THE RESULTS of a scoping exercise which looked into the practicalities of reopening the Carmarthen – Aberystwyth railway line were published last week (Dec 22).
Earlier this year, following lobbying by Traws Cymru, Economy and Transport Minister, Edwina Hart agreed to fund an initial study on the potential of reopening the railway, which has been closed to passenger traffic since 1965, with a section remaining open for freight until 1973.
AECOM was commissioned by the Welsh Government to provide technical advice, in the form of a report, setting out all the issues to be considered under a full feasibility study into re-opening the line, and providing a scope, programme and cost for that study
Among the key findings of the exercise were that over 97% of the original route remains undeveloped. However, due to residential development at the Aberystwyth end, it is thought that a tunnel would have to be built under Penparcau, which could cost more than £60m.
The core formation – tunnels, embankments and bridges – has generally remained intact, but new bridges would be needed at Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. A new route would possibly have to be found at the Carmarthen end, to replace that currently used by the Gwili Railway.
While it was accepted that the original route may not be the optimal one today, the scoping exercise recognized that the topography of the area does not lend itself to alternative routes.
The costs for the line are, at this stage, highly indicative due to uncertainties about the route and the extent to which the core formation will have to be repaired or replaced. However, the construction cost was estimated to be between £350m and £505m. With land and consent costs, this would rise to £750m.
At present, the Welsh Government-backed bus service between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth was used 102,000 times last year.
The report pointed out that the main population centres were at either end of the route, and suggested that, even with speed restrictions and passing times, a journey time of 90 minutes between the two should be possible.
Commenting on the report, Mrs Hart said: “Improving public transport links is a key priority for this government and this includes increasing access links across rural communities.
“Carmarthen to Aberystwyth is already connected by a regular Welsh Government funded bus service, but I am open-minded to alternative public transport links and this scoping exercise will help inform the debate. Although funding railway infrastructure is non-devolved, I am pleased the Welsh Government has been able to assist with this first step in the possible re-introduction of rail services between these two locations.”