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Gwynedd councillors raise concerns over Cambrian coast train service cuts

Cyngor Gwynedd Council (Pic: Google Map)

GWYNEDD councillors have raised concerns over “unacceptable” planned cuts to an “immensely important” Welsh railway line.

They say the Cambrian Coast line provides an important service for locals accessing shops, jobs and services and is a popular route for tourists.

In April, Transport for Wales announced a “future timetable review” stating it would be removing four services between Machynlleth and Pwllheli (two in each direction).

Two further services would be re-timed and run between March and December, 2024.

A mooted hourly service would only run between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury from May to September, from May, 2026.

During a meeting of Cyngor Gwynedd in Caernarfon, on Thursday (May 9), Llanbedr and Harlech Councillor Gwynfor Owen raised a “notice of motion” about the proposal.

The line follows the curve of Cardigan Bay serving numerous small, rural Welsh towns and villages.

Spanning 120 miles of unspoilt natural beauty the line has been considered one of the most scenic in Britain, with stunning coastal and mountain views.

The Cambrian Line from Shrewsbury also connects the coast line with the Midlands and the rest of the UK.

Cllr Owen described how the railway was of “immense importance” to the county, with thousands of visitors and local people using the railway on a daily basis to go to school, work, to shop or for leisure purposes.

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Cllr Owen said: “Transport for Wales have recently stated that they want to cut the number of trains running along the line.

“The way to improve train use is by increasing the number of trains and definitely not cutting them.

“This council makes it clear to Transport for Wales and to the Welsh Government, who are the owners of Transport for Wales, that any cut in the number of trains on the Cambrian Railway is not acceptable, and instead they should look at how to increase the number of trains throughout the year.”

He told the meeting that the message to “stop using cars and use public transport” was “impossible” for his constituents on the rural west coast where there were already fewer bus services.

Local people were under a “curfew” due to timetable cuts and young people were being “denied a social life,” he said.

“[Welsh Government transport minister] Ken Skates has already approved these cuts,” he said, adding that he would be meeting with him over the Lanbedr bypass issue.

“I intend to also raise this matter, then,” he added.

A formal question was also tabled by Councillor Eryl Jones-Williams who asked if Cyngor Gwynedd would make “strong representations” to get Transport for Wales to change their minds.

He said: “This will have a serious effect on locals travelling to and from work locally, and on long distance rail travel for locals and visitors.

“Did the decision makers take into account that the Cambrian Coast Railway line had been closed for three months in the past three years for work to be undertaken on Barmouth Viaduct with no trains running and the replacement bus service being unreliable?”

He also noted the that matter had been raised with Mr Skates, and requested the council ask the Welsh Government to give the matter more time to consider the issue.

In reply, The council’s cabinet member for the environment, Councillor Dafydd Meurig said the leader of the council had received correspondence from James Price, the chief executive of Transport for Wales on April 10 2024, regarding timetable changes, which had been shared with councillors with constituents most affected, he said.

He said he responded on April 24 asking for confirmation, but said no response was received.

He said: “I referred specifically to the impacts of the changes on the local communities and the public in general, influencing factors relating to service levels over recent years and the impact on passenger numbers.

“Such a negative change is in complete divergence with the strategic aims, aspirations and objectives set out at a local, regional, and national level.

“We are looking to promote, facilitate and achieve a modal shift to mitigate the impacts of climate change, improving access in general and the quality of life and health of our residents.

“However, reducing the availability and attractiveness of what are already limited opportunities to travel by public transport in the areas served by this railway is a significant step in the wrong direction.

“I have made this point quite clearly to Transport for Wales.”

Dolbenmaen Cllr Stephen Churchman said: “When you consider the Welsh Government wants us out of our private motor cars and on to public transport – a laudable dream – but how do we do it when our public transport network isn’t fit for purpose?

“They have already mucked up our bus services.

“Residents are prisoners in their own homes, not expected to have social lives, the services are not fit to get people to and from work – it is no good for employment, it denies people the chance to earn a living.”

Aberdyfi councillor Dewi Owen was pleased the matter had been raised, noting that there was a major rise in tourism during the summer months.

He said: “This will be a huge hit if this goes on we must fight to keep these trains going.”

A vote to accept the motion was passed unanimously with 63 votes.