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Updated 18th March 2016

                                                Up and Down the Line       Other News       Steam News    Archive Newsletters
 The charter train at Aberystwyth on SUnday 29th November

An Up service passes the golf course at Borth on 14th February     Photo:- Denis Bates



LATEST NEWSLETTER

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

   Newsletter 69 March 2016

Up and Down the Line




Aberystwyth
Trawslink Cymru campaigners wishing to reopen the line to Carmarthen were pleased when a scoping report was published by the Welsh Government in December. The physical barriers to reinstatement appear to be mainly at the Aberystwyth end. The political barriers seem much more. Plaid Cymru want Barnett Formula consequential from High Speed 2 to be used as a source of funding, whilst Welsh Labour don't even seem committed to spend the money on rail or public transport at all but throw it in the general pot.

The consultants' initial solution to development at the North end is to construct a tunnel under Penglais Hill from the original alignment in the Ystwyth valley into the Rheidol valley, crossing over the River Rheidol further east than originally' and then crossing over the main road, park and ride site, Vale of Rheidol Railway and Cambrian Mainline on a flyover before descending down in the vicinity of the disused oil storage sidings to gain access to Aberystwyth station where a second platform would need to be reconstructed alongside the run round loop. Certainly this would be an interesting entrance and exit to the line if built!

A further step in the campaign was a workshop of interested parties, convened by Edwina Hart, the Welsh Government Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, held on the 8th February. At the meeting, all parties agreed to allow the consultants and authors of the scoping study, AECOM, to report back at the end of February with a WelTAG appraisal - a formal appraisal framework for infrastructure development in Wales - before consensus can be reached on whether to advise the Minister to commission a full feasibility study. Michael Walker, of Trawslink Cymru, said he hoped the feasibility study could be completed rapidly, before the purdah - the period before elections when there are specific restrictions on the activities of civil servants - comes into force.

Aberystwyth Town Council is complaining that sometimes the full length of the train is not aligned with the platform canopies and that some people have got wet when boarding/alighting the train.

Photos of Aberystwyth station, including ones from the 1970s-80s, including the Mail train, can be found on the website for the Royal Commission for Ancient Monuments

Wetherspoon's have installed a large TV screen in their main bar area, giving up-to-date train departure information, which is a great idea. We think that a similar device in the Old Station at Welshpool would be helpful.

 The rebuilt booking office at Aberystwyth
The interior of the rebuilt booking office at Aberystwyth Station.    Photo;- Gareth Marston

Machynlleth
We understand the much delayed DDA complaint footbridge is now nearing completion.

One result of the construction work is that where possible, only the Down platform at Machynlleth is used for the time being. Passengers from Up coastline trains are sometimes being advised to change at Dovey Junction as a temporary measure.

Members of the public who have questions about the programme should call the Network Rail 24-Hour National Helpline on 08457 11 41 41.

The Black Bridge a mile or so east of the station has been causing problems over the winter with the detectors warning of dangerously high levels of flood water on numerous occasions, resulting in services being suspended and bus replacements in operation between Machynlleth and Newtown. Trains are not terminated at Caersws as it's easier for the buses to access Newtown station.

Talerddig to Newtown
A rail relaying programme is taking place lasting till Easter at various locations along this section. The last two trains from Shrewsbury are regularly terminating at Newtown with onward bus connections so that work can take place. Of note has been the running of non ETCS fitted Class 66 locomotives from Colas Rail and Freightliner on ballast trains. The ballast train is granted a full line possession between Sutton Bridge Junction and Talerddig, and the ETCS is switched off to allow this. Carno

Carno
The Station Action Group have continued with their efforts to progress the station reopening, with a preliminary report on the current timetable indicating that by flexing some trains it may be possible for 5 trains day to stop at Carno. The Welsh Government have cooperated with this, and Network Rail and ATW are in broad agreement that it would be possible, though no firm commitments have been made. The campaign featured on a BBC Wales news item in January; Powys CC were nowhere to be seen, but Russell George AM for Montgomeryshire was.

