The station refurbishment project continues. One of our committee reports that in the
building, the new toilets and new booking office are finished and in
use. The new waiting room, which replaces the former buffet, isn't yet
furnished or open. Ongoing is the ramp and step access at the side of
the station, being worked on during the last week in February. The new canopy is
complete. There is new pavement, seats and station sign already
finished and the platform nameboard has been refurbished locally.
Robert Davies filmed every week from the cab of a Class 158 between Birmingham & Aberystwyth. The film starts as the train enters Birmingham on a wintry night, travels through the Black Country and Shropshire in the morning as winter and spring pass and arrives in Shrewsbury at around mid-day. In summer it speeds through to Welshpool and as autumn approaches, runs through to Newtown and Caersws.It continues through winter to Talerddig and Machynlleth and arrives at Aberystwyth in the spring.
Robert Davies is an artist living near Aberystwyth. The film will be screened at all the major galleries on the route between Aberystwyth and Birmingham.
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.
Meanwhile, British Transport Police (BTP) have been clamping down on crossing misuse with an initiative called "Operation Look". This has involved Police vehicles with number plate recognition facilities and officers handing out leaflets to motorists at level crossings. The operation is taking place at various locations throughout the UK.
In the 9 months from 1st April to the end of 2014, crossing misuse has resulted in 400 people being charged, 568 Driver Awareness Courses, 16 Cautions, and 357 Fixed Penalty Notices .
BTP have also released a video of some very scary things being done by road users and which is featured below.
Work to provide more car parking space at the station continues apace, with the former stationmaster's house already having been cleared away to make the land available. Also, the public toilet block on the east side of the station has also been demolished, with facilities now being provided in the station building as a temporary measure. We hear that a brand new toilet block is to be constructed on the original site.
Glyn Davies, MP for Montgomeryshire, visited Machynlleth station on 27th February to see how Network Rail is increasing accessibility to give passengers a better travelling experience.The installation of a new stepped-footbridge with two lifts will help passengers cross more easily between platforms. Step-free access at the station will not only be of benefit to passengers with reduced mobility, but also to those travelling with children or heavy luggage or who simply find stairs a struggle.
James O'Gorman, Network Rail's project sponsor for the scheme, said: "The new footbridge and lifts at Machynlleth station will make travelling by train easier and more accessible for passengers.
"We are working hard to make sure that this project is completed with minimal disruption and that a normal train service continues to operate throughout.
"This is an important part of our work to build a bigger and better railway for Wales, with a record investment over the next five years to cater for increasing demand and transform the railway in Wales."
Glyn Davies, MP for Montgomeryshire, said: "I'm delighted to see first-hand how Machynlleth station is being improved for local people.
"Step-free access will make a real difference to passengers and make it easier for people to get to work, or travel to see friends and family.
This will give Machynlleth a station that is open and accessible for all."
The Department for Transport and Welsh Government funded Access For All scheme is a £12m programme which will also deliver access improvements to Radyr, Llandaf, Chirk and Ystrad Mynach stations.
As part of the scheme at Machynlleth, the number of disabled car parking spaces will also be doubled from two to four.
Members of the public who have questions about the programme should call the Network Rail 24-Hour National Helpline on 08457 11 41 41.
Glyn Davies with Network Rail staff at Machynlleth Photo:- Network Rail Media Centre
Carno We understand that the Station Action Group continues to make slow progress against all the hurdles placed in their way. They recently had a meeting with Edwina Hart at Carno
Planning permission for a change to residential use
would have to be sought if a prospective purchaser wishes to reside at the property.
Like other buildings on the Moat Lane to Machynlleth section, the substantial stonework probably
came from the cutting at Talerddig.
Caersws Station House
Photo:- Owain Betts for Morris, Marshall and Poole, Newtown
The middle section of the station building has a new tenant who has opened it up as a Café 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.
Powys County Council is pressing ahead with plans to apply to the Welsh Government for a grant to redevelop
Newtown 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.
