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Railwatch 080 - July 1999

North Wales

By Dave Sallery

Uphill struggle A scheme to cut traffic congestion in Snowdonia could undermine rail travel and even end up increasing the number of cars on North Wales roads. This was the central message of the branch's response to a traffic management study for northern Snowdonia. Although we congratulated the consultants for addressing the problem of too many cars in what is meant to be a peaceful conservation zone, we expressed concern that the recommended solution relies almost entirely on more frequent Sherpa bus services and ignores the good existing rail access to various parts of northern Snowdonia. The key proposal - a £3 parking charge in gateway locations with a free bus rover ticket for two people - makes access by car far cheaper than train and will appear to the public as an official endorsement of using the car to reach Snowdonia. Two people travelling together on a day trip to Snowdonia from Manchester will pay roughly 10 times more going by train and buying bus rovers than going by car. We urged the commissioning bodies to:

Full steam ahead The branch welcomes John Prescott's decision that he is minded to approve rebuilding the Welsh Highland Railway from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, provided the Ffestiniog Railway can prove there is no danger from falling rocks in the Aberglaslyn Pass. However, as outlined in Railwatch 79, we believe the WHR should be an integral part of a larger rail system for Snowdonia. With the creation of such a major attraction in Caernarfon, reopening the standard-gauge line from there to Bangor will be even more pressing. Our response to the Snowdonia traffic study (see above) outlined the potential for a Snowdonia Rail Circle involving the WHR, FR and standard gauge Blaenau Ffestiniog-Bangor-Caernarfon, with round robin tickets allowing unlimited breaks of journey.

Higher speeds The branch welcomes the decision by Railtrack and the Welsh Office to upgrade the line from Chester to Bangor to 90mph. However we see this as only a small step in the right direction. Bangor - Holyhead will remain at 75mph and no upgrading of the signalling system is planned. North Wales trains will still be signalled using oil lamps in the new millenium.

A bridge not far enough RDS now finds itself in the bizarre situation of objecting to a development promoted by Railtrack on the basis that it does not include adequate public transport access. The huge multiplex cinema complex would be right next to Llandudno Junction station but the developers have not included a footbridge for rail passengers in the plans. Rail users will therefore face a walk of five to ten minutes instead of 30 seconds. However the development does include nearly 500 car-park spaces and a drive-thru McDonald's! The branch lodged a formal objection with the local council in May. We said the development could only be allowed if direct pedestrian access from the station was provided. Otherwise, the development will be in flagrant breach of Welsh Office guidelines that new developments must be "highly accessible by means of travel other than the private car". Providing good access from the station is as basic as putting a roof on the cinemas but the developers say they will provide it only if European grants are available. If permission is given without the developers providing station access at their expense, we intend to ask the Welsh Assembly or Welsh Secretary to call the application in. Hopefully they will apply common sense in what will be a major test case for the Government's integrated transport policy.

Overcrowding The branch fears replacing some North Wales four-coach loco-hauled trains by two-car 158 units in the new timetable will lead to overcrowding.

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