Memorandum by the Llangollen Railway Trust
RURAL RAILWAYSPROPOSAL FOR RUABON
TO LLANGOLLEN RAILWAY LINE REINSTATEMENT (THE VALE OF LLANGOLLEN
It has been brought to our attention that the
Transport Select Committee is holding an inquiry into Rural Railways
and that a public meeting is to be held in Shrewsbury on 21 April
The Llangollen Railway, a heritage railway,
currently operates a remaining section of the former cross- country
route from Ruabon on the Shrewsbury-Chester line to the Cambrian
Coast at Barmouth. The section concerned is that between Llangollen
and Carrog. There are active plans to extend beyond Carrog to
the town of Corwen, a matter of slightly over two miles to give
a total route mileage of 10. These extension plans had been delayed
whilst the local authority and other agencies resolved matters
relating to the proposed terminus site, notably addressing the
question of alleviating flooding from where the proposed replacement
terminus will be built.
It is our hope that the matters referred to
above will be resolved during 2004 but a further issue has arisen
that I feel I should draw to your attention. This relates to a
recent development affecting the potential to make the Llangollen
Railway a valuable component of the United Kingdom's rail network
in the future and could have significance for the social and economic
well being of Llangollen, the Dee Valley and neighbouring areas.
The former junction station for the line through
Llangollen to the coast at Barmouth was located at Ruabon on the
Shrewsbury to Chester Line. We consider the potential benefits
from relinking the Llangollen Railway back to Network Rail at
Ruabon are considerable and that the Select Committee should give
due consideration to making recommendations that closed track-beds
should remain protected transport corridors to preserve their
value for reuse in the future. The situation in which we find
ourselves is such that if such protection were to be established
the present difficulty we are experiencing in convincing the Local
Authority of the value of such protection would be avoided. There
can be little doubt that rejoining the Llangollen Railway to the
National Network would enhance the traffic potential on the Chester
Denbighshire County Council do not accept that
the track bed within its jurisdiction, other than 10 miles between
Llangollen (Castle Street Bridge) and Corwen (Green Lane), should
be protected from development that would obstruct any future reinstatement
of a railway.
The section, about which the Llangollen Railway
has the greatest concern, from Ruabon Line Junction on the Chester-Shrewsbury
main line to an end-on junction with the present preserved operation
passes through two Local Authority areas. From the main line to
just west of the site of Trevor Station, the trackbed is within
Wrexham Council's jurisdiction.
Wrexham Council has been positive in its attitude
and protected the trackbed at Trevor Station when redevelopment
took place on part of the station site. This has left the remains
of the two platforms intact and allows for a double track formation
to be reinstated. It offers the potential to provide a passing
loop if services were to be reinstated. However, Denbighshire
County Council take the view that the Railway could not be reinstated
and have not heeded views expressed to them to the contrary. I
would mention Denbighshire Council is also the railway's landlord
with whom we would prefer to maintain a harmonious existence but,
on this occasion, it is necessary to express our views very strongly.
At Llangollen the trackbed to the east of the
Town is partially obstructed by a landscaped area, part of the
public car park and area in front of Lower Dee Mill, a housing
development at Hoel Esgob and The Woodlands Hotel (River Lodge).
Following the closure and relocation of the DAPOL Model Railway
Factory, the future of the Lower Dee Mill site became uncertain
and we have now heard that a developer may, or already has, applied
for planning permission to build approximately 45 luxury flats
on the freehold site. Our view is that any planning application
must be the subject of an objection unless the developer were
minded to make-over a suitable corridor to allow reinstatement
of a single track link-line.
Contrary to the view expressed by Denbighshire
County Council, I can inform you that a Condition Survey undertaken
by the railway's honorary civil engineer, Steve Jones, has shown
that, despite the obstructions to the trackbed already in existence,
reinstatement of a single-track railway extending from Llangollen
Bridge to the former Llangollen Line Bay at Ruabon is still achievable.
A deviation around the obstructions east of Llangollen has been
surveyed and confirms the practicality of such a project, but
that can only remain a possibility if Denbighshire Council can
be made to understand the benefits that such a project could bring
for Llangollen and the Dee Valley. In essence there is a critical
requirement to protect a corridor from the easternmost point of
the existing Llangollen Railway to where the original track-bed
can be accessed beyond The Woodlands/River Lodge Hotel.
