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Railwatch 068 - July 1996

Privatisation jeopardises reopening

By Julian Langston

Plans to reopen the Vale of Glamorgan line between Barry and Llantwit Major in South Wales have been thrown into doubt by rail privatisation.

The scheme to provide a 90 minute interval service (60 minute at peak times) as an extension of the Cardiff Valleys network had been included in the Vale of Glamorgan Borough Councils Transport Policies and Programme. The Welsh Office was expected to provide funding.

Trains would travel beyond Barry, calling at three new stations: Rhoose (for Cardiff Wales Airport), Gileston for St Athan and Llantwit Major.

However, predicted Railtrack access charges have pushed the projected revenue support that would be needed from £210,000 to £330,000 per year. The council has decided that this level of revenue support is not sustainable and has deferred plans to re-open the line for at least a year.

Vale of Glamorgan Tory MP Walter Sweeney - who with a majority of 19 is the most vulnerable MP in the UK - has written to us expressing support for the scheme, but doubting that privatisation is causing any difficulties!

We have proposed an alternative service pattern involving diverting South Wales and the West Trains. The two-hourly AlphaLine service from West Wales to Portsmouth, Brighton or Manchester could go via the Vale of Glamorgan Line between Bridgend and Cardiff.

This would put Barry on the regional network and give a much more attractive service to business people using the airport.

However, we have learned that under an anti-competitive clause Cardiff Rail will have exclusive passenger rights to stations (except Cardiff Central) on the Valleys Lines network.

AlphaLine trains would not be allowed to stop at stations between Barry and Grangetown, inclusive. This is bizarre from a government whose watchword is supposedly competition. Not surprisingly, without the possibility of calling at Barry, South Wales and the West are not very interested in running services here.

Here is a reopening where almost all the hurdles had been overcome.

If this scheme, which was so close to becoming a reality before privatisation, can be so easily scuppered, what hope is there for all the other potential re-opening schemes across the UK?

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