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North Wales reopening?


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19 minutes ago, corneliuslundie said:

On the BBC News site:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-55000599

My concern it that with three proposals on the table efforts will be diluted and none will happen.

I suspect though that of the three this is the most sensible, unless you happen to be involved with the Welsh Highland Railway.

Jonathan

 

It would mean disruption for the Welsh Highland. But surely worthwhile to have that link to a mainline rail service.

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I would have thought that reopening the line to Caernarfon would be relatively straight-forward and popular with the public.  Moving the railhead to Caernarfon would bring many benefits to the area and improve communication links.  However, as much as I'd like the line south to Afon Wen to reopen, it would be problematic in my opinion.

 

There are many unanswered questions such as where a new mainline station in Caernarfon would be given that much of the former track bed has been built upon (i.e. the old station is now the Morrison's Supermarket and a road now runs through the tunnel to where the WHR station is).  I don't think there is enough space to build an interchange station with the WHR (as with the FR at Blaenau).  I doubt that the WHR would be happy if they had to move and the local population would probably also not be happy with all the disruption in the town with the construction works.  The track bed south to Dinas is obviously now part of the WHR and the old line after Dinas runs through very sparsely populated areas, so would be unlikely to generate much traffic.  So yes, to the line reopening to Caernarfon but I can't see it going any further unless the Welsh Assembly Government decides to fully commit to supporting this proposal.

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It's just the local AS saying he thinks it's a good idea - not really news. Conceivably Bangor-Caernarfon might reopen, but it is hard to put forward any sort of case for Caernarfon - Afon Wen. As I recall. the new A487 built twenty or so years ago specifically avoided the trackbed, so I suppose it could be reopened without too much disruption, but why do it? How would it be operated, and who for?

 

Aberystwyth - Carmarthen might make more sense from a strategic point of view, since it gives a huge area of country access to the railway network, but it would be vastly more expensive both to reopen and to run.

 

Both plans tread on the toes of heritage railways, of course.

 

Amlwch is easily the cheapest and easiest of the three schemes. If the Senedd are serious about re-opening closed railways in rural Wales, this is surely the one to focus on. If it is successful, then Caernarfon could follow.

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Considering the WAG is currently spending multi millions on a road to by-pass Caernarfon from Bangor it seems a bit ironic to say that a rail link from Bangor to Caernarfon (and beyond) is a good idea.

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Agree that Bangor/Caernarfon is certainly worth considering (given how long it lasted, it should never have closed in the first place). But given the paucity of people in the areas served by the other proposals, I cannot see how even operating costs could come anywhere near being covered by fares, never mind the huge cost of reconstruction. These lines were built when there was, effectively, no other means of transport, that is no longer the case. 

 

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On 20/11/2020 at 13:14, Tim V said:

Once Bangor and Caernarfon are connected, there is a rail link North to South, albeit via a change of gauge!

 

In that case there already is one; Porthmadog to Llandudno via Blaenau Ffestiniog :)

 

On 20/11/2020 at 13:46, cornelius said:

So build it to 2' gauge ;)

 

Not a bad idea!

 

I think the person who brought it up was seeing it essentially a link between Bangor, Caernarvon and Porthmadog. Could always have dual gauge between Caernarvon and Dinas.

 

Nigel

Edited by NCB
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20 hours ago, corneliuslundie said:

I thought that the Welsh Assembly had announced that it was stopping building any new roads. Or was this one started before that decision?

Jonathan

 

 

Not quite sure when it was approved but construction has been going on for well over a year now.

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The Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line should never have closed. The road links were atrocious and with a better diesel-operated passenger service it would have been more attractive and cheaper to run. It also carried useful goods traffic until BR decided to get out of the general freight business, and even then supported milk traffic, and some agricultural traffic as far as Lampeter. Even today with road improvements it's pretty tedious doing Aber to Carmarthen.

 

If they are prepared to run a decent service it would be worth opening, in principal. The big problem is that the Aberystwyth end has been built over.

 

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The facts that the Carmarthen/Aberystwyth rail link closed over 50 years ago, and that the road links were atrocious, and are still poor, would IMHO suggest that there simply is not the traffic to justify spending large sums of money on either; The re-opening case seems to be driven by politics rather than real need or value. 

 

 

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Unfortunately I have to agree with Caradoc. The proponents point to the number of students in Aber, Carmarthen and Lampeter, suggesting that they will provide a lot of traffic. I have never understood why it is thought they would be likely to want to use the line, other than Lampeter students at the start and end of term. The occasional visiting rugby team perhaps, even lacrosse teams (my wife once played for Swansea in Aber). But hordes of students?

And whereas the current bus services can serve the various small towns along the coast on the way the railway studiously avoids them (serving the important centre of  Strata Florida of course, pop apparently 860). But even the various towns are not exactly large, even by mid Wales standards: Aberaeron  1422, Lampeter 2926,  Pencader 336, Cardigan 4000,  Newcastle Emlyn 1000, Tregaron 1213 (and some red kites), Llandysul 2732. In fact the population of the whole of Ceredigion is only about 75,000, quite a bit less than Powys.

Let's face it, the Heart of Wales line would never be reopened now if it had been closed, and that goes through a few centres of population. 

