£500m fund to reopen lost railways
The setting up of a £500m fund to reopen some of Britain’s lost railways has sparked hopes of a revival of lost services in Gwynedd and Anglesey.
Until the infamous ‘Beeching Axe’ swung in the 1960s, regular passenger services ran along the Anglesey central line between Gaerwen and Amlwch, as well as the Bangor and Caernarvon railway.
Other lines lost during the same period also include the Bala and Ffestinog railway, as well as the “Caernarvonshire” line , which once connected Caernarfon with Afon Wen, and the still operational services along the Cambrian coast.
But the UK Government’s setting up a £500m fund to re-open some of England and Wales’ lost railways has ignited interest from local councils who are being asked to apply for a slice of the pie.
According to the transport secretary Grant Schapps, the cash would be used to fund feasibility studies rather than fund any actual work at this stage. The clarification came after Labour noted that £500m would help reopen just 25 miles of railway.
According to Ynys Mon’s AM Rhun ap Iorwerth, any source of funding that can be used to strengthen public transport should be explored, including the 18 mile former Anglesey Central Railway.
The line was closed to passengers in 1964, but continued as a freight service until the early 1990s, crucially meaning the tracks remain in place and preserved to a degree.
This follows confirmation by Anglesey Council that it was “eager to see the Lein Amlwch asset being used again”.
A council spokesman said: “We welcome this new potential opportunity to secure funding support from UK Government, and the recognition that redundant rail assets could create positive benefits if reopened.”
In 2012, a licence was granted by Network Rail to the Lein Amlwch group to begin the arduous task of clearing the overgrown line, with its volunteers continuing to harbour ambitions of the tracks once again being used for passengers.
However, there are also counter-efforts by others who back Lon las Mon – a proposed shared path to make use of the existing route for non-motorised vehicles including walkers, runners, cyclists and horses.
But a 2009 report by Sustrans Cymru concluded that it could be used for a dual purpose heritage railway and mixed-use path.
Mr ap Iorwerth added: “The financing of rail is not a devolved matter, and there has been serious lack of investment by UK Government in improving Wales’ railways.
“HS2 will also be hugely expensive for Wales. This scheme does not do right for that, but if there is an opportunity to take advantage of it, it should be pursued.
“I have already contacted Central Anglesey Railway Ltd to see how the Lein Amlwch project may be able to do that.”
There have also been efforts on the other side of the Menai to reconnect Gwynedd’s county town to the north Wales main line.
Caernarfon’s former station closed following the end of regular services in 1972, having now been replaced with a Morrisons store.
When contacted, a Gwynedd Council spokesperson said that as the authority was not in a position to comment at this stage as it was not the lead body in any application process.
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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