August 30th 2019 – On To Stage 3 (At Last)
Almost two years ago, following a long fight by Carno Station Action Group, Carno was included in the list of 12 stations in Stage two of the Welsh Government Three Stage Assessment Process For New Stations (see this post for more details). The results of Stage two will define which of the 12 stations will proceed to Stage three – a full report on the financial and practical feasibility of each station.
THE CAMPAIGN SO FAR
The Carno Station Action Group was set up in 2002 as a sub-committee of Carno Community Council to campaign for the re-opening of Carno railway station on the Cambrian Line between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth. Carno is a growing village with a population of about 750 and is likely to grow further with the redevelopment of the former Laura Ashley factory site. It is located on the longest stretch of railway without an intermediate station in the whole of Wales – the 22 miles between Caersws and Machynlleth.
There is a strong consensus that the capital asset of the railway line passing through the village is being wasted as long as the trains pass through without stopping. Government policy is now to encourage the use of public transport for environmental reasons. This is set out in the Wales Spatial Plan, which emphasises the importance of Sustainable Accessibility and calls for the “planning of regions around strong integrated transport systems that meet more people’s needs for commuting to work”. Moreover, a central aim of the National Transport Strategy is “to make it easier for people to be less reliant on the private car and to use public transport, walking and cycling more frequently”.
The Carno Station Action Group has produced a detailed “Case for Re-opening Carno Station“, which can be downloaded by following the link. In brief, the central objective of re-opening Carno Station is to promote the sustainable regeneration of Carno following the closure of the Laura Ashley factory by:
- opening up job opportunities as far away as Telford and Aberystwyth
- dramatically improving the prospects of redevelopment of the moribund Laura Ashley factory site
- enabling the provision of new housing close to sustainable transport
- opening up opportunities for green tourism
- expanding the client base of existing tourist enterprises
- enhancing Carno Community Centre’s rôle as a conference centre for all-Wales organisations
THE CAMPAIGN IN 2007
The current phase of the campaign was initiated when it became apparent that Network Rail had shortlisted Carno as a passing loop location for the proposed Hourly Service. In January, Carno Community Council wrote to TraCC, the regional transport planning authority for Mid Wales, setting out the case for re-opening the station and requesting TraCC’s support. In their reply, TraCC undertook to ensure that the economic and social benefits of the station are considered when a decision was taken by Network Rail as to the location of passing loops.
At the beginning of April, Carno Station Action Group held a well-attended public meeting at which both Cllr Gwilym Evans, Chairman of TraCC, and Mr Mick Bates AM gave the re-opening proposal their enthusiastic support. This gave the campaign a kick-start, leading to the setting up of this web-site, a publicity photograph of supporters massed at the site of the old station and the collection of signatures for a petition to the National Assembly.
Carno Station Action Group petition
780 signatures were collected for a petition calling upon the Welsh Assembly Government “to re-open Carno Station and end the wasteful practice of stopping trains outside Talerddig with no passenger benefit” and a delegation of six took the petition to the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff and handed it over to the Presiding Officer, Lord Elis-Thomas, on the steps of the Assembly Building on June 12th. The petition was one of the first to be accepted under the Assembly’s new petitions procedure, which requires the newly constituted Assembly Petitions Committee to consider the petitioner’s request and make a formal response.
The Petitions Committee met to discuss the Petition on July 4th . They concluded that CSAG had presented a well argued case and decided to refer the petition to the scrutiny committee responsible for transport matters, the Enterprise and Learning Committee. They in turn resolved to hold a meeting in September in Carno itself to take evidence.
Intervention by Minister for Economy and Transport
On August 8th the Deputy First Minister and Minister for Economy and Transport, Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones, announced capital funding of £8 m to improve the infrastructure of the Cambrian Line and that the loops selected for rebuilding or enhancement would be at Dyfi Junction, Talerddig and Welshpool.
