Home    Aims & Objectives    Meetings    Join SARPA    Contact Us    News   Archive    Arriva Trains Wales      Links    

News Items

Modified 28th January 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. This one has most of the IT Gremlins which got into the print copy removed, though we have since found one that has defied efforts to remove it!

   Newsletter 62 December 2013

Up and Down the Line

Station footfall on the Cambrian grew by 9.2% in 2009-2010

The Welsh Government has announced again the station refurbishment - maybe if they keep announcing it people will believe it has happened?

Vale of Rheidol Railway
Trains have been very heavily loaded. On a number of occasions eight coaches have been used. As this train is too long for the engine to run round at Devil's Bridge, diesel No.10 has been added as a pilot, to enable shunting.

Photograph below by Denis Bates. .
 A VoR train

Bow St
The station reopening proposal apparently has a better cost benefit ratio than the Welsh Government's favourite pet project, the dualling of the A465 Head of the Valleys road. .

Saturday, 6th July saw a Gala Day at Borth station to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the line from Machynlleth (the line on to Aberystwyth opened in 1864). The events were organised by the the volunteers, led by George Romary, who have transformed the old parcel and ticket offices into the Borth Station Museum. The events were opened by Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion; they included stalls, miniature steam train rides, specially composed music, a barbeque and a laser and firework display. Borth's own choir, Chocolate, a juggler and other performers added to the fun with visitors and volunteers appearing in period costume. [Cambrian News, 11th July.]

A long overdue refurbishment of the station roof and canopy has begun. The station railway museum was used for the filming of a welsh language TV detective series.

If you feel you want to contribute to the running of Borth Station Museum, or have anything to donate or loan to the collection, or wish to join the Friends of the Museum, or think you can help in any other way, please contact George Romary on 01970871850.

Pont Briwet (On the Coast Line)
BUSES will replace trains over this bridge near Penrhyndeudraeth on the Coast Line to Pwllheli, until a structure over the Afon Dwyryd is completed in 2015, Network Rail(NR) has confirmed. Detailed examinations have established piling work in the river bed for the new Pont Dwyryd crossing is significantly affecting the structural capability of the wooden viaduct it is replacing making it impractical to run trains during the remainder of the construction works.

We hear that Arriva Trains may stand to pocket £10k per day for loss of service compensation. NR will also be paying for the replacement buses. From information we have received, we understand the final cost could be over £5m. If this is correct, we would bet that Deutsche Bahn and the bus companies think that Christmas has come around twice this year!

Mark Langman, NR route managing director for Wales said: "We fully understand the inconvenience this will cause and we apologise for this. However, the safe operation of the railway is our absolute priority."

"Following the examinations, we found the only option to complete the new bridge was to keep the railway line closed until the new structure is in place. We will work closely with Gwynedd Council and its contractor so the new bridge can be completed as soon as possible so that rail services can resume".

The line has been closed since early November after monitoring equipment detected movement to Pont Briwet viaduct during construction works for the replacement bridge. The bridge was scheduled to remain open whilst the new bridge was constructed immediately alongside it. Youngsters use the train service to go to school and the closure of the bridge means an eight mile detour through Maentwrog.

Parents and other commuters, already angry the bridge would be closed over Christmas, are furious the bridge will closed for more than 18 months. One said: "There was every likelihood of this happening from the moment the piledrivers started work. Network Rail should have foreseen this in their planning for this project. I'm disgusted they put the news out just before Christmas."

Cllr, Gareth Thomas, who represents Penrhyndeudraeth on Gwynedd Council said: "Residents and business owners are aware of the on-going safety issues in relation to the bridge, and closing the bridge for such a long period of time due to the holiday period, causes grave difficulties in the locality."

The original Pont Briwet crossing is a wooden viaduct built in the 1860s. The new bridge will be a modern structure capable of carrying heavier trains at a faster speed, as well as a new road crossing. Until the new bridge is opened, Arriva Trains Wales will be running an amended timetable. All (northbound) services from Machynlleth will now terminate at Harlech. Buses will take people on to stations towards Penrhyndeudraeth, Porthmadog, Criccieth and Pwllheli.

Passengers are advised to check with National Rail Enquiries for detailed, up to date information.