The concept for reinstatement would be a single-track
railway occupying half of the former double track formation. Part
of the formation is used for public services and Wrexham Water,
who installed a water main a few years ago, took the trouble to
consult with the Llangollen Railway prior to undertaking the work.
Consequently the water main does not obstruct any plans to reinstate
the railway line. It is envisaged the half of the trackbed not
used by the Railway would become a cross-country footpath between
Llangollen and Trevor.
Apart from the works required to deviate past
the obstructed area at Llangollen, the other major concerns are
the missing road bridge at Acrefair and providing an independent
access to the Bay Platform at Ruabon avoiding use of the up and
down Chester lines. There is sufficient width within the existing
formation from Llangollen Line Junction to the Bay at Ruabon for
a single track to be laid independent of the main line, any connection
to Network Rail being an option to pursue at any time. However,
the problem is at Bridge WSJ2/504 (Plas Madog Road) crossing the
main line where the span is only sufficient for a double track.
The bridge is likely to be subject to reconstruction to meet new
load-weight requirements and if the southwest abutment were to
be moved back to allow a three-track span to be installed, the
operational situation would be resolved.
Bridge 3 at Acrefair crossing the A539 Road
was originally a single stone-built skew arch. Clwyd County Council
demolished it in 1974 as part of a road junction-widening scheme.
In engineering terms, replacement with a standard BR steel and
concrete composite through deck structure is relatively simple
and a practical solution.
Operationally it is anticipated a re-laid line
from Ruabon to Llangollen with a physical connection to the National
Network would provide potential to attract both local and seasonal
traffic, excursions and, possibly, freight using a trans-shipment
facility at Corwen.
Llangollen is a tourist destination with associated
traffic problems. The valley location offers little scope for
a by-pass road and, in the summer season, traffic clogs the surrounding
roads and car parks. At Swanage, on the Isle of Purbeck, the need
for a by-pass road was effectively avoided by the realisation
that the Heritage Railway could perform a valuable Park and Ride
function. The added attraction of Heritage Trains not only also
helped draw passengers out of their cars for the experience but
also freed the narrow roads in the area around Corfe Castle and
Elsewhere, a longer running scheme has significantly
reduced traffic congestion at St Ives in Cornwall and, in this
case, the highly scenic rail journey provides the additional attraction
for motorists to abandon their cars and let the train take the
strain. In both the cases I have quoted the appropriate Local
Authority provided the parking area adjacent to the railway lines
and suitable stations were built specifically to serve the park
and ride schemes.
In the case of Llangollen, the greatest potential
for generating a viable park and ride scheme is at Ruabon, situated
in Wrexham Council's area whereas Llangollen and the whole of
the trackbed from just east of Trevor as far as Corwen comes under
the jurisdiction of Denbighshire County Council. With access off
the A539, Ruabon Station is ideally situated to become a parkway
facility serving the Shrewsbury-Chester line both in a north and
southbound direction as well as west into the Dee Valley.
Ruabon Station is convenient not only to the
A539 but also the A483 and the A5/M54 corridor. It provides a
useful pick-up point for passengers travelling from Wales into
Birmingham and the West Midlands avoiding the A5/M54/M6 congestion.
In effect the Railway becomes a by-pass for the A5/M54/M6 into
the centre of Birmingham and this will be aided by the intended
rerouting of the BirminghamHolyhead services via Shrewsbury-Chester
in 2004. A parkway station at Ruabon also offers potential for
park and ride to Shrewsbury (and for services via the North &
West Line to South Wales and the Cambrian line into Mid Wales),
Telford and Wolverhampton southbound and Wrexham/Chester (with
connections to the North Wales Coast, Manchester and Liverpool)
Southbound services terminating at Wrexham could
be extended to Ruabon but potential would be enhanced if Ruabon-Llangollen
were operated independently of, but in association with, the existing
Llangollen Railway at specific times likely to attract good patronage.
At Llangollen the existing horse-landing dock has potential to
be extended back under Llangollen Bridge as a dedicated platform
to accommodate up to two Sprinter Units (four-Cars) permitting
heritage operations at Llangollen to be easily separated from
services off the National Network when required.