The decision in favour of Talerddig loop in advance of the Enterprise and Learning Committee hearing on September 4th, evoked widespread criticism because of the loss of the potential synergy between relocation of the loop at Carno and re-opening the station there. See “MINISTER’S LOOP DECISION PRE-EMPTS CARNO STATION ASSEMBLY HEARING“. However, in response to letters of protest, the Minister wrote that nothing in the choice of Talerddig “makes the potential future development of a station at Carno less practicable or less possible”
The Enterprise and Learning Committee hearing in Carno
This was held on the morning of September 4th in Carno Community Centre. Four Assembly member’s took part: Gareth Jones, Chairman, Jeff Cuthbert, Alun Davies and Mick Bates (in place of Kirsty Williams) and evidence was presented by Tony Burton (for the petitioners), Phil Jackson (Powys County Council), Mike Gallop (Network Rail), Ian Baxter (Network Rail), Mike Bagshaw (Arriva Train Wales) and Tim James (Welsh Assembly Government Head of Rail). All parties also submitted written evidence in advance, apart from Tim James. The CSAG written evidence can be found on the website Campaign Pages. Other written evidence can be found on the National Assembly for Wales website. Go to Business => Committees => Current Committees => Enterprise and Learning Committee => Agendas, Papers and Transcripts.
The 50 minute CSAG presentation was limited by time constraints, but succeeded in covering all the key subject areas. The first half examined the case for re-opening the station in isolation from passing loop issues and focussed on the methodology adopted to forecast passenger demand at the re-opened station (including abstraction from Caersws), the issue of platform length and the station cost forecast based on the £237k Beauly station in Scotland.
The second half considered the benefit of relocating the Talerddig passing loop at Carno, both to the overall Cambrian line timetable and in reducing delays to services due to a Carno station stop. It was pointed out that retention of the loop at Talerddig would require the proposed Welshpool “dynamic” loop to be extended by an additional 2 km, in all probability making this option more expensive after the additional track maintenance costs have been factored in. Finally it was noted that only one platform need be provided beside the loop to enable alternate trains to serve the station – a solution which would eliminate any need for a footbridge and considerably reduce the cost.
The Network Rail presentation was brief, but elicited a number of questions from AM’s on the rôle of the Cambrian Line, the £5 m Network Rail cost estimate for Carno station and the basis for Network Rail’s objections to a short platform station. It emerged that there was perceived to be a safety risk with the latter because it is estimated that the conductor-guard would open all the doors by mistake (rather than the door opposite the platform) once every 7,500 stops, with the risk that any passengers attempting to alight at the wrong doors would suffer injury. This despite the fact that only 27 alighting accidents per annum were recorded for the whole UK railway system from 1996 to 2000 at a time when many services were still operated by slam door trains!
Network Rail’s final word was that they “would take a lot of convincing to open any new stations on the Cambrian Line.”
The Arriva Trains Wales representative was closely questioned on the impact of the loop location on overall punctuality and conceded that Carno would be the better location.
The whole transcript is available on the National Assembly for Wales website.
The Enterprise and Learning Committee Report
The Committee published its report on September 20th. It was broadly favourable, recognising the stimulus a station would provide to rural regeneration and noting that the 20 mile plus gap between stations “adds considerable weight to the case for a new station”. It concluded that a formal business case needs to be developed, and recommended that the Minister’s officials provide support to the Carno station Action Group in developing and submitting such a case (Recommendation 4).
As far as the question of the passing loop location is concerned, the committee recognised that it was now too late to ask the Welsh Assembly Government to reconsider its decision to retain and enhance Talerddig, even though there may have been some operational benefits of locating the loop at Carno. However, on the positive side, they noted that the Head of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Rail Unit had told the committee that the design of the infrastructure enhancement project had been “future proofed” with some capacity built into it, including the possibility of locating a new station at Carno.
For the avoidance of doubt, the committee has asked the Minister to confirm that, following completion of the infrastructure enhancement project, it would still be possible to accommodate a single platform station at Carno without compromising the performance or reliability of a future hourly service on the Cambrian Line.
The findings and recommendations are reproduced on a Campaign web page and the full report can be viewed on the National Assembly for Wales website.
The Minister’s response
In his response to Recommendation 4 of the Enterprise and Learning Committee’s report on our petition to re-open Carno railway station, the Deputy First Minister wrote:
“It is the role of the Transport Consortia (in this case TraCC), Welsh Assembly Government, Arriva Trains Wales and Network Rail to develop formal business cases for enhancements to the railway infrastructure. Welsh Assembly Government believes that Carno Station Action Group can positively contribute towards this process through engagement with TraCC, rather than as a stand-alone entity.”
