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