A New North-South Welsh rail link

The Welsh Government have just announced they won’t be resuming flights between Cardiff & Anglesey (Pre Covid they subsidised it) but are looking into improving public transport connections instead.

There’s been pressure for some years to reopen the Carmarthen-Aberystwyth and Bangor-AfonWen lines to provide a Nouth -South Welsh route. Currently the Cardiff-Bangor rail route is via Shrewsbury & Hereford & takes a minimum of 4.5hours, longer than taking a car.

Traws Link Cymru have been campaigning for some years to reopen the lines, and a feasibility study was carried out for the Welsh Government in 2018. There’s also a brief executive summary if you want the quick overview.
In 2020 Traws Link Cymru produced a report entitled “A New Strategic Rail Corridor For West Wales” showing that the reopening would cost less than the feasibility study said (£620m as opposed to £775m) & the study had missed out the social & economic benefits to the southern Cardigan Bay area, which is currently very deprived of public transport links. The original study had substantial ommissions, it focused on the benefits for the towns that the line passes through, with a population of 35,000. In fact the railway would benefit the much wider counties of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, whose total populations are around 260,000, as well as providing significantly improved North-South Wales rail links for a significant population in the Swansea and Bangor areas.

A recent publication of rail proposals by Transport For Wales included a hopeful looking green arrow in the right direction for the West coast link

And recently, railway engineer GarethDennis has produced another proposal for a N-S Wales route, using some existing alignments & some new sections of route, running up the centre of Wales rather than along the West coast, that can be seen on his Youtube channel “Rail Natter”

So whichever proposal is actually adopted, there’s still some serious public transport improvements needed for the West Wales region. The numerous towns around the Carmarthen/Cardigan/Lampeter area have very limited public transport options, and at the least a decent increase in bus provision and some line upgrades and frequency improvements for the lines west of Swansea are badly needed. It currently takes as long to get by rail from Carmarthen to Cardiff (70 miles) as it does from Cardiff to London (150 miles)

I hope that the Welsh Government will actually take this in hand and move forward, there’s a tendency in England to prevaricate over rail reopenings for decades before anything happens, partly due to the private car dominated transport society we live in, but also due to an unreasonable obsession with Cost Benefit Analysis, which supposedly shows if the line in question will bring benefits to the area in question. This methodology has been shown to be flawed on numerous occasions, noteably the Borders Railway in Scotland, which barely scraped through the CBA methodology but has exceeded expectations multiple times over.

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