September saw the much-heralded reopening of the Borders Railway in Scotland between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, after 46 years of closure. Some of you have may have seen the pictures on the news – hundreds of people queuing up from the early hours to be on the first train from Tweedbank on 6th September; hundreds more gathering to wave and cheer the train as it filled up at the eight stations along the route before its final stop at Edinburgh Waverley. And then the Queen officially reopening the railway four days later on the occasion of her becoming the longest reigning monarch.
The Borders line is 30 miles long and was re-built by Network Rail at a cost of £294m, paid for by the Scottish Government. It has required the building or refurbishment of 140 bridges, one of which involved diverting a trunk road! Services will be half-hourly on weekdays and it will take an hour to go from Tweedbank to Edinburgh. Scottish Infrastructure Secretary, Keith Brown, said it was “a chance to access new work, learning and social opportunities, as well as new business and industry links.” He went on to say that “the Borders Railways has become the symbol of this golden age of Scotland’s railways, and it will be the vehicle for a new prosperity for the communities on the route.” Mike Catley, Chairman of Visit Scotland, described the start of services as “a truly historic moment” for Scotland. In the first month of operation 125,000 passengers have already travelled on the line, and it is hoped that there will be a million users within five years. The Campaign for Borders Rail, which started the ball rolling in 1999, has also welcomed the opening as “one of the greatest achievements of grassroots rail campaigning in British history”. There is already growing support for and discussion about a further feasibility study to extend the line to Hawick, and eventually to Carlisle, the other end of the original line. Why is all this relevant to us? Traws Link Cymru takes great inspiration from the re- opening of the Borders line. Their campaign shows what can be achieved by steadily building community and political support. The isolated towns of West Wales are analagous to the once-prosperous mill towns of the Scottish Borders. Also, reopening the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line and the line between Afon Wen and Bangor could hold even more potential, as therein lies the strategic vision of linking up the whole of Wales efficiently and inclusively. Already Traws Link Cymru has made great strides. By the time you read this we will have been campaigning for over two years. We have collected over 11,300 names on our petition and obtained cross-party support from town and community councils along the line, county councils, MPs and AMs. We have held successful and positive meetings in Lampeter, Tregaron, Llanybydder, Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Aberaeron and Llanilar. The matter has been debated in the Senedd and we have met with Edwina Hart, Welsh Assembly Finance and Transport Minister, Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Wales and senior civil servants in the Welsh Assembly Government. The upshot of all this is that the Welsh Government has now commissioned a scoping study, appointing specialist consultants over the summer, to look into the possibility of re-opening the line.
We await their findings with great anticipation and will let you know any details as soon as we can!
Other news: Very shortly, we are hoping to have organised a microlight (light aircraft) flight along the whole of the line, and filmed its features, revealing once and for all how little of the track has been built over, and how beautiful the whole terrain is. We plan to turn it into a DVD to sell to raise funds for the campaign and the proposed flight has generated intense media interest. On 24th September, we held a public meeting in Llanilar’s attractive community hall which was attended by over 40 people. Glyn Jones, who is the chair of the Cambrian Branch of Railfuture, and who lives in the area, chaired the meeting very well. In addition to excellent presentations by Mike Walker and Geraint Blaney, Ceredigion County Councillor Elizabeth Evans, and local AM Elin Jones spoke passionately in favour of the project. Questions were then taken, and some constructive suggestions noted, before proceedings were concluded with a raffle. Another welcoming and encouraging meeting, conducted in both Welsh and English, with efficient and proficient translation by Heledd Jones. TLC members also recently attended Freshers Fairs at Trinity St David University in Carmarthen and Swansea, adding to the petition substantially. We also plan to visit
Aberystwyth and Swansea Universities in the near future. Joanna Bond presented her project, Singing the Line into Existence, at Ceredigion Museum on 3rd October, along with other acclaimed musicians and artists. This was the culmination of some six weeks’ outreach work: walking the line, meeting local residents and creating an artistic response to what the line meant and could mean again to people. A successful and thought-provoking evening…
Current plans for October include meeting First Minister Carwyn Jones on his Cyfarfod Carwyn tour in Aberystwyth and asking him to re-iterate his commitment to funding a full feasibility study. Also, attending a conference in Aberystwyth University on How Cardigan Bay Can Punch Above its Weight Economically. Last but not least, we hope to hold a social event at the Pont Llanio station site. If you want to find out more about the campaign, please visit the website: www.trawslinkcymru.org.uk. We need you to sign the petition if you haven’t already done so, and fill in the online survey! You can also visit our Facebook page for up to date information. Just type in Traws Link Cymru.
Traws Link Cymru is a charity and relies on donations to fund the campaign. Donations are needed for printing, room hire and promotion. If you would like to make a donation you can arrange for your bank to make a direct transfer to our account or set up a regular standing order. Our details are: Barclays Bank, Lampeter, Account Name: Traws Link Cymru, Sort Code: 20-18-41, Account No: 93407101. Or send a cheque payable to Traws Link Cymru to: Adrian Kendon (Chair), Dolanog, Llanwnnen Road, Lampeter, Ceredigion, SA48 7JP.