Work has been completed in closing the level crossing at the site of Forden Station.Trains now pass through the old station site at maximum permitted line speed.
Welshpool Buttington-Trewern School have teamed up with Arriva Trains Wales to provide floral decoration at the station. Arriva have provided two tubs for the project and children from the school planted bulbs in December.
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 early in 2014; it can be accessed online by clicking here.
We have heard, via "Sources from within the industry" that the centre freight road through the station
is to remain out of use for the time being. We understand that part of it will be lifted to allow access
for bridge repairs beneath, within the station area. The intention is to replace the track at the conclusion
of the engineering work.
The privatised railways' practice of making train miss connections by a few minutes continues with
Virgin Trains new London service from Shrewsbury. The first departure @ 0639 is some half an hour
before the first arrival from the Cambrian and the second weekday departure @1524 conspires to
leave 2 minutes before the 1330 from Aberystwyth arrives. On the return direction there are arrivals
@ 1256 & 2056 giving waits of 31 minutes for the 1327 to Aberystwyth & Pwllheli and 46 minutes to
the 2142 to Aberystwyth. Figures from the Office of Rail Regulator shows that journeys from the
Cambrian to London and the South East are around 130,000 per year, around 3,500 a week, and
passengers still have to change in the West Midlands.
Notable is the extraordinary distance involved with empty stock working, which is well over 100 miles. At around 18% of the revenue mileage, is this the most efficient way to use resources?
A Virgin Voyager having arrived at Shrewsbury @ 1256 waits for its scheduled 1524 return at
somewhat cold and desolate Shrewsbury station on Tuesday 16th December. Photo:- Gareth Marston
Havoc at Harbury. Remedial work completed early.
Passengers who prefer the Chiltern service from Birmingham to London Marylebone will be pleased to learn that Harbury Cutting between Leamington & Banbury, has been reopened. Work to deal with the massive landslip there was completed 3 weeks early and the railway reopened on Friday 13th March.
The line was closed after a 350,000 tonne landslip near Harbury. It was reopened less than six weeks after the landslip occurred, resulting in the full reinstatement of Chiltern Railways' direct services between Birmingham and London Marylebone, Cross Country services from the south coast to the north of England, and vital freight routes from Southampton port to the Midlands.
Harbury cutting has suffered from landslips since it was built more than 150 years ago.
The work is not yet over: Network Rail are removing more than 300,000 tonnes of material to regrade the slope and make it less susceptible to landslips. This work is expected to take several months.
Below is a Network Rail timelapse video of the situation, featured on Youtube.
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.
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 station will feature a large atrium over the ticket hall and concourse. A great improvement.
Enhanced Service Update
The new timetable has been made available for booking tickets from 24th February. You can take a look at it by going on line. The webmaster favours the Accessible UK Train Times site as being easier to use that of National Rail Enquiries.
We have also pieced it together from the Open Train Times website, which gives reporting numbers. The results, showing departures from Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth can be seen in the tables below.
Turnaround times @ Aberystwyth approx 14 min.
Dovey Junc - Dovey Junc times approx 54 min.
In our view,the absence of 0830 and 1630 departures from Shrewsbury are unfortunate. We hope that there are plans to strengthen the 1727 ex-Salop to cope with what undoubtedly will be heavy demand. Also, a 2030 departure from Aberystwyth in the summer months would probably be popular, though the present arrangements east of Shrewsbury would only allow the passenger to travel as far as Wolverhampton at that time of day.
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.
Talented Apprentices wanted in Wales Network Rail is seeking to recruit young people in Wales and the borders for its award-winning apprenticeship scheme, as it continues the largest investment into the railway since Victorian times.
The scheme offers anyone over the age of 17 a fantastic opportunity to earn while they learn, gain valuable qualifications and skills and build a career in engineering. More than 2,000 people have joined the scheme since it was launched 10 years ago in 2005. These include school and college leavers as well as those that were unhappy with their jobs, and chose to go back into training to secure a more stable, long-term career.
