2017 will be the most important year yet for Traws Link Cymru as we prepare for the Full Feasibility Study. In January we met with Adam Price, the AM who was involved in the negotiations with the Labour government to ensure the funding for the Feasibility Study. In February we met with Ken Skates, the Minister with responsibility for Transport in the Welsh Government, and we also met with Guto Bebb, who is the Under Secretary of State for Wales. All three, from their different political perspectives, could see the huge advantage of rebuilding the railway between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. This month, March, will see us meeting with Baroness Eluned Morgan, who is both a member of the House of Lords and an AM for the Welsh Senedd.
There are those who are sceptical and think that spending £300,000 on the Feasibility Study would be better spent on new roads. Frankly such a sum would buy less than 100 metres of new road and in any case new roads simply attract more traffic. The 56 mile distance between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth is already covered by the existing track-bed of the railway and less than 3% of that distance would have to be re-routed. The whole distance could be rebuilt in less than three years (starting in 2019) which could mean that this part of West Wales, the poorest part of the UK, would be reconnected to the wider world by a modern, socially inclusive, 21st Century transport system by 2022.
Rebuilding the railway would provide plenty of work for local people and firms and it would directly connect 55,000 residents living in the villages and towns along the route (not to mention the 255,000 living in the catchment area and the 50,000 plus students at the schools, colleges and universities.) It would bring Lampeter (and Tregaron, Llandysul, Llanybydder etc.) back to life. Look at Lampeter High Street and Bridge Street with 20% of shops closed. It would bring visitors and tourists and revitalise the hotels as well as enabling residents to get easily to Cardiff, Bristol and London. It would stimulate the setting up of new businesses which would give employment to young people who currently have to leave the area to find a job and it would help to preserve the Welsh language by keeping people here where it continues to be spoken.
Looking out of my front window over the beautiful Teifi valley I can see where the railway used to run. It is not hard to imagine a modern train racing through the countryside, destination Cardiff or Aberystwyth. Circling overhead are buzzards and red kites and their view is one which we would love to gain. Last year we were lucky enough to fly the line with an aeroplane. The height at which the plane was obliged to fly meant that much of the detail in the movie which was filmed from the air was not visible. The drone will enable us to fill in those details and provide the team which undertakes the Full Feasibility Study a bird’s-eye view of the track.
Traws Link Cymru has achieved a great deal in three years but we are a group of only nine people. If you agree that the rebuilding of the railway is an important step (and 17,000 people who have signed our petition so far agree), then please volunteer to help us on the next phase of our exciting journey towards reconnecting West Wales. We meet fortnightly (sometimes less) usually on a Thursday at the Black Lion in Lampeter.
If you are interested then call me, Adrian Kendon, Chair, Traws Link Cymru on 01570 218056 or 07981 436981