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Modified 19th October 2014

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 Speeding along the double track

Speeding along the double track section near Forden    Photo;- Gareth Marston



LATEST NEWSLETTER

You can download a copy of our latest newsletter in *.pdf format.

   Newsletter 64 September 2014

Up and Down the Line

Coast Line Reopens
Monday, 1st September, saw the coast line formally re-opened by Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, in time for the new school year. The official train was the 0857 from Machynlleth to Pwllheli. In addition to normal passengers, it picked up guests for the event at Machynlleth (Including Newsletter Editor Denis Bates and Committee Member Robert Knight), and stations and halts along the line. Decorated stations and halts included Llandanwg. The reopening ceremony was performed at the new Llandecwyn Halt, where Lord Thomas unveiled a commemorating the new bridge and the reopening of the line, before the arrival of the train. The platform party here joined the train for the run to Pwllheli, joined by further groups at Penrhyndeudraeth, Porthmadog and Criccieth.

For the autumn, local fares on the line are to be reduced by 30% until December 13th.
 reopening train at Pwllheli
               The reopening train standing at Pwllheli






Aberystwth
There have been comments regarding the lack of car parking space in the vicinity of the station. Meanwhile the work to refurbish the builindgs continues apace.


Borth
Borth is to have extra car parking space made available in conjunction with the introduction of the enhanced train service. Also, we understand there are plans to close at least one of the level crossings in the Borth area, though at present we are not sure which, given that there is a choice of EIGHT, including foot crossings! We think that either Capel Sion or Capel Soar may be involved.

Machynlleth
The 1950's signal box at the end of UP platform, decommissioned following ETCS, has been demolished. At Machynlleth, SARPA members have commented on the site for the new DDA compliant passenger footbridge being marked out. It appears that the investment, having been made on the back of the DDA, offers the opportunity for the railway to do other things than just carry passengers. All without having to bear the cost of the infrastructure.

Meanwhile, volunteers from the Dyfi Land Share community project have been working at the station as part of the "Edible Mach" scheme to grow food around the town. Rail users have had the opportunity to sample a selection of vegetables whislt waiting for their trains. Dave Crunkhorn of Arriva Trains Wales said: "The planter has proved to be a hit with our passengers, who have been seen to stop, read the information provided about the plants and sample those that were ripe for picking."

Machynlleth is also to have extra car parking space, with a proposal to demolish the former stationmaster's house to make the land available. The building has been standing empty for some time.
 An old style BR Totem at Machynlleth
. .

Carno
We understand that the Station Action Group continues to make slow progress against all the hurdles placed in their way. They have recently been discussing the future of the level crossing at the site of the station with Network Rail.

Caersws
Work is progressing on the backpacker hostel in the station building.

Newtown
The middle section of the station building has a new tenant who has opened it up as a Cafe and small shop. They are aiming to be open from 0600 to 2200 Monday to Saturday. The announcement of the extra trains from next May appears to have been a factor behind them taking the plunge on the expectation of increased footfall.

The wooden boxes on the DOWN platform are a vegetable patch planted by the Cwm Harry Land Trust.

Powys County Council is pressing ahead with plans to apply to the Welsh Government for a grant to redevelop the bus station on its existing site. Where this leaves bus/rail integration remains unclear and also where the buses to serve it will come from. Having cut support to around half the bus routes in the county in 2013, a further package of cuts has been proposed on the bus support grant but without any detail on where the axe will fall. Public transport by bus in the county may soon become a trip into a market town for school/college time and a trip back when school/college finishes.

Forden
Work is drawing to completion in closing the level crossing as the new road has progressed at a pace to access the few buildings the old crossing road served. Sources in Network Rail confirm that instead of slowing to 40mph trains will be able to come through at 80 mph, potentially shaving 2 minutes off journey times. It is understood that this is critical to running more frequent trains reliably.

You can see a complete list of all level crossings on the network by clicking here.

Welshpool
We have heard that Buttington-Trewern School have teamed up with Arriva Trains Wales to provide floral decoration at the station. Arriva are going to provide planters for the project.