The Minister’s response is given in full on the “MINISTER RESPONDS to Enterprise & Learning Committee” news page.
Scrutiny of the Minister by the Enterprise and Learning Committee
The Scrutiny of the Minister by the Enterprise and Learning Committee on November 14th provided an opportunity for the Committee to clarify the procedure by which the formal business case would be delivered. In response, the Welsh Assembly Government Head of Rail, Mr Tim James, said “we told TraCC that it should lead the process, and that the people of Carno should help to provide evidence for that business case, along the lines of the Welsh transport appraisal guidance.”
The full Transcript of the Scrutiny session can be viewed at the “Enterprise & Learning Committee questions Minister – NOV 14TH TRANSCRIPT” news page.
THE CAMPAIGN IN 2008
Preparation and submission of draft Carno Transport Appraisal
Heartened by the official support for the production of a station business case, the Action Group worked very hard over the next six months to produce a draft Carno Transport Appraisal, which, following WelTAG (Welsh Transport Planning and Appraisal Guidance), looked at several options, including the station, for improving accessibility and prepared a business case for each.
The traffic demand forecast was based on existing usage of Caersws station and research at the Institute of Transport Studies into the way propensity to travel by rail declines with the distance of people’s homes from the station. It estimated that there would be in excess of 10,000 journeys per year in the year after opening, 36% of which would be additional ones – ie not abstracted from Caersws.
The cost of the station will be critically dependant on platform length, but based on costs of recently opened stations, a cost of £1 million was assumed. Network Rail’s cost breakdown for the recently opened Mitcham Eastfields station indicates that this is a realistic cost estimate for a station with a 4 carriage length platform. The Appraisal concludes that a station costing £1 million would yield a benefit cost ratio in the range 1.6 to 1.9.
The completed draft Carno Transport Appraisal was formally presented to Mr Gwilym Evans, Chairman of TraCC, at County Hall, Llandrindod Wells on July 1st, 2008. The draft Carno Transport Appraisal can be downloaded from the link on the Campaign for Better Transport website – http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/carno-station-action-group
The methodology and findings of the draft Appraisal are summarised on the “Draft CARNO TRANSPORT APPRAISAL” campaign page.
THE CAMPAIGN IN 2009
Completion of the formal Carno Station Business Case
The Action Group anticipated that TraCC would assess the document over the summer, research any areas that were not adequately covered, make the necessary changes and produce a final version bearing their imprimatur. However, it was subsequently learned that TraCC had taken no steps to finalise the Carno Transport Appraisal, which contains the station business case. TraCC cited lack of resources as the reason for their inaction.
The Action Group was disappointed that TraCC was unable to complete the formal business case in 2008, and went back to the National Assembly in a bid to get things moving. Following meetings in Cardiff, WAG officials arranged a meeting with TraCC, which took place in Newtown on August 6th, 2009. This resulted in commitments that a WelTAG Stage 1 appraisal of the station would be completed by February 2010 as part of the Cambrian Rail Study and the additional work needed to complete the business case would be completed thereafter.
YR YMGYRCH I AIL-AGOR GORSAF CARNO
Sefydlwyd Grwp Gweithredu Gorsaf Carno ym 2002 fel is-bwyllgor o Gyngor Cymuned Carno er mwyn ymgyrchu i ail-agor Gorsaf Rheilffordd Carno ar Linell y Cambrian rhwng yr Amwythig ac Aberystwyth. Mae Carno yn bentref ar ei dyfiant gyda poblogaeth o tua 700 ac y mae’n debygol o dyfu ymhellach pan ddaw ail-ddatblygiad cyn-safle ffatri Laura Ashley. Mae wedi ei leoli ar y darn hiraf o reilffordd heb orsaf yng Nghymru gyfan sef y ddwy filltir ar hugain rhwng Caersws a Machynlleth.