Caersws
The village is encountering problems as the car parking available at the station has proved inadequate for the increased demand since last May. No immediate resolution appears apparent, with too much railway land having been being sold off in the past, hampering improving facilities today - a lesson new Network Rail boss Sir Peter Hendy appears not to have learnt.

Newtown
Peter Compton who has run Newtown Station Travel since it started in 1995 is to retire at the end of March 2016. Gareth Marston is taking over from the 1st April.

We have learned that work on the Newtown Bypass sort of started on Monday 7th March. The contract for the work has been awarded to Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd. It will run south of Newtown, from a roundabout on the A489 Llanidloes Road to another roundabout on the A483 Pool Road to the east of the town. [Cambrian News 3rd March]

Powys County Council (PCC) have asked the operator of the town bus, Owens coaches, to plan to serve the new sheltered housing development on the old Boys and Boden site off Canal Road in Newtown. The bus drivers have complained that there is no pull in off the main road which is on a curve at this location and nowhere inside the parking area to turn a bus around. The plans with no provision for buses stopping were of course signed off by the council's own Planning Department! Meanwhile the expensively provided infrastructure near the station specially designed to aid bus/rail integration remains unused as PCC won't specify that buses should stop there.



Welshpool
The Office of Rail & Road have released the 2014/2015 Estimates of Station Usage confirming that Welshpool has overtaken Newtown as the busiest intermediate station on our line with 133,744 entries and exits. Newtown had 130,306 with stations in the Upper Severn Valley growing by 7% on average from 2013/2014 compared to 4.5% across the UK.

Farmers near Welshpool are still campaigning for what they see as safety enhancements at level crossings because of the extra trains running on our line. They're worried about reduced time to cross livestock over the line. To date there have been no known incidents involving livestock near Welshpool since last May. Farmers elsewhere along the line do not even think that this is an issue. One farmer in northern Ceredigion told SARPA that they've had more trains running between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth for years anyway and it's never been a problem.

Montgomeryshire Liberal Democrat Assembly Candidate Jane Dodds tried to drum up some publicity for herself by organising a litter collection photo shoot at the station where apparently she says it's appalling. The Welshpool Station Adoption group were less than impressed: firstly they were never consulted and secondly they don't share her views on the issue, and point out the big issue to regular users is the paucity of covered accommodation: the single bus shelter proving totally inadequate this wet winter with the increased numbers using the station.

Recently there have been reports that Welshpool's Tourist Information Centre would be selling rail tickets from Spring 2016. Enterprisingly, the venue is operated by the town council and their website indicates that this facility will be available "soon after Easter".

Efforts by SARPA to have the Welshpool Town Bus service actually stop at the station continue to be fobbed off but then that's not really news! It is now TEN YEARS since SARPA and members of the station adoption team first raised the matter with Powys County Council!

Shrewsbury
Virgin Trains have claimed that the new service between Shrewsbury and London Euston has seen 80,000 passengers join them at Shrewsbury, Wellington and Telford in its first year of operation. This is out of a total of 195,000 passengers to London from these stations, up 19% on the previous year. The service of 2 trains a day with one on Sunday each way therefore appears to have an average loading of London passengers of 60. This is claimed as a big success. The 2007 Wales Rail Planning Assessment stated that in 2005 there were 80,000 passengers per annum travelling from the Cambrian to London and the South East of England. If this number has gone up in proportion to the overall increase in passengers since then, and making allowances for passengers travelling to other parts of the South East not via London, the Cambrian to London market could well be around the 100,000 per annum mark. Which begs the question: if 195,000 can support 2 direct trains day 100,000 could certainly support one?

The Shrewsbury Rail User's Federation has been revived recently, thanks to much effort being put in by Sheila Dee of the Chester to Shrewsbury Rail Partnership in bringing this about. Unfortunately, by popular vote the group has declined thus far to form a constitution or to raise funds or to have a website, all of which may rather hamper its effectiveness in the longer term. However, other groups within the region are experiencing difficulty with filling officer posts and given that the Federation is made up of rail organisations local to Shrewsbury, whose memberships are already hard pressed for time, we quite understand the reasons why.


