A very successful meeting took place in Carmarthen last night where nearly a hundred people came to see a presentation by Traws Link Cymru about the campaign to re-open the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway and the Afon Wen to Bangor line in North Wales, to create a West Wales rail link.
The fully bilingual meeting, hosted by Carmarthen Town Council, was opened by Councillor Alun Lenny, in the absence of the Mayor. He recalled the line from childhood days when his mother would put the washing out if the direction of the steam from the engines told her that the wind would not bring rain! Councillor Calum Higgins re-iterated the County Council’s support and ably chaired the meeting, introducing Mike and Geraint of Traws Link Cymru who gave very effective presentations on, respectively, the history of the line and the aims and success of the campaign to date, as well as a detailed survey of the trackbed revealing that less than 3% of the old line had been built over. The vision was one of a fast, modern railway, with fewer stations and faster alignments allowing Carmarthen to Aberystwyth in 1hr 30mins, and Carmarthen to Cardiff in a further 1hr 30mins via Morriston Parkway.
Short speeches of support followed by AMs Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Simon Thomas, who praised the effectiveness of the campaign to date and highlighted the great potential of the line to link up north, south and west Wales by rail and generate a host of benefits – economic, social and enviromental. Various funding possibilities were discussed, including European funding and Welsh Assembly borrowing powers, though rail infrastructure is currently not a devolved responsibility. Apologies were also received by Jonathan Edwards MP, Simon Hart MP and Byron Davies, AM, who could not be present.
There followed a question and answer session which highlighted people’s support for the line’s re-opening: several individuals who didn’t own cars described the present difficulty of traversing West Wales by bus, another drew attention to the increasing centralisation of hospital facilities in Carmarthen and Aberystwyth and the need to travel long distances to appointments, whilst another spoke eloquently about the beauty of the terrain the line traversed, and the huge potential for tourism. Flora McNerney, Trinity St Davids University Students Union President also stated support from the students in Lampeter and Carmarthen who would be able to travel to the National Library and University at Aberystwyth.
Last but not least a raffle was drawn and members of the public urged to sign the petition, which already stands at over 8,000 signatures, and to fill in a short survey about how they might use the re-opened line.
Traws Link Cymru is an apolitical pressure group constituted as a charity. We are building cross-party and popular support for re-connecting West Wales by rail. We have previously held successful public meetings in Lampeter, Tregaron, Llanybydder and Aberystwyth. We have gained the support of 41 Town and Community Councils, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire County Councils, as well as 3 MPs, and 27 AMs and the Lib-Dem party in Wales. Very positive meetings have been had with Network Rail, Edwina Hart the Assembly’s Finance and Transport Minister, and Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Wales. The next goal is to obtain funding, hopefully from both the Welsh and UK governments for a feasibility study into the line’s re-opening, and there are more public meetings planned for Llandysul/Pencader and Aberaeron.