwch looking through timetables for the best route for a passenger wishing to travel to the length of Wales (down to Penarth).

After first trying a mainly-LNWR route, and finding it couldn’t be done within a day, he looked at other internal routes, but eventually concluded that travelling via Shrewsbury was the best option, even then.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul

C.1900 you could take a ship from Amlwch to Abertawe.

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul

What, indeed was his conclusion for travelling from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen then?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago
Reply to  Stuart archer

How lovely! Could spend all day happily cruising on the Balmoral.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
5 months ago
Reply to  Stuart archer

I don’t know if a water taxi is feasible but I admire your vision!

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
5 months ago

An electric railway between South and North Wales is possible.
The Swiss railway SBB have built many railways through their mountain ranges which includes tougher terrain than here in Cymru. It just needs the confidence, the will and being an independent state with our own economy as Switzerland has.

The Gotthard railway system is a credit to them and is part of their national pride.
There are now 2 tunnels at Gotthard with the newer high-speed track recently opened.

If they can do it – We certainly can.

Lyndon Malley
Lyndon Malley
5 months ago
Lyndon Malley
Lyndon Malley
5 months ago

Surely, the point is not about speed, but connectivity. People in mid Wales would be able to access the national rail service more easily. The original Breeching cuts ignored this aspect, depriving many of such access. Let’s hope this limited thinking (a la Breeching) is dropped, and common sense prevails. Speed is not the ‘be all’.

Geoffrey Isaac
Geoffrey Isaac
5 months ago

It seems to me as if the Welsh Government do not want to build a motorway relief roads for the M4 neither do they want to take on a major project like going from South to North rail link. Maybe they should consider asking the British Government if they can purchase their new tunnelling machine that they are currently using on HS2 at a knock down price when they have finished with it! Lol

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
5 months ago

More Englishplaining, which is the problem of being a colony of England. Time for independence.

Last edited 5 months ago by Stephen Owen
It will always remain as Snowdon, even if changed.

Trains are far too expensive. Got to ticket office and they wanted £180 roughly return to Paddington. Not paying that

It will always remain as Snowdon, even if changed.

Trains are too expensive. Got to ticket office and they wanted £180 return to Paddington. Not paying that.

David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago

Insulting, patronising b******s from this useless shower. A potted lecture about the Beeching Axe for us thickoes, and an emphasis on how jolly important it is to serve English conurbations, from Transport for Wales [sic]. Have they not pondered the far out concept that some people might not want to go to Cardiff, that there are destinations along the west coast that might be worth a visit?

Dei
Dei
5 months ago

Re North -South Wales rail /Transport for Wales report

Many in Wales who dont have a car,on a low income with no connections with Midlands and Crewe would be once again be disappointwm with Transport Wales report.Scotland had their border railway -a more ambitious railway why when it comes to inspiring and exciting projects we in Wales are always looking over the border or fussing over tedious valley line electrification. North -south rail would benefit students,tourists,welsh speaking community, the isolated elderly and conferences to say just a few examples..Lets start being more imaginative!

Chris
Chris
5 months ago

It took me 8 hours to get from Pontypridd to Harlech yesterday,if I’d gone in the other direction I could have been in the Alps.

Quornby
Quornby
5 months ago

We don’t want speed via England or a service to Chester, we want geographical coverage in Wales.

Carys Jones
Carys Jones
5 months ago

Even a South to Mid line would be helpful. It took me 6 hours to get from Cardiff to Aberystwyth because I had to go via Shrewsbury!
Gallen nhw wella yn sicr!

Andy Grey Rider
Andy Grey Rider
5 months ago

Prynhawn Da,
I used to enjoy travelling in Wales on the various rail routes but then I had to use a wheelchair and it became impossible. People’s attitudes need to change before infrastructure.
Fast isn’t always best, as having more time in conversation is socially welcoming.
I speak a bit Cymru, listen to BBC Cymru daily, not a typical English man.
Hywyl

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