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Hourly rail service demanded for Newtown

Created on 14/01/2022 @ 09:26
A full hourly service and more freight transportation should be prioritised on the Cambrian Railway through Newtown, a passenger group has said.

SARPA, the rail passenger group for the railway line, said the Welsh Government needed to take action to help address climate change by encouraging greater use of the line.

The group says the hourly service would encourage more passengers to use the railway instead of cars. It also said moving freight on to the line for the distribution of parcels by 'local' vans from stations along it would also reduce the movement of HGVs and other commercial vehicles in the area.

SARPA Chair Jeff Smith commented “It’s all very well having 100 pages plus policy documents making the right noises but its what happens on the ground that counts, freezing and reviewing road projects that haven’t started and having a target of increasing active and public transport will mean nothing if nothing then happens.  

"You can’t keep saying the phrase metro and publish colourful maps, something actually has to happen.”

SARPA is calling for the implementation of the full hourly service on the Cambrian main line to be the starting point not the end of the journey.

"Firstly, we need an equivalent of a Swiss Taktfahrplan implemented; shortly there will be at long last an hourly service between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth albeit operated by brand new diesel trains, onward connections by public transport are currently extremely patchy and hit and miss. Yet in many successful European countries public transport integration is natural without the false barriers invented in this country.

"The Cambrian Mainline has to be the main building block of any fully integrated public transport system in Mid Wales with long distance travel by rail connecting with local bus services at all stations."

He added: "Secondly, we know that there is no plausible decarbonised solution for Heavy Goods Vehicles that doesn’t significantly alter the dynamics of the road haulage sector, a sector that already has a recruitment crisis placing a question mark over its long-term future.

"An easy win that will remove long distance movements would be to send parcels by rail as a matter of course. This does not need bespoke infrastructure or trains.  Smaller electric powered vans can then distribute parcels locally from stations. 

"Thirdly, despite the pandemic it’s expected that rail leisure journeys especially to holiday areas like the Cambrian Coast will see increased demand in the coming few years, we need to have rolling stock in sufficient quantity and quality to attract and retain the new customers to rail.

"Whilst Transport for Wales are introducing new trains, we do not believe these are the most appropriate to meet the above aim.

"Unfortunately, they are powered by diesel engines, SARPA members saw plans in France for brand new hybrid electric and hydrogen powered trains which can operate off overhead electric wires on mainlines and then swap to hydrogen power. 

"On lines like the Cambrian that are currently not a priority to be electrified trains like this could maintain through services to the West Midlands conurbation.

"These new trains can be designed with appropriate passenger accommodation for long distance rural travel and have sections set aside to handle parcels and other small, palletised goods.

"Mid Wales is fortunate that its major rail link is still extant and can be made use of to ensure its competitiveness in a future changing world we need to make the most of this opportunity."