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TraCC Consultation on Draft Bus and Community Transport Network Strategy

 

 

50 years from Beeching - what next for rail in mid-Wales?

In March 1963 the Beeching Report, "a collection of ideas for discussion" was presented to the then Government in Westminster. This report heralded a new age of railway line and station closures across the UK in an age when rail was perceived to be in the decline due to the development of motorways, better roads, and improved cars, buses, coaches and goods' vehicles at a time when 'green' and sustainability weren't associated with transportation.

50 years on, the effects of the report are still being felt in Wales. Whilst the main east-west rail artery between Aberystwyth and the midlands is still there, other lines such as between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen which today would be major economic transport, have long gone. In addition, the line connecting Trawsfynydd to Blaenau Ffestiniog and the Conwy Valley line - although still there – does nothing more than provide a potential rail link between the decommissioned power station in the event of a containment failure and a future option for the transport of nuclear waste as part of the decommissioning process.

TraCC (Trafnidiaeth Canolbarth Cymru – the mid Wales Transport Consortium) is keen to support the re-invigoration of rail travel in Wales. TraCC firmly believes that maintaining and improving any existing rail links, and even looking at the feasibility of re-introducing and re-developing closed (or 'mothballed') railways should be a key part of the Welsh Government's transport aspirations for Wales.

Mid Wales has a 2-hourly rail service linking 4 major towns in Ceredigion and Powys with Shropshire and the West Midlands. There is a real argument for this to be made into an hourly service, and this continues to be one of our top transport priorities for the east-west artery. Also, the Cambrian Coast line links in to the Cambrian Main line and travels through Gwynedd along a major tourist destination in a region that relies on tourism to maintain the economy.

There is also a Network Rail 'mothballed' line linking Trawsfynydd with Blaenau Ffestiniog and the Conwy Valley Line. It is believed that relatively little infrastructure work would be needed there to re-open that line and provide a much needed rail link to the North Wales Coast, Cheshire and Merseyside. There are only four trains each way running on the Heart of Wales Line that links the busy railheads of Shrewsbury and Swansea and provides a lifeline for people living in the deeply rural communities of central Powys and northern Carmarthenshire.

As for the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen rail link, TraCC considers that we have to learn from the mistakes made by selling off parts of the line. If it were feasible, re-opening that line would create a much needed rail link connecting Aberystwyth by rail to Pembrokeshire, Swansea and Cardiff. A feasibility study would be welcomed.

Chris Wilson, TraCC Co-ordinator said: "Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that the increased costs of running a car, improvements to our existing rail infrastructure and rail stock, and more awareness of sustainable travel is making our rail network more important than it has been since before the days of Beeching. Good connections between our major towns are a key part of our economy and without them there is always the danger that we lose out on important business opportunities to those towns that are better connected."

TraCC is currently involved in a number of schemes designed to improve, enhance and develop transport links within mid Wales. These range from pursuing schemes to re-open 2 stations at Bow Street and Carno, improving access to cycle paths, bus interchanges, railway stations, and also conducting travel surveys with employers and promoting the use of travel plans designed to reduce reliance on individual car journeys.

County Councillor Barry Thomas, Chair of TraCC added: "50 years ago Lord Beeching, with his report, inadvertently swung a scythe through our rail network in mid Wales. It’s time to re-sow the seeds so that we are prepared for the next 50 years and more."

 

TraCC to Fund Access Improvements to Machynlleth Railway Station

Following receipt of additional financial support from the Welsh Government this year, TraCC is very pleased to be able to announce that it has been able to provide match-funding towards the 'Access for All' (Medium Tier) project at Machynlleth Railway Station.  

The much-needed project will overcome significant barriers to physical access at the Railway Station, particularly for passengers with disabilities.

TraCC is the local authority Regional transport Consortium for Mid Wales and is a collaboration between Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Powys councils.

Funding for the project is from the Department for Transport (DfT) and the TraCC RTP Capital Grant allocation. The DfT Grant is provided as part of its Access for All Mid Tier Programme which is for incrementally-funded improvements to station environments for the benefit of passengers.  TraCC supported the original application to the Department for Transport (DfT) and in December 2011 it was announced that the application was successful.

The scheme is estimated to cost in the region of £2.085 million and is identified as a priority scheme in the emerging TraCC Rail Strategy. The DfT contribution is capped at £1 million.

RTP Capital Grant is provided to TraCC by the Welsh Government and is allocated to regionally-prioritised schemes. TraCC submitted its 2014/15 spending proposals to the Welsh Government in February and the proposals are currently awaiting Ministerial approval. £100,000 has been provided in 2012/13 for Network Rail to undertake GRIP stages 1 to 4 and a further £600,000 is proposed as match-funding for 2013/14 to enable construction.

According to Network rail, construction of the scheme is expected to be complete by the end of March 2014.

This welcome news comes after many years of lobbying for improvements by local county and community councillors, access groups and successful partnership working between Network Rail, Arriva Trains Wales, Welsh Government and TraCC

TraCC to Administer Bus Funding Grant

Grant funding for bus and community transport services in Ceredigion and Powys will now be administered by the mid Wales Transport Consortium - TraCC - following an announcement made by the Welsh Government in January.

Following a review of bus funding in 2012, it has been decided that from April 2013, administration of the new Regional Transport Services Grant (RTSG) will shift from the 22 local authorities in Wales to the 4 local authority regional transport consortia.

Trafnidiaeth Canolbarth Cymru (TraCC) is the Regional Transport Consortium for Mid Wales and is an established and successful collaboration between Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Powys local authorities.

TraCC will receive grant funding directly from the Welsh Government and these funds will be used to reimburse bus companies.

Meirionnydd will receive its RTSG funding as part of the Gwynedd Council allocation via Taith, the North Wales Regional Transport Consortium.

Councillor Barry Thomas, Chair of the TraCC Joint Committee, and representative of Powys County Council said that one of the recommendations arising from the Bus Funding Review was that administering the grant at a regional level would be more efficient and would potentially offer cash savings.

"Any savings that we can make in the way that we administer the grant can be used to support local bus and community transport services. Our aim is to do just that, to reduce the overall impact of the reduction in funding in public transport so that we can continue to deliver the services that people rely on day in, day out," he added.

The new TraCC-administered funding scheme will replace the former Department for Transport-administered Bus Services' Operators Grant (BSOG), Local Transport Services Grant (LTSG) and Community Transport Concessionary Fares Initiative (CTCFI). TraCC will also administer key elements of the Welsh concessionary bus travel scheme. 

One of the key conditions attached to the grant is that a minimum of 10% of the RTSG budget must be spent on Community Transport schemes.

Bus and community transport operators have been notified of the changes by TraCC and the new arrangements will 'go live' from 1st April.

TraCC must also develop and submit a Bus and Community Transport Network Plan to the Welsh Government by mid January 2014, the content of which will be subject to consultation with a range of stakeholders and delivery partners. Once approved, the Network Strategy will support TraCC decisions on spending its RTSG allocation from 2014/15.

A full statement by the previous Minister for Local Government and Communities with regard to the changes to bus funding in Wales can be found at:  http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-business-fourth-assembly-written-ministerial-statements/dat20130117-e.pdf?langoption=3&ttl=Bus%20Services%20in%20Wales%20(PDF%2C%20189KB)

 

 

TraCC-Focus-05-2013.pdf

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