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.
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 interior of the rebuilt booking office at Aberystwyth Station. Photo;- Gareth Marston
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 over the ticket hall and concourse. A great improvement. Photo:- Bs0u10e01/Wikimedia Commons
Entrance to the rebuilt station from the London end. Photo:- Bs0u10e01/Wikimedia Commons
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.