CSAG puts case to Montgomeryshire Shire Committee

The Shire Committee invited Tony Burton to its January 9th meeting to set out the case for re-opening and to report on the exciting developments this year, following the presentation of the Action Group’s petition to the National Assembly. He explained that the core of the Action Group’s case was the sustainable regeneration of Carno in the wake of the Laura Ashley factory closure three years ago. Station re-opening would make job opportunities as far afield as Telford and Aberystwyth accessible to Carno residents and would dramatically improve the prospects of redeveloping the moribund factory site. Housing development on the site would be sustainable, in marked contrast to much new housing in the county in the past, because residents would not be dependent on private transport.

 

The Shire Committee heard that Carno Station Action Group had carried out a detailed demand forecast for the station, which predicted that it would attract about 11,000 passenger journeys a year. The estimated additional annual revenue of £25,000 taken over 60 years would yield a Present Value of £900,000 after discounting, which was well over double the probable cost of a single platform station based on the Eastfields precedent. The way forward charted by the Assembly’s Enterprise and Learning Committee was the preparation of a formal business case and the Action Group were now going to work in conjunction with TraCC, the Mid Wales Transport Consortium, to develop this.

Enterprise & Learning Committee questions Minister – NOV 14TH TRANSCRIPT

 

Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru – The National Assembly for Wales

Y Pwyllgor Menter a Dysgu – The Enterprise and Learning Committee

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

 

Craffu ar Ymatebion Ysgrifenedig y Gweinidog a Network Rail i Adroddiad y Pwyllgor ar ei Drafodaethau ynghylch Deiseb i Ailagor Gorsaf Reilffordd Carno

 

Scrutiny of the Minister’s and Network Rail’s Written Responses to the Committee’s Report on its Consideration of the Petition to Reopen Carno Railway Station

 

[284] Gareth Jones: I remind you that we have received papers: paper 3, which was prepared by the minister, and paper 3a, which is Network Rail’s response to the report and to recommendation 6. We have little time, and I hope that we can be as concise as possible, but this is an important matter.

[285] I will give you the background in brief, or remind you of it. The committee considered a petition to reopen Carno railway station in a public meeting in Carno on 4 September. Having evaluated the evidence, the committee laid its report before the Assembly on 27 September. The Minister provided his written response before the date specified by Standing Orders for the committee to scrutinise its decisions. Network Rail has also provided its response to recommendation 6, which was directed at the company. This is the scrutiny session. We welcome back Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Deputy First Minister and Minister for the Economy and Transport. Would you be kind enough to give a short presentation in accordance with your comments on this matter? We will then have an opportunity to question you on some aspects of your comments.

 

[286] The Deputy First Minister: Tim James has joined me from the department to answer any technical questions arising from the report. I welcome the opportunity to respond to your report. I realise that this is part of a new process in the Assembly for submitting petitions to the Petitions Committee. This petition was transferred to you and you drafted a report and I have responded to it. I feel that this is an important part of our work as a Government in responding to the needs of communities, when we are able to do so – it does not always mean that we can give the response that the committee or the petitioners would wish, but I feel that it is an important part of our new processes. It is important that people have a method by which they can present the concerns of their communities to the Assembly and to the Government and that we can respond. I do not know whether it would be of any benefit for me to make any specific presentation on the report as your report has received quite a full response from my officials and me. I am quite happy to answer any questions arising from the recommendations and the response.

 

[287] Gareth Jones: I welcome the people from Carno who are in the public gallery today. This session gives us an opportunity to ask questions about the contents of your paper.

 

[288] Kirsty Williams: Thank you for your response, Minister, although I am sure that you would agree that it is not what people in Carno would have liked it to be. I have questions about two of the recommendations specifically. You have given assurances that the selection of Talerddig, rather than Carno, as the passing loop site does not prejudice the potential opening of a station of Carno. However, in terms of having an hourly service, there must be time for the trains to travel from one passing loop to the next within 30 minutes. Can you assure us that that will still be possible with the inclusion of a stop at Carno? If it is not, that demonstrates that you are not correct in saying that selecting Talerddig has not compromised the situation at Carno.

[289] Your recommendation 3 mentions passive provision for a single-platform station. What is the nature of the passive provision for the station in Carno? You state that the optimum site for the new station is not yet known. Would common sense not tell you that it is likely to be the site of the original station?

[290] On recommendation 7, there is grave concern that ‘New Stations: A Guide for Promoters’ lays down very high standards. No-one wants to compromise on safety, but it talks about two-platform stations costing between £5 million and £7 million in 2004. My understanding is that the current station at Llanharan is being built for only £4.3 million, even though it includes a very expensive footbridge that complies with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, which is completely necessary. Do you not share my concerns, and those of people living in rural Wales, that there is a danger that setting unnecessarily high standards for new stations may price them out of existence? Do you not think that there is scope for the Welsh Assembly Government to look at the Welsh situation differently, given the nature of our country? Perhaps we could produce our own Welsh version of a new station guide, given the nature of Wales and also the Government’s stated commitment to climate change and sustainable development.

 

[291] 11.30 a.m.

 

[292] The Deputy First Minister: There are some quite technical issues there, which I will ask Tim to come to in a minute. However, my understanding is-and it has always been on this basis-that the work that has been carried out under the contract does not compromise the future of provision of a station in Carno. That is my understanding, and I want to give that reassurance again that the work that is currently being done, and the way that it is being done, does not compromise the provision of a station in Carno at some future point. That is the first thing that you asked for.