Concern has been expressed at the lack of additional parking space for rail passengers arriving by car, which could become acute when the service frequency is enhanced next year. Additional space could be made available on the east side of the station, although where the funding to convert it into car park space will come from is not clear.

Members of the local agricultural community have become concerned about the prospect of an hourly service claiming that they need half an hour at a time to get cattle across User Worked Crossings (UWC), and they will no longer have the time with more trains running. Their claims have been met with some scepticism from within railway sources, who point to other areas of the UK with double track and even more frequent services that seemingly have no issues with live stock crossing. It has been suggested that the farmers are primarily looking for compensation and it has pointed out that north of Welshpool to Buttington Junction up until 1965 there were close on 50 train movements a day on summer Saturdays. As far as we are aware, there is no record of any livestock crossing problems.

Buttington Crossing Collision
The report on the accident was released earlier in the year; it can be accessed online by clicking here.

Shrewsbury
Work has still not finished on the undersides of the bridge over the river Severn, with contractors equipment and screens still evident in mid April. The work has meant that the freight avoiding lines have not been used, and a large gouge has been created in Platform 3. Despite the completion of the new customer assistance/dispatch office and new waiting room area, some areas in the station environs still present a scruffy, unkempt appearance, with the state of the area between the tracks and the footbridge to the Dana of particular concern.

In October, we heard via industry sources that the through freight road is being partially lifted to provide access for repair work to the bridge at the north end of the station. From what we understand, this is on a temporary basis and the track should be replaced when the work is complete.

It's those London trains again - seemingly bowing to political pressure two paths have been found for Virgin Trains as extensions of existing Euston to Birmingham/Wolverhampton trains. Provisional departure times from Shrewsbury are given as 0639 and 1524 for commencement in December 2014, neither of which will connect with Cambrian trains.

Birmingham New Street
Passengers using Birmingham New Street will note that progress continues on the massive rebuilding project at the station, with large areas where work continues being panelled off.

The final piece of the station's new atrium roof covering was put into place on Tuesday 14 September 2014, marking another important milestone in the station's redevelopment. Made from the same high-tech material as the Eden Project in Cornwall and the Allianz Arena in Munich, the translucent roof covering will allow natural light to stream down through the atrium onto the huge new concourse below - but not before demolition experts remove around 6,000 tonnes of concrete over two floors of the old Pallasades shopping centre.

Chris Montgomery, Network Rail's project director for the Birmingham New Street project said:

"As our work to transform New Street station continues, excitement among our 1,000-strong workforce is really starting to build. Piece by piece, the design and concept for the station is being brought to life and it's great to see the last section of the new roof covering lifted into place."

We understand that there are also proposals for a moving "travelator" which will operate between New St and Moor St stations.

You can find out more about the project by visiting www.newstreetnewstart.co.uk

Network Rail have kindly allowed us to use the pictures below, which give an artists impression of the rebuilt station. The webmaster rather feels that the striking atrium feature would be further enhanced by some large plant life. An opportunity for Birmingham Botanical Gardens perhaps?
 The new atrium at Birmingham New Street station
The station will feature a large atrium over the ticket hall and concourse. A great improvement.
 The rebuilt station from the London end
The rebuilt station from the London end

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Other News

NEWS IN BRIEF

Archive Newsletters
We have now included an archive of previous newsletters on this site, right back to 2001. These are *.pdf files and they have an added advantage over the photocopied originals in that you can see all the photographs in full colour.

You can access the archive by
Clicking Here.

Enhanced Service Update
As we understand it, the existing services will continue to Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International as at present and the additional trains will start and finish at Shrewsbury. The proposal is for four extra services each way and the 2 hourly interval service to and from the Cambrian Coast Line will continue, with through carriages to and from the Midlands. Coast Line and Aberystwyth trains will continue to join and divide at Machynlleth as is the case now. We have been told that the timetable should be published for consultation in February 2015.