Chester is a developing centre of commerce and
finance and Llangollen is within the catchment area for attracting
employees. This would bring greater income into the town strengthening
the local economy for traders. Equally, at weekends and during
holiday periods, ease of travel into Llangollen without the need
to rely on the motorcar will further assist commercial development
and a good through rail service, especially with direct operation
from Llangollen to Chester for both commuting and social purposes,
will have traffic development potential. Ideally, a Ruabon-Llangollen
shuttle utilising DMUs from the Llangollen Railway's resources
would replace Monday to Friday through peak workings from a train
operating company during the off-peak period. Steam workings from
Ruabon to Carrog and Corwen would be restricted to peak holiday
periods and in connection with special events.
There is also potential for through trains and
charters, especially at the time of the Eisteddfod, and these
cannot be discounted because the ability to deliver up to 500
passengers without affecting road congestion in the town is significant.
Corwen also offers Park and Ride opportunities for those travelling
in from the west on the A5 and a railhead for freight at that
location could assist reducing heavy lorry movements.
I would appreciate you bringing this matter
to the attention of the chairperson and members of the committee.
I believe that there is insufficient weight given to the argument
of protecting closed track-beds and that there have been numerous
instances where it has become necessary to reuse them for their
original purpose. There is a clear need to be wise before, rather
than after, the event.
It is clearly essential, in this case, that
the Llangollen Railway effectively convinces Denbighshire County
Council that its current attitude against protecting the establishment
of a right-of-way past the obstructions to the trackbed at Llangollen
is wrong and that they should be wise before the event rather
than after when it is too late. In the most recent response from
Ian Miller, Chief Executive of the Council, he has simply said
that he has nothing to add to what he had written previously.
I have written to senior ministers of the Welsh Assembly but have
been referred to Denbighshire. Denbighshire's view is that they
have no resources or funding but, quite clearly, when the financial
arguments in terms of benefit to the community is assessed, and
set against matters such as road infrastructure improvements,
then reinstating the Ruabon to Llangollen Line will clearly provide
value for money.
I also believe that too little credibility is
given to the potential of the Heritage Railway Movement although
powerful evidence exists to demonstrate what it can deliver in
the form of delivering traffic solutions on the Isle of Purbeck
via the Swanage Railway. Heritage Railways have considerable depths
of experience, especially when many core participants are former
and current railway employees who have a natural enthusiasm for
both their job and hobby.
I am sure you will be delighted to learn that
the Llangollen Railway Trust, together with the architect and
contractor, recently received an Award from the Institute of Civil
Engineers for the renovation of the Berwyn Viaduct. Steve Jones,
the Trust's Honorary Civil Engineer, and myself attended the ceremony
on behalf of the Railway Trust to receive the award from Douglas
Oakervee, President of the Institute of Civil Engineers. The award
takes the form of framed certificates presented to the client,
the architect and contractor.
The Berwyn Viaduct renovation was completed
both on time and within budget and is a tribute to the professionalism
of the all those involved. The judges commented, and I quote:
"We could not help thinking how diabolically awkward the
site was. The quality of the workmanship is just terrific."
Clearly the Railway has established its credentials for managing
major projects and Steve Jones and myself have now taken on the
task of Project Development Officers for the purpose of establishing
acceptance by Denbighshire County Council that nothing should
be permitted to occur at the former DAPOL factory at Lower Dee
Mill that would preclude the potential reinstatement of a single
track railway from Llangollen Bridge to the National Network at
The Llangollen Railway does not have the financial
resources to undertake such a project and our view is that external
funding in the form of grants, etc would be appropriate. What
the Llangollen Railway does have is technical excellence to be
able to take forward such a project and where the rural rail network
can be enhanced by participation with the Heritage Railway Sector
that input can lower the cost of reinstatement.
If I were to express a view insofar as the site
of Lower Dee Mill is concerned, I cannot do other than observe
it has potential for the establishment of a National Railway Museum
for Wales and such a development would offer considerable potential
for traffic growth to improve viability of a reinstated. We already
have excellent facilities for restoration of locomotives and rolling
stock and the combination of the Llangollen Railway with a NRM
for Wales would create an excellent facility and attraction.
I am attaching copies of the route Condition
Survey and Costings. These costings are for delivering a track-bed
ready to receive the track. Allowing for an uplift since their
were prepared in the year 2000, adding legal costs and completing
works ready for service operation would bring the spend to the
region of £12-£14 million.
Hon Public Relations Officer
13 April 2004