In the meantime, who is paying for this fiasco? YOU dear taxpayer!

Storm Damage
All the above relating to Pont Briwet has since become somewhat academic as the whole Coast Line northwards from Machynlleth has been closed owing to storm damage sustained over the Christmas period. The photo below shows the state of the railway just north of Barmouth. Even National Coal Board track was never this bad!
 Storm damage to the Cambrian Coast line

Dovey Junction
An unpaved road has, until now, provided vehicle access to Dovey Junction station. However, it has now been padlocked by Network Rail. They state that "the road access is privately owned by Network Rail and is only of authorised users, including railway staff, to get to the track site to carry out emergency or maintenance work. However, owing to reports of several incidents of trespass, we have decided to close this private road for safety reasons." [Cambrian News, 11th July.]


The sceheme 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. The future of TraCC itself is now in doubt owing to changes being made by the Welsh Government.
 An old style BR Totem at Machynlleth
. .

The Station Action Group have had a meeting with the new Welsh Government Transport Minister Edwina Hart. By all accounts an official admitted that the previous cost benefit analysis claiming that thousands of people would not travel to Aberystwyth because the train stopped at Carno was a load of old codswallop, which somehow we knew already.

Footfall has now passed 100,000, compared to 60,538 in 2002/2003.

The condition of the footbridge has given grave concern in recent months with warning signs now put up telling passengers of "uneven surfaces" following the Powys CC repairs. One regular commuter reports that whenever it has rained standing water gathers and he always ends up getting his trouser leg wet as the springy surface bounces up the water. At the start of 2014 some effort hhas been made to remedy the situation, with the proprietary floor panels being removed and a new surface applied directly to the bridge decking.

Bus/rail integration? SARPA were told that buses didn't stop at the station because Edinburgh Woollen mills objected to it. A simple 5 minute chat with the Manageress established that the company would welcome the town bus service: it was 50-seater rail replacement coaches blocking the entrance waiting for lengthy periods that they did not like. Powys CC who tender the town bus service were informed immediately some months ago, and nothing was heard for some time. However, we have discovered that there has been some dialogue between Powys County Council and the Old Station, so maybe progress is actually happening at last!

Planning permission has been granted for alterations to the station. Essentially this involves swapping over the Customer Services building and the waiting room at the top of the stairs betwen platforms 4 & 7. You can access the complete proposal here The £200,000 station refurbishment has drawn much criticism as the materials it will be using would not be in keeping with the station fabric and more critically that the work will do nothing to expand capacity for waiting passengers. That being said, given the amount of of iconoclasm and destruction to railway architecture which took place in the period 1960-1980 its a bit of a storm in a teacup. There have been at least three incarnations at the top of the passenger stairs to Platforms4-7 since 1967. As of December 2013, there is no sign of the station refurbishment going ahead.

Contractors seen at work in the old Bay platforms 1 & 2 are working on pipes that are carried underneath the bridge over the River Severn.

Plans for the start of a new Euston to Shrewsbury service from May 2014 have been temporarily shelved. Network Rail had previously offered two weekday off-peak daytime slots and two slots on Sundays, which would have allowed for a return service between Shrewsbury and London Euston starting from the May timetable change. However, the proposed timings were unattractive from a customer point of view, and the services would not have been economically viable.

Virgin Trains and Network Rail say they continue to work together to create a service from December 2014 that will be of real benefit to the people of Shropshire.
 Severn Bridge Junction Signal Box
Severn Bridge Junction Signal Box, seen here in May 2006, with some serious motive power using the triangle to turn. The box has since been repainted in the full LNWR livery of buff and brown.

Resignalling between Shrewsbury and Crewe
The Shrewsbury to Crewe modular signalling scheme has now been commissioned, with control of the line being undertaken by the Regional Operating Control Centre in Cardiff. The signalling is bi-directional; five level crossings have been converted to manually controlled barriers with obstacle detection.

[From the Railway Herald, Issue 386, 20th November 2013]

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

Back to Top

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.

Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Railway Liaison Committee
Welshpool Town Council have very kindly made available on their website, the proceedings of the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Railway Liaison Committee. This group comprises County Councils, Town and Community Councils, Network Rail, Arriva Trains, British Transport Police, Aberystwyth University and other interested railway groups.