Mae teimlad cryf bod yr ased werthfawr o reilffordd yn rhedeg drwy’r pentref yn cael ei gwastraffu gan bod y trênau yn teithio trwodd heb oedi. Polisi Llywodraeth y Cynulliad ydy annog y defnydd o drafnidiaeth gyhoeddus am resymau amgylcheddol. Mae hyn wedi ei amlinelli yng Nghynllun Gofodol Cymru sydd yn pwysleisio’r pwysigrwydd o deithio i mewn ac allan o lefydd yn hwylus ac yn barhaol ac sydd yn galw am “gynllunio rhanbarthau o amgylch systemau trafnidiaeth integredig cryf sydd yn cwrdd ag anghenion pobl ar gyfer teithio i’r gwaith.”
Mae Grwp Gweithredu Gorsaf Carno wedi gwneud achos manwl dros ail-agor yr orsaf a gellir darllen ei gynnwys trwy ddilyn y linc canlynol. (Link)
Ar hyn o bryd mae pob trên yn oedi yn Nhalerddig, ddwy filltir i’r gorllewin o Garno, er mwyn i drênau fedru pasio eu gilydd ar y ddolen osgoi sydd yno, ond nid yw yn bosib i’r teithwyr esgyn i’r trênau na disgyn ohonynt. Mae’r Grwp Gweithredu yn argymell symud y ddolen osgoi o Dalerddig i Orsaf Carno pan fydd honno ar ei newydd wêdd. Byddai hyn yn caniatau defnyddio’r oediadau er mwyn i drênau basio eu gilydd yn ogystal a rhoddi mantais i deithwyr fyddai eisiau defnyddio’r trên o Orsaf Carno. Mae’r adeiladwaith sylfaenol angenrheidiol ar gyfer y gwasanaeth awrol arfaethedig yn darparu cyfle i wneud hyn fel y gwelir yn yr adran nesaf.
Y cyfle a gynigir gan y Gwasanaeth Awrol Arfaethedig
Mae “Network Rail” ar hyn o bryd yn gwneud astudiaeth ar gyfer Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru trwy ymchwilio i’r newid mewn adeiladwaith sylfaenol fydd eu angen ar Reilffordd y Cambrian er mwyn mabwysiadu’r gwasanaeth awrol. Byddai gwasanaeth o’r fath angen dolennau osgoi yng nghyffiniau y Trallwng a Chyffordd Dyfi ac yn agos i Garno fel ar hyn o bryd. Mewn cyflwyniad ym Mhorthmadog yn Nhachwedd 2006 cyhoeddodd Network Rail mae’r patrymau pasio gorau yn eu barn hwy oedd
* Dolen ddeinamig yn y Trallwng ; Talerddig; Cyffordd Dyfi
* Dolen osgoi ddeinamig fyrach yn y Trallwng; Carno; Cyffordd Dyfi
Yn yr enghraifft gyntaf, bydd angen i ddolen ddeinamig y Trallwng ymestyn dair milltir i’r dê er mwyn lleihau yr amser teithio ar y trac sengl i Dalerddig i wyth munud ar hugain. Yn yr ail engrhaifft gall dolen ddeinamig y Trallwng fod ddwy filltir yn fyrach gan bod Carno ddwy filltir yn nês i’r Trallwng na Talerddig. Mae’n amlwg bod yr ail ddewis yn mynd i arbed adeiladu dwy filltir o drac dwbwl ar gôst o adeiladu dolen osgoi yng Ngharno. Mae Network Rail yn amcanu mae cyfanswm cost y naill ddewis fyddai £14.9 miliwn a cyfanswm y dewis arall fyddai £15 miliwn – bron iawn yr un faint a’u gilydd. Mae Grwp Gweithredu Gorsaf Carno yn credu mae’r ail ddewis ydy’r un amlwg i’w fabwysiadu gan y byddai yn caniatau agor gorsaf i wasanaethu Carno heb achosi oediadau ychwanegol ar y gwasanaeth trênau. Bydd mabwysiadu’r gwasanaeth awrol arfaethedig yn rhoi cyfle delfrydol i ddod a’r arfer gwastrafflyd o atal trênau yng nghefn-gwlad yn Nhalerddig a symud y ddolen osgoi i Garno lle byddai trênau yn gallu pasio eu gilydd ac oedi yn yr Orsaf yr un pryd.