Cross-Wales railway campaign building up a head of steam

A train passess Castell Coch near Cradiff. Picture: Train Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Adrian Kendon looks at the campaign to open a key public transport route across Wales…

Although Wales has 7% of the railways in the UK, less than 1% is spent on their maintenance and improvement by Network Rail.

Meanwhile, the go-ahead given to HS2 (£56b) and the building of London’s Crossrail (£18b) means that huge sums are spent in England while tiny amounts are spent in Wales.

The reopening of the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth train line would provide a huge boost to existing industries in Wales.

This part of Wales is one of the poorest in western Europe. According to Ceredigion County Council, 37% of households here are living in poverty.

The 250,000 residents of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion would gain enormously from improved connectivity between the towns within the region.

Add to this the 50,000 students of the universities, colleges and schools who would also be able to use the line to get to and from home.

This development is also particularly relevant in the light of the suspension of the T1 Bus Service between Aberystwyth and Cardiff.

The rail line would also boost the tourist industry (currently worth over £5 billion per year to the Welsh economy) as well as attract new businesses to an area.

Taith o Gaerfyrddin i Aberystwyth ym 1964 / Journey from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth in 1964 from Traws Link Cymru on Vimeo.

The situation today

Residents of Ceredigion and Carmarthen are at the moment obliged to own and use cars for personal transport since public transport is intermittent and does not serve many communities.

This puts a huge burden on the winding roads of the area, making them dangerous and slow and meaning that the local authorities have huge costs involved in maintaining and improving them.

Over the last five years, the counties have spent over £850m on this work – more than the cost of rebuilding the railway.

Following a public information enquiry to the Dyfed/Powys Police our campaign has discovered that between 2011 and 2015 there were 1,249 accidents on the roads between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen (including 100 sadly involving serious injury or death).

Working out the cost of these to the public purse we were astonished to find that over £10 million per year was spent coping with these accidents, injuries and deaths.

We would not claim that rebuilding the railway would eliminate road accidents.

But it is worth noting that Lothian and Borders Police have estimated that the 2015 reopening of the Scottish Borders Railway (which has been a model for the Traws Link Cymru campaign) saved seven lives a year on the A7 road between Carlisle and Edinburgh.

In addition, of course, by reducing the numbers of cars on the roads, a railway line between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth would provide a safer and environmentally better way to travel.

It would not only save lives and money but help to improve Wales’ contribution to the prevention of global warming.

The proposed new rail links in blue and red.

The state of play

The good news for our campaign to reopen the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth Railway is that a Full Feasibility Study, commissioned by the Welsh Government in the budget for 2017 -18, has been confirmed in a letter received from Ken Skates AM, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure.

This follows a very positive Scoping Study (a pre-feasibility study to discover the viability of the proposal) published in 2015 and a recently published WelTAG (Welsh Transport Planning and Appraisal Guidance) report.

Our campaign has gained support from all the political parties in Wales. The reopening of the railway has appeared in the manifestos of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, the Welsh Green party, and Plaid Cymru.

It also and has the support of Labour Government and UKIP members at the Welsh Assembly.

Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion County Councils have both passed resolutions supporting the reopening.

And 46 Community and Town Councils, One Voice Wales, the Hywel Dda Health Board, the universities of Bangor, Aberystwyth, and Trinity St David at Lampeter, Carmarthen and Swansea have all written in support.

We also have a petition that has attracted 17,000 signatures. If you would like to support our campaign, please visit our website and our Facebook Page.

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Gareth
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Gareth
cpickersgill
Guest

Link to website at the end of the article has an error (cumru instead of cymru in the URL)

Catherine Helvin
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Catherine Helvin

Excellent, let’s get this line (and many others besides) reopened PDQ!!

Edi
Guest

Met a Young Labour activist in Ceredigion telling me how the UK has always been a force for good for Wales……………….what type of fever dream delusion are these people living in?

We dont even have electric rail….only part of Europe now (Albania is finishing theres!)

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Great article and makes total sense!

As you have said Adrian, it offers many positive aspects, but may I add one more? There is another plus to reopening these links, in that it re-connects our people psychologically as one nation also!

Where, it is deemed too expensive to reopen other closed lines in the usual sense, it may be worth looking at installing light railways as an alternative instead.

Finally, let’s take a look at the Dutch because they are running their railways on sustainable, renewable energy.

Diolch yn fawr iawn from one of many of ‘the railway children’.

Anhysbus
Guest
Anhysbus

I agree, the most important aspect of reopening this line is the fact that it’s a nation building enterprise, “first we must decolonize our minds”. Being able to go from south to north without entering another country is a fundamental part of any modern nations’ infrastructure. The beeching cuts only considered the interests of the UK/British State, we must now rebuild with only the interests of Wales to consider

Angus Eickhoff
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Angus Eickhoff

Dafydd. Never. EVER consider light rail as an alternative to a proper railway. Build the best railway you can imagine, not the cheapest one you think you can get away with. The world is littered with the track beds of the latter because…….. they closed! If you don’t belive me, take a look at the Borders Railway in Scotland, where the Scottish Government went ahead and built the cheapest line they could consider. Its now a total embarrassment because of the numbers using it and they’re stuck with inadequate infrastructure unless they want to build a substantial amount of it…….all… Read more »

Warren
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Warren

Although generally best to build the best railway you can, it may be worth considering lightweight options. The troubles with the Borders Railway were related to the features of the line (e.g. no siding for recovery of broken down trains), rather than the scale / weight.

Leia
Guest

Yes, there’s a psychological aspect too – that existing railway layout – you only have to look at it to see it all follow West to East – it’s all about the EXTRACTION of goods and services and people not CONNECTING them. It’s the infrastructure of a colony not a nation and it’s an embarrassment.

This having to go leave the country to get to Bangor from Swansea – it’s embarrassing, it makes me cringe a little bit every time I have to do it, or have to explain it to someone.

Graham
Guest

The Gwynedd Link, Bangor to Afonwen (via Caernarfon). Is shorter, but still important. It will help to unite the north and south of Gwynedd and provide a good link from Bangor to Aberystwyth., added to the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line, it will give the opportunity to travel (slowly) between North Wales and South Wales, without crossing into England.

Martin. Kiraly
Guest
Martin. Kiraly

I’m not sure of the geographical possibility, but does the rail link to Trawsfynydd not get close enough to the cambrIan coast line to connect them together somewhere near Harlech ??

Warren
Guest
Warren

Almost. Take a look at this proposal; http://www.syniadau.cymru/2009/06/one-road-link-one-rail-link.html it takes a similar approach. Certainly an interesting idea.