Shrewsbury to Chester
The proposed extra trains on the Cambrian have not met with universal acclaim as ATW have confirmed that they are looking at cutting two services on the line to find a spare DMU. The current 0700 Shrewsbury to Wrexham and 0749 Wrexham to Birmingham International would be withdrawn with the unit instead forming the 0625 Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and consequential diagrams. The current Welsh Government funded express which leaves Wrexham @ 0732 would have additional calls at Ruabon, Chirk and Gobowen added but users on the line point out that this will then leave a 6 hour gap between through trains to Birmingham. Users are also up in arms about the Welsh Government proposal to run an hourly service between Cardiff and Holyhead and point out that the spasmodic through traffic usage on the current 9 trains a day demonstrates that it's a thin market and that the overwhelming choice of destinations for through services off their line are for the major cities of the North West, West Midlands and London and not Cardiff.

CIS Screen Improvements
Arriva tell us that information being sent to CIS Screens at stations from the Wales Route Operating Centre in Cardiff is being improved. In a rolling programme of upgrades, Arriva's customer information team are supplying more detail to passengers about services. Train formation information is now also being displayed on screens with bulletins such as "This train is formed of 3 coaches".

The CIS system is also cascading delays to the next rolling stock working. If, for example, the 0537 Cheltenham - Maesteg is reported 5 minutes late, the system automatically calculates that the next working will be late starting and applies this delay to the train. Prior to this, the return working would be advertised as "On Time".

We understand that further improvements are planned

Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Railway Liaison Committee
The Liaison Committee which comprises County Councils, Town and Community Councils, Network Rail, Arriva Trains, British Transport Police, Aberystwyth University and other interested railway groups. recently announced they now have their own website. The remit of the committee is to discuss, gain information and influence improvement of passenger services and all other aspects affecting the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Railway Service

Meanwhile Welshpool Town Council still have available on their website, previous proceedings of the Liaison Committee. This material goes up to February of this year. You can access this information by clicking this link.

Wrexham
At long last the funding for re doubling the single track line between Chester and Wrexham has been announced by Welsh Government, or has it? It transpires that only Saltney Junction to Rosset will be done leaving a 4 mile stretch of single track between Rosset and Wrexham North. Whether this will help better connections from the Cambrian to Wrexham/Chester/Liverpool remains to be seen, with the Welsh Government seemingly obsessed by the need to provide an hourly service between Holyhead and Cardiff as its rationale. Figures from the Office of Rail Regulator reveal that the current 9 trains day between Holyhead and Cardiff only generate c. 300,000 journeys per annum. In contrast the Cambrian which still awaits its long promised hourly service sees 1,600,000 journeys per annum.

Possible reopening to Caernarfon?
The possibility of re-opening the Menai Bridge to Caernarfon line has been put forward in draft plans by the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. The proposal is for a standard gauge line, ending at a new station in Caernarfon. The Welsh Highland would be extended through the Maes Tunnel to the new station.

The project has been costed at under £40 million. It has the backing of Dwyfor Meirionnydd Assembly Member Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas. The aspiration to reopen the line has been included in the North Wales regional transport plan. Arriva Trains Wales included a similar proposal in its bid for the Welsh franchise in 2003.

Possible reopening Aberystwyth-Carmarthen?
Recently, a new group called the West Wales Rail Campaign - Traws Link Cymru has begun campaigning to re-instate rail links between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. They have also added their weight to the scheme to restore the line between Bangor and Afon Wen on the Cambrian Coast line, to create a rail corridor along the west coast of Wales. They regards closure of these routes as a mistake which should be put right. They believe a renewed a rail link will boost the economy, protect the environment and connect the nation.

They also have a very active Facebook page.

TWO TOGETHER RAILCARD
The new Two Together railcard was launched on 3rd March. With the railcard, two named people over 16 will be able to travel together and receive a discount of one-third off all fares, at all times except between 0430 and 0930 on Monday - Friday. You don't have to be related! The card will cost £30, but a discount of £3 can be obtained online here by entering the code LEAFLET3.

The card will also be available from station ticket offices. Each person must provide a passport photograph. The card can only be used when the two named people travel together so does not replace any existing railcards.

