Carmarthen’s next train to Aberystwyth will depart in … thirty years
Transport campaigners are calling on the Welsh Government to take action to reinstate the railway line that directly links Carmarthen to Aberystwyth, which originally closed in February 1965. Traws Link Cymru, which was set up in 2013 to campaign for the line to be reopened, published a report in 2020 that considered factors it said should feed into any assessment of the economic viability of the line. These included population and passenger numbers, demand for public transport, and the issue of rural transport poverty.
The Welsh Government published a feasibility study into reopening the line in 2018, which said there were no major obstacles to restoring the line, estimating it would cost approximately 775 million pounds (about 900 million euro). However, at a recent meeting of the Thriving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Ceredigion County Council, Professor Stuart Cole, an independent transport consultant, ruled out the prospects of the line reopening for decades, saying that his view that the public transport connection between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth has no possibility of being built in the next 30 years.
Secure funding to restore the line
Professor Cole’s bleak assessment of the prospects for re-establishing a direct rail connection is, he says, based on the economics of operating railways versus buses in a rural area. Professor Cole, who created the TrawsCymru network and Bwcabus, said that road-based solutions were better for the Aberystwyth – Carmarthen route and for others in Wales where once there had been a railway.
Traws Link Cymru chairman Mike Walker described the response as “deeply disappointing” and urged the Welsh Government to bring pressure on Westminster to secure the necessary funding to restore the line. Mr Walker said that this is a railway line that should never have been closed in the 1960s, and almost certainly would still be open today had contemporary economic and social factors been taken into consideration when the closure decision was made. “We have only to look at the reopened Borders railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank so see the social and economic stimuli that a new railway can bring to a region,” Mr Walker added.
Campaigners remain steadfast
The line was a popular means of transportation for both passengers and freight throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Freight operations over the years included the transport of coal and agricultural produce to the coast for export. During World War II, the line was also used for transporting munitions and military equipment. However, in the second half of the 20th century, the popularity of the railway declined, and the line faced a number of challenges, including competition from road transport and a lack of investment. Passenger services were withdrawn in 1965, with vestiges of freight traffic persisting until 1970.
Traws Link Cymru has been campaigning for a decade to convince the public of the need for a reliable rail service which will connect the entire nation much more effectively. The campaigners remain steadfast in their belief that one of the only ways to solve the issues faced by west Wales in terms of poor infrastructure, poverty, and depopulation, is to build a rail corridor in west Wales. Traws Link Cymru would like to ensure that any proposal to use the former track bed, of which 97 per cent is untouched, should come with absolute guarantees that a reinstated railway will take precedence over any future development.