Welsh Government urged to back re-opening Gwynedd railway line axed by Beeching
The Welsh Government has been urged to give its full backing to the potential of re-opening a Gwynedd railway line to improve transport links along the west coast.
The former “Caernarvonshire Railway” from Bangor to Caernarfon, and onwards to Afonwen near Pwllheli, was closed as part of the famed ‘Beeching Axe’ during the 1960s.
But coupled with efforts to reopen the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen line, one north Wales MS has stressed the need to also re-establish the long closed line between Bangor where it could then connect with the existing Cambrian line towards mid Wales.
Regional MS Llyr Huws Gruffydd spoke of the “gaping hold” in rail infastructure but that re-opening the link between Bangor and Afonwen would “help integrate public transport in Gwynedd and down the western coast of Wales.”
Calling on the Welsh Government to give its “unequivocal support, both in principle and in practice,” the Plaid Cymru MS said: “Decisions on investing in rail infrastructure are made by the UK Government but the very least Welsh Ministers can do is commit to supporting the proposal and working with UK Ministers to explore any opportunities to make the vision a reality.
“It makes eminent sense to close this gaping hole in our rail infrastructure helping to both boost the local economy and improve public transport in Gwynedd.
“Welsh Government should be leading the charge in making the case to UK Government for this much-needed investment.
“The truth is that successive Labour Governments in both Cardiff and Westminster did nothing to devolve the powers we need to develop the infrastructure we deserve and, as a result, we see public transport in Wales fall further and further behind in terms of investment, expansion and modernisation.
“Transport in Wales needs some leadership and we’re not seeing that from this current administration.”
But according to the Welsh Government, it wants to see the full devolution of rail and a “fair funding settlement” allowing ministers to take forward plans to improve the rail network across Wales.
The line to Afonwen closed in 1964, but the Investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon castle in 1969 involved special use of the branch until it too closed in January 1970.
Since closure the trackbed from Felinheli to Caernarfon has been adapted for use as Lôn Las Menai, a four-mile long cycle and footpath, .
South of Caernarfon a section of the line from Caernarfon to Dinas was incorporated into the reopened narrow gauge Welsh Highland Railway as the first phase of the line, in 1997 and used as part of Lôn Eifion.
Earlier this year Elfed Wyn Jones, who is part of a campaign to re-open the Bangor to Afonwen line, told North Wales Live that reopening the railway would benefit villages and towns along the track.
He added: “Coupled with re-establishing the Aberystwyth and Carmarthen line, it would create a rail network within Wales between the North and the South, rather than travelling for extra hours and distance through England to complete the journey.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson went on to say: “In our response to the Williams Rail Review last year we identified the west coast line – including Bangor to Porthmadog and Aberystwyth to Carmarthen – as a key strategic corridor that should be given further consideration.
“We have applied for funding for a feasibility study to consider the reopening of the closed line between Amlwch and Gaerwen, to a destination of either Bangor or Llandudno.
“We have also commissioned Transport for Wales to undertake a feasibility study on innovative ways to operate a rail service along the west coast – including the link between Bangor to Porthmadog.
“The UK Government is currently responsible for improvements to rail infrastructure and has still not responded to the Williams Rail Review.
“We have called for the full devolution of rail and a fair funding settlement, allowing us to take forward plans to improve connectivity in the region and across Wales.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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