Fast Track to Fishguard

section of Arriva Trains Wales map

Fast track?

A call for the century-old express line to Fishguard to be used for new high-speed services linking south-east and south-west Wales is published today by the Institute of Welsh Affairs.

Writing in agenda, the Institute’s journal, Mike Joseph (of Fishguard Trains) describes “radically improved access for the whole of west Wales, all using existing infrastructure”.

UK Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond last month announced that a “strong high-level case” may exist for electrification of the Cardiff Valley Lines. This follows four freight lines successfully restored for passenger use – west Cardiff, Maesteg, Vale of Glamorgan and Ebbw Vale. Earlier in 2009 Welsh Transport Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said “the easiest route for us to take is to look at the success of the Ebbw Vale line and at whether there are other tracks that are not being used”.

With the case for a regular service to Fishguard now accepted, national attention now turns to Fishguard’s other under-used railway – the express line built by the GWR in 1912, to speed the London-Fishguard boat trains non-stop past Neath, Swansea and Carmarthen. Still used today by freight and the lunchtime boat train to Fishguard, the line can support direct express services between Cardiff and all of west Wales – Carmarthen, Milford and Pembroke as well as Fishguard. Mike Joseph shows how the line can even offer a train/bus service linking Cardiff and Aberystwyth in 2 hours 50 minutes.

“But the best part of this vision” writes Joseph, “concerns Swansea. Far from being bypassed by this reopening, Swansea stands to gain Wales’ first genuine Parkway station”. The Fishguard express line passes through Swansea West Services on the M4, where the infrastructure for a Parkway station, complete with a motorway exit, already exists. Drivers could park and be in central Cardiff in 48 minutes.

Asked about the timing of this proposal, only days after the announcement of extra trains for Fishguard, Mike Joseph said “surveys have shown that Cardiff and London are the key places that Fishguard rail travellers want to reach. The Carmarthen shuttle is a great start, but the aim must be express rail from west Wales to the whole of the UK.”

* The call for a high speed route between Cardiff and west Wales is published by IWA in agenda www.iwa.org.uk

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