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 Passengers disembark at Machynlleth


This page updated 16th September 2014

SARPA is the local rail users group for the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth line running from the English border through Montgomeryshire to the coast of North Ceredigion and ending up in the increasingly important University (and Assembly administration ) town of Aberystwyth. We exist to preserve and promote the line so that there is a more sustainable transport system for future generations. SARPA is one of the more active rail user groups in Wales and meets monthly. We are continually campaigning on various issues from train times and frequency to station maintenance and welcome any comments anybody has about the rail service in Mid Wales.

We hope that during 2014, Arriva continues to make improvements.

We are delighted at the recent announcement by the Welsh Government of an enhanced train service between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth, due to begin in May 2015.


Here at SARPA, we were interested to catch sight recently of a Network Rail (NR) document from April this year, entitled "Welsh Route Study".

Essentially this sets out various ideas and aspirations for the railway within Wales as far ahead as 2043. Whilst it's nice to know that at least somebody is taking the long view, it would appear that others have yet to come around to this way of thinking. Under the heading "Stakeholder Aspirations; Welsh Government" it merely says "To be confirmed"!

This is less than encouraging, and rather indicates that the Welsh Government has yet to get its collective head around the idea of how rail transport will fit into a vision for Wales over the next 30 years.

To be fair to NR, they have done quite a good job examining the potential development of passenger services over the period, and in doing so will hopefully avoid the pitfalls which have beset the Wales and Borders Franchise since 2003, with its mistaken assumption of no growth. The result is quite a bullish forecast on the passenger side. Good news.

The Welsh Route Study then moves on to examine the prospects for freight and rather astonishingly, indicates no growth in the period examined. In this respect it is in danger of suffering from the failings which befell the passenger franchise, the consequences of which we have had to live with since 2003. Now, any glance at a major road will indicate that there is no shortage of freight transport about, and those involved with rail planning should consider how the railway might grab a slice of this. The mantra we hear from government is "growth" and presumably, those running businesses will think the same, so to expect rail freight to stand still for the next 30 years is just nonsense.

The logistics industry has margins which are as low as 3 per cent, sometimes even less. This is something which the rail industry would do well to contemplate, though to bear fruit, the outcome should be offered more in the spirit of co-operation than competition. Given the low margins, there is plenty that the rail industry could offer the distribution sector if the investment is targeted in the right way, so growth is indeed possible.

Failure to make adequate investment in railway infrastructure for the freight sector on the grounds of no growth has the potential to impact the passenger railway in a negative way. It may already be doing so. Close to home, we are concerned that the dedicated freight road through Shrewsbury station, currently out of use, will be lifted rather than repaired. This will lead to operational inconvenience and potential delay in a station which is becoming increasingly busy. Also, we understand there have been instances of goods trains along the Marches Route delaying passenger services owing to the lack of sufficiently long freight loops.

If this is already happening now, there will be more pitfalls for the future. If the freight business cannot expand because of insufficient investment, that is an opportunity lost. If it expands anyway without extra money for new infrastructure, the impact will be serious delays for all. Network Rail needs to take a closer look here with a more holistic view of the way the railway will develop. Expecting "no growth" in the freight sector seems quite a good way to repeat past errors with the Welsh passenger franchise. Get it right this time.

Angus Eickhoff
Moel y Garth

May 2014

You can see what we said about the railway industry in the past by clicking on this link to our archive page. We have archived all the newsletters back to November 2001.

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Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passengers Association (SARPA)
   Llidiart Wood,   Moel y Garth,  Welshpool,  Powys,  SY21 9JF,  Wales,  United Kingdom
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Website:- Angus Eickhoff