The remit is to discuss, gain information and influence improvement of passenger services and all other aspects affecting the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Railway Service. You can access more information and minutes of their meetings 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.

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 thay 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!

As many good folk know, the The Welsh Government is keen to take part in a practical experiment to discover how to make a small fortune in the field of aviation. Put simply, you start off with a big one, which is the conclusion that many people in the industry would have been happy to point out. Not to be deterred in this brave investigation, the Welsh Government went ahead last March and bought Cardiff Airport for a staggering £52 Million! The airport serves around a million passengers per annum, a mere 6th of the volume travelling through nearby Bristol, where the airport authorities have sought assurances that Cardiff will not get state handouts. Cardiff was hit by the withdrawal of flights by budget airline bmibaby in 2011, but has said it hopes for 5% - 8% growth during 2013.

Looking at the airport website, one is struck by the dearth of direct destinations offered - less than about 50 to Europe and North Africa. In comparison Bristol offers around twice this number to the UK and Europe alone. Indeed, the Cardiff site is surprisingly coy regarding the actual number of departures daily as we couldn't find a link to provide this information. Bristol, meanwhile has a page where you can view all the flights for the day.

We feel that there is little point in having access to Wales if once you get here, transport links are decidedly Third World! It is of course, time for a new railway to link the rest of the country with Cardiff. The £52 Million wasted on the air facility would have rebuilt around 9 miles of line at present day prices.

Station Footfalls
Station footfalls according to the Office of Rail Regulation in 2010/2011 were:


Passenger Numbers

% Increase since 2002-3

%Average Annual increase









Dovey Junction




















These increases show that the "no growth" franchise has in fact seen a growth of around 50% over eight years!

Full details of all station useage nationwide can be found on the website for the Office of Rail Regulation. Back to Top

Steam News

 LMS Black 5
Flashback to 2010. Former LMS Class 5 locomotive, No 44871 shunts stock at Machynlleth on 25th August. This engine was one of four involved in hauling the last steam train on British Rail on 11th August 1968.

As many good folk will know, the steam service which operated on the Cambrian during the summer was felled by the introduction of ERTMS in 2011. No steam locomotive in this country has yet been fitted with the necessary on-board equipment to operate with this signalling system. As we understand it, Network Rail believe that the problem is just too expensive. We have heard of seven figure sums being bandied around.

In some circles, steam traction is seen as a nuisance, though we would counter this by saying that whenever a steam locomotive has come to the Cambrian, it has pulled trains and made money and therefore deserves more support. Indeed, the provision of steam traction on some selected services seems quite a good way to persuade people to pay a premium to travel by train! We have discovered that in Switzerland, the engineering company DLM have fitted a steam engine with a version of ERTMS which is used there. The locomotive concerned is No. 52.8055, a rebuilt German "Kriegslok" and which is now oil fired. The equipment comprises Balise readers and computers housed in the tender. A driver's display is mounted in the cab. The cost of fitting was around £45,000 GBP equivalent.

One of our members has advised us that the Swiss system is not full ERTMS and that their network will be migrated to this by the end of the decade. At that point, 52 8055 will have to be upgraded, though we note that there is a long way between £45,000 and a seven figure sum! In the meantime, we have been in touch with an organisation called 5AT ( who have indicated that they would be willing to project manage the design and build of a brand new machine, primarily for operation on the Cambrian. Enhanced technology would provide greater reliability and range, with reduced maintenance and running costs. ERTMS would be fitted from new.
 Modified Class 52 locomotive
 Steam ERTMS Kit
 Steam ERTMS Kit
 Steam ERTMS Kit
 Cab view of the modified engine
These images are reproduced by kind permission of DLM and show, from top; the modified Class 52 locomotive, 3 photos of the on-board equipment and a cab view of the locomotive in action. The computer display panel can be clearly seen in this latter picture.

At the eastern end of the Cambrian line, steam traction will appear at Shrewsbury on 15th February, 5th April, 12th April, 28th April and 20th September.

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

Back to Top

Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passengers Association (SARPA)
   Llidiart Wood,   Moel y Garth,  Welshpool,  Powys,  SY21 9JF,  Wales,  United Kingdom
© SARPA 2005-2014
All Rights Reserved
Website:- Angus Eickhoff