A Montgomeryshire county councillor has accused Transport for Wales of a "lack of ambition" over its plans to improve Welsh North-South rail connections. In a statement published online on Monday, June 7, the train operator says it plans to upgrade existing routes to provide faster services. However Transport for Wales says it has no plans to reopen North to South rail links through Mid Wales - and insists it's easier to continue routing services through England instead.
Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, Plaid Cymru councillor for Glantwymyn, believes rural Mid-Wales is being "ignored" by the plan. "The statement by TFW shows lack of ambition and is merely a continuation of more of the same attitude focussing on large centres of population whilst ignoring the bulk of Wales," he said. "Wales suffered disproportionately under the 'Beeching Cuts' to the rail network during the 1960s. Since that time, one of the most pressing problems in Wales has been the lack of internal connectivity, which hampers economic sustainability and contributes to the long-term degradation of communities. We need a ambitious vision, we need to reopen such lines as from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen; and from Porthmadog to Bangor and invest in the Mid Wales line. If other European countries with a mountainous terrain can do it then surely Wales can also; perhaps it's time to remind TFW of it's name - Transport for Wales and where Wales actually exists."
Currently Mid-Wales is not served by trains running from Cardiff and Swansea to North Wales, with passengers routed via Hereford and changing services in England at Shrewsbury. A 160 mile journey from Fishguard Harbour in the South-West of the network, to Holyhead in the North-West, can take up to 12 hours and requires passengers to change trains in England in order to reach their destination. The same journey by road would take around three and a half hours, ironically passing through the main mid-Wales rail hub at Machynlleth.
"The Welsh Government retains an aspiration to reduce journey times across the Wales and Borders network, including between North and South Wales. This is intended to be achieved by modernising the existing infrastructure, including the future electrification of the major rail routes, which will also provide additional capacity for more frequent services on them," a spokesperson said. "Simply reinstating the former rail routes through Mid or West Wales would not be enough. The routes would not be suitable for a North-South intercity service, because their meandering nature would mean journey times would be far longer than via the current route. The initial priority is to upgrade existing lines so that they can carry more trains and provide faster journeys, including the current North-South route via the Marches Line. Along with providing the North-South link, it has the added benefit of serving three large settlements in the borders region – Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford – which act as major interchanges for services to North West England, Mid Wales and the West Midlands respectively."