Birmingham New Street
The redeveloped Birmingham New Street was completed on 20th September last year, with the Grand Central shopping centre having its final opening on the 24th.

Touch screen enquiry displays have been introduced on the station concourse. These give details of the next direct train to the destination selected by touching the screen.

The final piece of the station's new atrium roof covering was put into place on over a year previously. Made from the same high-tech material as the Eden Project in Cornwall and the Allianz Arena in Munich, the translucent roof covering has allowed natural light to stream down through the atrium onto the huge new concourse below - once demolition experts had removed around 6,000 tonnes of concrete over two floors of the old Pallasades shopping centre.

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

You can read more about the project completion by visiting www.newstreetnewstart.co.uk

We have included some photographs of the rebuilt station below. 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 new atrium over the ticket hall and concourse. A great improvement.    Photo:- Bs0u10e01/Wikimedia Commons
 The entrance to the rebuilt station
Entrance to the rebuilt station from the London end.   Photo:- Bs0u10e01/Wikimedia Commons
 The original station on the LNWR side
A contrast with the original New Street, seen here on the LNWR side in September 1885 and which was destroyed by bombing in WW2.. The engine is a McConnell "Bloomer" Class 2-2-2, as modified by Mr Webb.   Photo:- Wikimedia Commons

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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.


Live Train Maps for the Cambrian
The site Open Train Times now have live Cambrian maps, giving positions of trains in real time. These can be found at www.opentraintimes.com/maps/signalling/cambrian


Arriva to Float Again?
No, this has nothing to do with the recent inclement weather! Arriva's parent company, Deutsche Bahn (DB) has felt itself somewhat strapped for cash owing to repeated strikes over the past 12 months and the inroads that foreign operators like National Express are making into the company's domestic business. Thoughts are therefore being given over to the possibility of floating some of DB's overseas operations on the stock market once again, although the main problems are those affecting the domestic business, rather than the foreign companies. This could mean that Arriva and the UK Schenker operations may be either wholly or partially sold off. Whether this would mean the whole UK Arriva group or individual subsidiaries like Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales is not clear. All the same, the reduction in profits is only around 6% to 2.1 Billion Euros!

Enhanced Service Update
We have learned that a new Cambrian Lines Survey was carried out by the Shrewsbury Aberystwyth Rail Liaison Committee and this ended on Saturday 24th October. The results will form part of the report to the Minister regarding the services provided on both the Main and Coast Lines. We hear that there have been over 600 returns from the Coast and over 2,500 from the mainline.

The survey results are available from the Liaison Committee website as a Microsoft Power Point Presentation.

Our group has been concerned at the astonishing lack of publicity for the new trains in the local area. Indeed, in Mid Wales it is almost non existent.

The tables below show departures of the enhanced services from Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth.Whilst they have been on the site for some time, we make no apology for retaining them.

Departures from Salop.

Reporting No

Arr

From

Platform

To

Dep

1J00


Salop

5

Aberystwyth

0625

1J03

0719½

Birmingham New Street

6

Aberystwyth

0727

1J07

0918

Birmingham International

5

Aberystwyth

0930

1J09


Salop

5

Aberystwyth

1029

1J11

1119

Birmingham International

5

Aberystwyth

1129

1J15

1319

Birmingham International

5

Aberystwyth

1329

1J19

1519

Birmingham International

5

Aberystwyth

1530

1J23

1719

Birmingham International

5

Aberystwyth

1727

1J26


Salop

3

Aberystwyth

1831

1J27

1920

Birmingham International

3

Aberystwyth

1930

1J28


Salop

3

Aberystwyth

2030

1J31

2119

Birmingham International

3

Aberystwyth

2142


Departures from Aberystwyth

Reporting No

To

Dep

1G07

Birmingham International

0530

1J10

Salop

0630

1G15

Birmingham International

0730

1J20

Salop

0830

1G25

Birmingham International

0930

1G35

Birmingham International

1126

1J40

Salop

1230

1G45

Birmingham International

1330

1G55

Birmingham international

1530

1G65

Birmingham International

1729

1J71

Salop

1829

1G75

Birmingham New Street

1928


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.
 Train graph of Cambrian services
The train graph of Cambrian Main Line services.