The first year of the three-year scheme is spent at Europe's largest engineering training facility at the Royal Navy's HMS Sultan in Hampshire. There apprentices train in one of five core specialist areas: track, signalling, telecoms, electrification and plant and overhead lines. During their second and third years they experience work on the rail network's front line, gaining vital skills as they train to become maintenance technicians. This on-the-job training is completed by further off-railway learning at training centres.
The Network Rail Advanced Apprenticeship scheme is open to anyone who is 17 by 31st August 2015. Further details on the scheme, including case studies of current and former apprentices talking about their own experiences, can be found on Network Rail's website: http://www.networkrail.co.uk/apprentices.
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.
Ticket Machines & Split Ticketing THE NEWS GOT IT WRONG... Self service ticket machines won't tell you cheapest price.
News reports in December told us that, from March, train ticket machines will tell you the cheapest
fare. NOT TRUE...
1) They just have to warn you they may not be cheapest.
2) They ignore split ticketing, which on some routes halves costs.
There are quite a number of split ticketing websites available. Here are a few to try
For looking up any fare:- www.brfares.com/ Will even offer you a day return from London Victoria to Calais, including sea passage for £39.50p.
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back On The Railway
Someone came up with a scheme to refurbish those most hated trains, the Pacers! Oh No!
Despite announcements that their days would be numbered, rolling stock leasing company, Porterbrook has unveiled a programme to upgrade the Class 144 units and extend their life beyond 2020. The company owns 23 of the Class 144s and 16 Class 143s and is intending to spend a total of £800,000 on the fleet. Most of the spend is on a serious upgrade to the interior. However, there are no plans to do anything about the awful riding qualities. The project is referred to as an "Evolution scheme".
Hang on, didn't evolution eventually wipe out the dinosaurs?
Speaking to "Rail"magazine, Karen Jackson of Porterbrook said, "The Class 144 rolling stock is technically sound and reliable.There is no reason why it could not operate successfully and economically for a further ten years".
Now these vehicles were intended as an economic solution for operating rural branch lines, although in practice they have been used on some quite long sectors between significant regional centres. The effect is to render disagreeable an otherwise pleasant journey with their noisy, bouncy ride. We would bet that Ms. Jackson doth not often travel in one.
A short while back, we had sight of some contractors drawings of Pont Briwet, the dual-mode bridge on the Coast Line and which had been released into the public domain. They showed what appeared to be a Class 144 on the structure. We received several items of correspondence filled with a serious degree of alarm at the prospect of their being used on Cambrian services. Don't even THINK of sending them down here!
A Class 144 Pacer. Photo:- Peter Skuce/Wikimedia Commons
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
The project 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?
The West Wales Rail Campaign - Traws Link Cymru continues to make progress with its plan 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. However, their projected journey times of 90 minutes for the 56 miles between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen is somewhat unambitious and not really competitive. In truth the trip should take no more than 70 minutes to be attractive.
TWO TOGETHER RAILCARD.
Don't forget the Two Together Railcard (Yes, it has its own website) which allows two named people
over 16 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. The offer is available until 17th May 2015 but can only be obtained when you purchase your card online.
The card is also 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.
Roads The Welsh Government's ongoing obsession with road building schemes continues. The vast amount being spent on the A465 "Heads of the Valleys" road in South Wales, originally amounted to a total spend of around £800m. Since we first reported this on the website we have heard from various sources that the road has been gobbling additional money at an alarming rate, to the extent that it has been dubbed "The Black Hole".
The snazzy video is still on line, with the opportunity to 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.
There are rumours that the extent of the overspend has been serious enough to delay the start of construction for the much vaunted and misguided Newtown Bypass. Meanwhile, we have been able to identify no less than FOUR snazzy videos of the route, all displaying a fair amount of what we might say is illegal driving to boot. We wonder if in any way, such profusion of media presentation is a portent the final cost!