Jonathan

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10 hours ago, caradoc said:

The facts that the Carmarthen/Aberystwyth rail link closed over 50 years ago, and that the road links were atrocious, and are still poor, would IMHO suggest that there simply is not the traffic to justify spending large sums of money on either; The re-opening case seems to be driven by politics rather than real need or value. 

 

 

 

Don't understand the arguments here. There never has been a decent trunk route between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, and although there have been some improvements it's still a very tedious drive; I know, I do it often enough. As traffic increases it gets worse. Would have thought that adds to the case for providing a good rail alternative.

 

As regards demand, universities are one example. Lampeter is now joined with Trinity in Carmarthen, and there are also strong links between some Lampeter departments, such as Geography, and Aber, so regular traffic, both staff and student, could be expected. Aber staff frequently visit other universities and train is the preferred mode of travel; you can do a lot of work on a train and it's a lot less draining. It's a bit ridiculous that its so hard to do that for the universities in South Wales.

 

More generally, passenger rail traffic is increasing all the time, witness the money being spent on improving the Aber to Shrewsbury service, including a new station at Bow Street, the previous one having succumbed to Beeching. Every time a line has reopened in recent years it has exceeded expectations; look at the Borders line in Scotland, where they're already regretting the single track sections.

 

IMHO re-opening the line would be a big boost to the area; transport matters. If that's politics so be it.

 

Nigel

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13 hours ago, NCB said:

Don't understand the arguments here. There never has been a decent trunk route between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen

 

Why is that ? Surely it can only be because there is not, never has been, and probably never will be, a large enough traffic flow to justify anything much better. 

 

13 hours ago, NCB said:

IMHO re-opening the line would be a big boost to the area; transport matters. If that's politics so be it.

 

It might well boost the area, but someone will have to pay for it ! Re-opening, or more realistically, rebuilding the line from practically scratch, will cost millions, if not billions of pounds, and once operational I very much doubt if receipts would ever come anywhere near covering operating costs, let alone maintenance and renewals. Politics means that suggesting hugely expensive ideas is easy and provides a cheap sound bite, plus a grievance when the idea is shot down in flames, but realism has to prevail. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, caradoc said:

 

Why is that ? Surely it can only be because there is not, never has been, and probably never will be, a large enough traffic flow to justify anything much better. 

 

Doesn't follow. There's a large enough traffic flow to clog the roads on what main roads do exist. Financially it's easier to improve roads in bits, which is what's being done, but it still leaves too many slow bits. There's one bit which has a 30mph limit for 5 miles, because of the small communities strung out along it; the only way to solve it would be a bypass, which would cost a fortune. As I said, rail traffic is increasing everywhere; no reason why this would be different.

 

1 hour ago, caradoc said:

 

It might well boost the area, but someone will have to pay for it ! Re-opening, or more realistically, rebuilding the line from practically scratch, will cost millions, if not billions of pounds, and once operational I very much doubt if receipts would ever come anywhere near covering operating costs, let alone maintenance and renewals. Politics means that suggesting hugely expensive ideas is easy and provides a cheap sound bite, plus a grievance when the idea is shot down in flames, but realism has to prevail. 

 

 

 

This is the same argument Beeching used. Discredited. Railways viewed in isolation do not pay; they are subsidised, quite heavily (as are roads). They are subsidised because they are considered essential infrastructure. Realism is that if you don't provide the infrastructure then the area falls behind in all sorts of ways.

 

This particular line doesn't require rebuilding from scratch; the trackbed has been hardly been touched. The one major obstacle is at the Aberystwyth end, where the cutting leading to the bridge over the Rheidol has been filled in and built over.

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You have ignored the point I made that the railway line misses a number of the centres of population. Most of these are on the coast, whereas, because of history (the Manchester & Milford fiasco) the line stays inland from Carmarthen to Strata Florida. The only sizeable places it serves are Lampeter and Tregaron, with a combined population of not much more than 4000, about the same as Welshpool.

University of Wales Trinity Saint Davids has about 8000 students over three campuses, so Lampeter will not generate a lot of traffic. The growth emphasis now seems to be on the Swansea campus. (Swansea University has over 21,000 students - it was about a tenth of that when I started there). 

The T1 TrawsCymru T1 bus between Aber and Carmarthen currently has an hourly service and serves Aberaeron en route, though it also ignores towns to the south along the coast. It takes just over 2 hours. There also appear to be a couple of Megabus services linking the two extremities of the route, though the website is a bit odd. That by the way is a lot more than through central Wales from Newtown to Cardiff.

There is also a T5 service from Aber to Haverfordwest via Aberaeron, Newquay, Cardigan and Fishguard, though not so frequent.

For such a sparsely populated area that is pretty good.

Not a fair comparison as I hope services on the line would be faster now, but in 1922 the fastest rail journey was 2 hours 35 minutes fir the 56 miles. 

Agreed much of the route would not be very difficult but in Aber itself it might be rather hard to get to the station with the commercial development that side of the station and the site occupied by the VoRR, though of course the bay platform is now available. Perhaps across the carpark?

Please don't get me wrong. I would love to see the line re-opened. But I am afraid that I feel that there are higher priorities for my taxes.

Back sort of on topic, Bangor and Caernarfon together have a population about ta third of that of Ceredigion.

Jonathan

Edited by corneliuslundie
typo
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