Film:- "A Helping Hand"
Recently, an award winning film was produced by the Cambrian Railways Partnership with Arriva Trains Wales to give those who might need some extra assistance and advice on how to plan, organise and undertake a rail trip in the UK, and all the forms of assistance available. Advice and support was received from students and staff at Derwen College, Gobowen, and Coleg Ceredigion in making the movie, which is featured below.





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

www.splitticketing.com/

www.moneysavingexpert.com/split-cheap-train-tickets

For mobiles:- http://splitticket.moneysavingexpert.com/

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.




TWO TOGETHER RAILCARD.
This item has been on the site for some while but its a fairly safe bet that not all travellers know about it. So for the moment its staying! 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, and you can buy online here.

The card is also available from station ticket offices, including Newtown. 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.


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Steam News

The big news for steam traction is the second nationwide ban imposed by the
ORR upon West Coast Railways for further safety infringements. The company was prohibited from operating on the network last year after a steam special on March 7th ran past a signal at danger at Wooton Bassett Junction very shortly after a Paddington bound HST had passed through. This was rescinded after measures were put in place to improve the safety culture of the company. Whatever. It seems that the message has not been getting through, as further SIX safety related incidents throughout 2015 led to a Prohibition Notice being imposed from 18th February.

The company is now banned from operating on Network Rail routes until matters have been resolved. The ORR wrote to West Coast on 17th February giving reasons for the ban and which include a multitude of alleged infringements. Indeed, from reading the letter it might be quicker to have said what West Coast were doing correctly rather than point out where they were apparently at fault!

Of course, this does neither the company nor the charter train market any good at all and it seems astonishing that West Coast could take such a cavalier attitude to safety and company management. The more so when the assets they are operating with are historical items, a great many of which are now (nominally) over 80 years old.

When this company was responsible for running "The Cambrian" steam service a senior rail person remarked to our present chairman that he wondered whether West Coast were a bunch of people who just liked playing trains or whether they actually wanted to develop a great business..............................

Meanwhile, steam charters will have to rely on DB Schenker for the provision of crews and operational support.

ERTMS
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. Meanwhile, the chairman has written a discussion paper regarding the future for steam traction on the Cambrian lines. Essentially he favours new-build machines for tourist work and suggests a construction programme as part of an engineering training scheme. You can access the paper here.

Steam at Shrewsbury
Steam was supposed to return to Shrewsbury on Friday 22nd April with a charter from Dumfries visiting the town. However, as this train was promoted by West Coast Railways, it would be fairly safe to assume that it will not run.

On Saturday 7th May, Class 8F 48151 will possibly be at work with a special via the Heart of Wales Line.

Later in the year, on Sunday 5th June, steam traction will again feature at Shrewsbury, with the outward leg of a 4 day marathon which continues diesel hauled via the Cambrian Coast to Pwllheli. The return journey to London Paddington will pass through the town on Wednesday 8th June hauled by the famous LNER A3 Class Pacific, "Flying Scotsman". We hope that Network Rail will actually take the trouble to clean the Class 97 which will be used for the onward journey over the Cambrian.
 
Flying Scotsman returned to the Main Line on 25th February, with some quite extraordinary behaviour being exhibited by various gricers and deafening noise from the media helicopters! The engine is scheduled to visit Shrewsbury on 8th June.

Video;- J. P. Steam Media




You can find out about all main line steam services in the UK by visiting http://www.uksteam.info/tours/trs16.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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Website:- Angus Eickhoff