The Two Together railcard was trialled for a period of time last year in the West Midlands, and was obviously successful. SARPA welcomes its introduction nationally - it fills the gap between Young Persons, Senior and Family railcards, is one step towards a National Rail Card and will make the cost of rail travel more competitive with the cost of two people travelling together by car.
(Via Railfuture)

Roads
The Welsh Government seems to have become obsessed with road building all of a sudden. Not that governments have been notably otherwise inclined for the past 50 years, since the Evil Doctor went around wielding his axe. Recently they have announced that a vast amount is to be spent on the A465 "Heads of the Valleys" road in South Wales, bringing the total spend to around £800m. There is even a snazzy video, no doubt not for the faint hearted nor the easily depressed, though why not post a caustic comment, if you feel so inclined? By the way, if you actually drove like this and the law got wind of it..... well you wouldn't have a licence any more! Still, one presumes the Welsh Government feels it has to do something to inspire the petrol-heads. The total amount of money being thrown at this pile of tar would be enough to take the railway from Moat Lane Junction back to South Wales again. Rather better value for money and the Welsh economy.

Meanwhile, the self same Welsh Government have just announced the building of a brand new relief road to the M4......in South Wales. Now South Wales is rather well endowed with roads already and even has quite a reasonable selection of those efficient means of moving people and things about the place, called railways. There are also quite a few Labour voters down there too. In other parts of Wales the railways are a wee bit thin on the ground. However, people still have to get to work and travel around. We are still waiting for the Welsh Government to come up with a scheme to roll back the ravages of Beeching and provide some manner of modern connectivity within the remainder of Wales. Worthy of note is that those Labour voters are a bit thin on the ground in the rest of Wales too. Funny that!

Glacial Pace?
Given the fairly glacial pace of progress with regard to new developments on the railway these days, consider this. In 1935, the LNER decided to introduce a new high speed service between Kings Cross and Newcastle, called the "Silver Jubilee". They ran a test train to ascertain feasibility on 5th March and an outline drawing of the new rolling stock was submitted to the board on 11th March. Approval for the scheme was given on 28th of that month, with all drawings ordered. Work continued throughout the spring and summer, with the engine being steamed for the first time on 7th September. The coaches were finished by 17th September, with everything ready for the new service to begin on 30th September, 186 days after the project commenced.

In 1970, British Rail gave the go ahead for the "High Speed Train", which was supposed to be a stop gap measure. A prototype was completed for evaluation within 2 years and the trains entered service on the route to South Wales in 1976. They are still operating, nearly 38 years later.

On the Cambrian, an enhanced train service will have taken 16 years to achieve, when it actually happens next year.

On the remainder of the network, the "Inter City Express Programme" (IEP) was launched by the Department for Transport in 2005 and despite spending over £20m so far, has yet to see a single train built. Small wonder that some sources refer to it as the "Incredibly Expensive Project"!

And that's progress?

Station Footfall
Full details of all station usage nationwide can be found on the website for the Office of Rail Regulation.

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Steam News

So far attempts to find a solution to the problem of fitting UK steam traction which is suitable for the Cambrian, with
ERTMS signalling equipment continues to draw a blank. However, we understand that the group who are responsible for the new A1 Pacific, Tornado have made some progress. Take a look at this report for more information. What Network Rail might say about having this engine cross Barmouth Bridge is anybody's guess, however!

As ERTMS spreads across the network, the problems with it affecting steam traction will have to be addressed in some way or other. As far as we understand, the former 5AT Group, who earlier had expressed an interest in managing a new build steam project for the Cambrian, complete with ERTMS installed no longer wish to pursue this.
 GWR King Class at Shrewsbury
Flashback to 2006. Former GWR King Class 4-6-0 No 6024 at Shrewsbury with a special in May of that year.

There will be two steam hauled trains arriving at Shrewsbury on Saturday 29th November. We understand the motive power featured comprises 2 Black Fives and a GWR Castle.

Full details of all steam traction on the main line can be found at http://www.uksteam.info/tours/trs14.htm




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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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