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Railwatch 074 - December 1997

Mid Wales

By Chris Magner

Cambrian lines Railtrack officials with a radar speed gun travelled by road to ensure that when a steam engine ran from Shrewsbury to Towyn in October it did not exceed the many speed limits on the line. The train had to slow down to 10mph over five bridges between Shrewsbury and Dovey Junction! There are another five speed restrictions on the Machynlleth to Pwllheli section.

These speed restrictions - just one of the many examples of under-investment on Britain's railways - could well prevent more traffic being won. Moves are afoot, for instance, to restore stone trains and other freights to the Cambrian system but until the speed restrictions are removed, particularly two 10mph-restricted bridges between Shrewsbury and Welshpool, it will be almost impossible to fit extra traffic in. Next year Barmouth Bridge will be closed for six weeks in the autumn for repairs. Railtrack has told the Welsh Rail Users' Consultative Council that the work should allow loco-hauled traffic to be restored. Between January and March there will also be several weekend closures to upgrade track, we hope, for faster running. While the railway has been starved of investment, road bridges throughout Britain are being uprated to accept 40-tonne lorries. You - the taxpayer and rail user - are paying for it. And don't expect to see men with speed cameras chasing lorries.

Freight: Increasing use is being made of the Kronospan private siding at Chirk for timber trains and coal is being delivered by rail to Gobowen.

Day return Ticket takings at the private Severn Dee Travel in the former BR booking office at Gobowen station now amount to £1,000 per day. Quite an achievement.

Great Way Round It is now possible to travel from Whitchurch, Church Stretton, Craven Arms and Ludlow to London without changing trains. The Mayor of Whitchurch and members of the Crewe and Shrewsbury Passenger Association saw off the first train in September. The daily South Wales & West train (from Manchester Piccaddilly to London Waterloo via Bristol) is the first through service to Shropshire since BR InterCity withdrew trains more than five years ago. Now business leaders are hoping Virgin Trains will also respond by providing through trains from Shrewsbury to London.

Heart of Wales line Railtrack is closing parts of the line during winter weekends to carry out £1.6m-worth of bridge repairs. In the summer use of the line increased by 8%. The Travellers' Association has paid for a solar-powered light at Cynghordy station. The Rambler trains from Crewe were well used and the season was extended to 12 October. A connecting bus was provided by the Travellers' Association to the Elan Valley dams. The association is pressing for an all-year-round Sunday service.

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