And another thing! Whilst we're on the subject of Cash Gobbling Roads..........
Well, it's a bit off our patch and probably none of our business. Nevertheless, we could not help noticing that Scotland has been much in the news in recent months so we shall take the opportunity to pass comment on the Scottish Government's obsession with roads. They want to put dual carriageway on the A9. More astonishingly, they want to perform the same trick with a rebuild of the A96, which runs between Elgin and Inverness! The cost of this truly gargantuan quantity of tarmacadam is projected at a hefty £6bn for both routes. A real gobbler! Fortunately, we are at least spared the snazzy bad driving video in this instance.
We have to confess a small interest here, as we hope such deeds will not encourage the The Welsh Government, given over as they are to expensive highway schemes, to consider dualling the A470 when they have finished throwing money at the A465. Moreover, the Chairman points out he is not called 'Angus' without good reason.
We came across the Scottish highway scheme via the Far North Line website and to be entirely fair to the Scottish Government, there are also substantial works planned for the Aberdeen - Inverness Railway too, involving route and signalling upgrades and improvements to line speed to give an end to end time of 2 hours, with talk of a half hourly service between Inverness and Elgin as well.
It is worthwhile taking time out to consider what else might be achieved if the £6bn were to be spent in different ways. Given that the Borders Railway has delivered 30 miles of rebuilt route for around £300m, does the road scheme along the North East Coast actually offer reasonable value for money? The upgraded road will no doubt be a fantastic place to put the Beamer through its paces when the cops aren't looking but what for the rest of us, who cannot afford the latest BMW offering?
SARPA members have on many occasions made the point that road travel is all very well but you still have to find the money to buy a car, tax it, insure it and pay the maintenance, in addition to the fuel costs. For young people, this is an increasing burden - indeed the cost of car insurance for the under 25s is now quite prohibitive. Additionally, unless you can afford a chauffeur to drive the Beamer for you, working whilst on the move is totally out of the question. Given the opportunities for this offered by modern computing and communication devices, road transport is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to business travel.
We would surmise that problems with the road might be addressed relatively cheaply, with selected upgrades to remove serious pinch points. This would leave substantial sums for improvements to public transport infrastructure.
An intelligent scheme would be to take the railway back to Banff, which would do much to bolster the economy of the region. This could be achieved using much of the old GNoS alignment and with a probable price tag of less than £400m.We understand that Park Signalling in Manchester have devised a wizard scheme for signalling secondary lines, which if fully developed could significantly reduce the cost. Also, to save meandering across the countryside from the erstwhile Lossie Junction, it would make sense to branch off from the existing railway near Lhanbryde and link up with the old route between there and Garmouth.
There is indeed the problem of a humongous hole which has been dug for mineral extraction to the West of Portgordon but this is not insurmountable and the former junction at Tillynaught would need to be re-aligned as the line from Banff went North-South, rather than East-West. Also, a new route near Cullen would be advisable to avoid reinstating that horrible curved platform, which is now replaced by housing anyway.
There would be stations at Buckie, Cullen, Portsoy and Banff. For an hourly service, trains would need to cross on a dynamic loop near Lhanbryde and at Portsoy, with loops at all stations to allow for flexibility.
Possible timings from Elgin, which are based on those already being achieved here on the Cambrian are a wake up call and in reality vital for the success of a reopened railway. Buckie would be reached in 17 minutes; Cullen 26 minutes; Portsoy 35 minutes and Banff 47 minutes with schedules from Inverness taking less than 90 minutes over the whole route. The key to this is the fantastic bridge over the Spey at Garmouth, which has lain idle since the line closed.
The Spey Bridge at Garmouth Photo:- Ronnie Leask/Wikimedia Commons
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.
Flashback to 2006. Former GWR King Class 4-6-0 No 6024 at Shrewsbury with a special in May of that year.