A Letter to the Editor 18

In which The Author corrects a production error

The Wales Online website today has a feature called 7 Ways the Beeching Cuts stitched up the Welsh rail system. It highlights some of the absurd and time-consuming journeys faced by passengers travelling between our country’s large towns, since the branch lines connecting them were torn up five decades ago (see Nice Work If You Can Get There.)
One of the seven journeys they singled out was this:


Unfortunately, as is the wont of local papers (and their websites), the gremlins got involved along the way. In true Private Eye tradition, the pictures have been transposed. The short journey, across the heads of the valleys via Merthyr and Aberdare, hasn’t been possible in my lifetime. Instead, passengers have to travel via Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend and Neath in order to reach their destination. With this in mind, I’ve just sent the following email to the editor:
I liked today’s online feature about the way Dr Beeching ruined the railways in Wales. It was interesting to see how the loss of short but ‘uneconomic’ branch lines resulted in such convoluted – and no doubt expensive – journeys from A to B.
However, your graphic accompanying the Pontypool to Swansea trip was reversed in production. It hasn’t been possible to travel from Pontypool, via Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare, since the mid-1960s. Indeed, the present A465 road from Hirwaun to Glynneath follows the course of the old line for some distance.
Even if the passenger service to Hirwaun is reinstated (as we’ve been promised several times, but which never seems to come to fruition), there’s a gap of five miles between the railheads. The prohibitive costs of reconnecting them, upgrading the freight-only line between Neath and Cwmgwrach, and leasing new rolling stock, all put this project firmly in the ‘Dear Father Christmas’ category at present.
The expensive political football of railway electrification is currently being kicked between Cardiff Bay and Westminster. It’s frequently emphasised that commuters to Cardiff will benefit from these improvements. But what about people travelling to Wales’ second city from the heads of the valleys, whether for work, to study, or for social visits? We’re completely sidelined.
It isn’t even possible to travel from Aberdare to Swansea by bus in any meaningful fashion. The direct service was killed off a couple of years ago. It is possible to change buses (and operators) at Hirwaun, but the first bus arrives at Swansea too late for people to travel to work, and the last one back leaves too early for people to get home again. It’s a ludicrous situation.
If a decent bus service (by which I mean, ‘one which was actually any use’) were introduced, I’m sure that it would be well used. Of course, it would need to be frequent, reliable, affordable, and operate a timetable which made it a viable service for people to commute to Swansea every day.
Personally, I have my doubts whether this could be achieved. I spent over ten years commuting to Cardiff by bus, and eventually changed to the trains because the company in question failed to deliver on every aspect of my ‘wish list.’ I’m sure you’ll understand why I’m not optimistic.

One thought on “A Letter to the Editor 18”

  1. This one made it into the Western Mail this morning. Luckily my mate in Aberdare Library was keeping his eye open for it, as I wouldn’t have bought the paper otherwise. At 75p a pop, it’s no wonder I don’t buy it every day.

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