On Track to Revive Carmarthen to Aberystwyth Railway
The campaign to restore the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway, which closed to passengers in 1965, is gaining momentum, and this is only the first phase of Traws Link Cymru’s plan for a railway along the west coast of Wales, linking the south with the north at Bangor via Aberystwyth, Afon-Wen and Caernarfon.
Campaign progress will be reported to an open public meeting in Carmarthen on Thursday March 19th, in St Peter’s Civic Hall, 1 Nott Square, at 7pm.
Rail travel to Bangor from my home north of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire is, at present, protracted, via England, and quite expensive. The cheapest return fare I could find is £80.90, which works out at about 12p per minute on a ‘quick’ typical return journey of 11 hours 20 minutes (5 hours 20 minutes there via Shrewsbury, 6 hours back). The rail expedition takes half as much time again as the car journey, if I accept the AA’s estimate that I could drive the 139.6 miles from Llandeilo to Bangor in three hours 33 minutes.
In 20 years’ time, in a resource- and climate-challenged world, the need for the railway will probably be crystal clear, but its protagonists now face a struggle to secure funding, which for the 56.5-mile Carmarthen-Aberystwyth stretch could be £650 million, between £11 million and £12 million per mile. Only small change compared with unknown billions — £50 billion? £60 billion? — for HS2 in England, and it would repair a massive broken link in Wales’ transport network. When the whole west coast route is operating, it will be possible to travel by rail from Cardiff to Caernarfon entirely within the boundaries of Wales.
The advantages of a West Coast Line are legion and include linkage of Wales’ university towns by rail, a lower carbon footprint than car or bus travel, and easier commuting by public transport for the people of rural West Wales. The numbers of rail passengers are rising fast – 40% more at Aberystwyth station in eight years, the campaign reports. The Carmarthen-Aberystwyth track corridor is still mainly intact, as just 3% has been built on, and the three tunnels are, the campaigners say, structurally strong.
The volunteers of the Gwili Railway have already restored about three and a half miles of track at the Carmarthen end of the line, where they operate steam trains as a leisure attraction, and their work is a kick start for the venture to revive the whole abandoned line.