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Modified 10th May 2014

                                                Up and Down the Line       Other News       Steam News    Archive Newsletters
 Speeding along the track


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

   Newsletter 63 May 2014

Up and Down the Line

Storm Damage
The whole Coast Line northwards from Machynlleth was closed owing to storm damage sustained over the Christmas period. This was in addition to the closure of Pont Briwet, North of Harlech, for a complete renewal of the structure.

The extent of the damage has been much greater than that at Dawlish, on the Great Western main line to Plymouth, though this has not been as widely reported. The photo below shows the state of the railway just north of Barmouth not long after the storm. Even National Coal Board track was never this bad!

A truly astonishing amount of work has been done by Network Rail to restore the railway and our sincere thanks are due to their "Orange Army" for all their hard work in wintry weather conditions.The line to Harlech has now reopened and Coast Line trains are terminating there, with a replacement bus service onwards to and from Pwllheli. We have written and asked the Welsh Government for clarification as to when the route will reopen in full.
 Storm damage to the Cambrian Coast line

Dovey Junction and The Dyfi Osprey Project
Once again this year the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust are opening the Dyfi Osprey Project site, near Derwenlas on the A487 road between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth. However, a new three-story observation building was built during the winter, and it opened at Easter. It affords much closer views of the ospreys than the existing building, which is close to the road. Although close to the railway, only the down end of the Aberystwyth line platform is visible; conversely the building is hard to see from the train.

At the time of writing, last year's pair of ospreys, Monty and Glesni, are back in residence. To learn more, including live camera feeds from the nest, take a look at the project website, or look at their Facebook page.
 Storm damage to the Cambrian Coast line
LNER No. 4494 hunting for Dogfish perhaps? A view taken from the live camera at the nest, as a Network Rail ballast train rolls by.

The scheme to construct a lift to assist disabled access between the platforms has run into problems. The Department for Transport announced under its "Access for All" scheme funding of £1 million to construct a lift and footbridge between the 2 platforms. We understand that TraCC has not thus far been able to find the match funding required. TraCC itself is now history owing to changes made by the Welsh Government.
 An old style BR Totem at Machynlleth
. .

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.

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.

In recent weeks there has been extensive work carried out by Network Rail on the western end of the Forden Dynamic Loop. Work has also commenced on removing the level crossing at the site of Forden station, with a replacement diversionary road being built to a nearby overbridge.

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.

The embankment on the east side of the line just south of Cilcewydd Mill has needed stabilisation work, as the relaying of the DOWN line onto the abandoned side of the formation has proved problematical.

Buttington Crossing Collision
The report on the accident has recently been released; it can be accessed online by clicking here.

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.

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.

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

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


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.

£12m scheme improving access for passengers at five railway stations in Wales
Stations at Machynlleth in Powys, Chirk near Wrexham, Ystrad Mynach in Caerphilly county, and Llandaff and Radyr in Cardiff will all benefit. The cash will be used to create step and obstacle-free routes to platforms and station entrances through new footbridges, lifts and ramps. The funding has come from the Welsh and UK governments. Work will start at Ystrad Mynach later this month, with the other projects starting in May and June.

Transport Minister Edwina Hart said: "This scheme will greatly improve access to a number of stations and ensure more people can use the train. "Public transport is a vital way for many people, including some of the most vulnerable in our society, to access jobs and services. I want to make sure our rail stations are accessible to all and offer a comfortable experience for passengers." The work is being funded by £7m from the Welsh government and £5m from the Department for Transport.

Mark Langman, route managing director of Network Rail Wales which will be carrying out the work, said: "These enhancements will help passengers get access to platforms and cross more easily between them through the installation of new footbridges with ramps or lifts. "Step-free access not only benefits disabled passengers or those with reduced mobility, but also people with children, heavy luggage or shopping. "In most cases, the improvements will open up the stations and the rail network to users who may not have been able to access them previously."

[From BBC website, 20th March 2014]

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.

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.

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)

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 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" was launched by the Department for Transport in 2005 and despite spending over £20m so far, has yet to see a single train built.

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. We understand that there is to be a conference of locomotive operators to discuss the matter and reach a solution, though at present we have no details.
 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.

At the eastern end of the Cambrian line, steam traction will appear at Shrewsbury on 20th September, when GWR Castle Class 5043 will pass through on the Severn Bridge Junction Triangle.

Full details of all steam traction on the main line can be found at

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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