[293] Your second point related to the Cambrian line infrastructure enhancement project providing passive provision, which is in my response. A technical feasibility study would be needed to understand all of the issues that are set out there, which would be compliance to engineering standards, compliance to the DDA, ownership and availability of land, safety standards, and so on. It is important for us to accept that there is a minimum standard that has to be achieved in the provision of safety. If we compromised on those, people who would expect that certain safety standards were met would criticise us for not meeting those standards in particular areas where we have asked others to meet those standards. So, we must have a common standard form. The issue about whether they should be different in Wales as compared with England is a difficult one, because we would not want to compromise safety standards in Wales at all. We need to bear that in mind.

[294] Tim, I would like you to come in on the passive provision, but, I would like to make a more general point first. The reality is that, as a Government, we are very committed to the provision of public transport, which includes rail. We want to make it as easy as possible to use those services. A number of criteria have to be met. We are saying that the door is not closed on a station in Carno; we now need to look at a possible business case, which can be presented to the regional consortium and can then be considered in the normal way through that procedure.

 

[295] Mr James: I will respond to Kirsty’s question about what passive provision means. Essentially, the line is being resignalled, and there is a capability within that design to allow a station to be located somewhere in Carno. So, it does not preclude it. There is no need to go back to the drawing board and spend money on a complicated design process.

[296] Picking up on some of the other points, as the Minister has said, high standards need to be maintained for railway stations. If you look at the document that you have referred to, the Strategic Rail Authority guide to stations, it says that:

[297] ‘The promotion of a new station proposal will involve a number of industry participants. Before a proposal can proceed the support of the rail industry must be obtained.’

[298] The industry extends beyond Wales. However, we have seen this guidance note used effectively in Wales, where six new stations are opening on the Ebbw Vale line, and in Llanharan and Abercynon. So, as a guidance document, it can be useful. Clearly, parts of it are out of date. It may be of some comfort to the committee to know that the Department for Transport is currently rewriting this document to bring it up to date, and is taking advice from us in the process.

 

[299] Kirsty Williams: The concern is that the Minister’s response relies heavily on that document, which gives quite large figures for the development of stations, which perhaps bear no resemblance to reality-the Minister is saying that we have a limited budget and the document says that a new station would cost us a certain amount, but, in reality, stations are being built for less than would be indicated by the design guide, and not to a lesser standard; they simply come in cheaper. I would hate to think that we were prejudicing the case because we are relying on outdated or outmoded figures. Our experience tells us different.

 

[300] Mr James: At Carno, when I gave the original evidence, I quoted the Llanharan figure of between £4 million and £5 million as a likely maximum cost for Carno. I would like to assure you that we are not gold-plating any potential costs.

 

[301] Gareth Jones: Thank you for that information, which is important and central to the matter of reopening the station.

 

[302] Jeff Cuthbert: Thank you for this fairly positive response. Carno is not in my constituency, obviously, but I feel involved because I was one of the Assembly Members who attended the hearing, and I take a particular interest in the development of the railway network, which I regard as probably the key form of land-based transport, especially for passengers. That does demand, of course, that it stops to pick people up in population centres. Clearly, in that part of mid Wales, Carno is such a centre of population, so it seemed an obvious and welcome proposal.

[303] I note that you are encouraging greater involvement with the local transport consortium-I hope that that happens. Would you give positive encouragement to the transport consortia to engage with the residents of Carno-the petitioners-so that a decent business case can be put together? Like Kirsty-or rather, her now-empty chair-I accept that safety has to be paramount and that any new station, or the remains of the old station there, which would seem the ideal location, has to be DDA compliant, and has to have adequate lighting and so on, although I am quite sure that there are grounds for questioning the estimated £5 million for its construction. I am not saying that the cost would be as low as the £0.5 million that the petitioners believe it could be built for, but there has to be some movement somewhere.

[304] In its approach to the matter, Network Rail insisted, if memory serves me, that a footbridge had to be built over the existing line. Having said that, we did this the wrong way round in that we heard that before we actually went to have a look at the site. When we got to the site, we saw that the existing arrangement of a level crossing with half barriers on the road was working quite normally. I was able to walk back and forth over it many times without any threat to my life, and I dare say that the train slows down and there would be warnings. A footbridge would mean substantial expenditure; I do not see the justification for that, especially as the platform, if built, would be on the side of the centre of population. So, when we take these things into account, it could be that the actual construction costs would be far less than originally anticipated. Those are the sorts of issues that could be looked at by the transport consortium, in negotiation with Network Rail and others, in drawing up a business plan.

 

[305] The Deputy First Minister: Yes, that is the case. If the business case comes forward, then they need to reflect on your comments-I am sure that they will read the comments and the Record of Proceedings for this committee with interest when they form their case.

[306] When you say ‘encouragement’, there is encouragement there for the local community to positively contribute towards the process, as we say in our report in response, through engagement with Trafnidiaeth Canolbarth Cymru. Then, of course, the business case will come forward for consideration. The original recommendation was that I would ask my officials to provide support to the action group. We are saying that that is best delivered in discussion with TraCC, because we need to look at regional priorities as well, bearing in mind your points about construction. If the business case comes up with a proposal, then we would look at it, although I cannot give any commitments, financial or otherwise, at this stage. Tim, do you want to add to that?

 

[307] Mr James: Just to say that TraCC is one of the consortia putting together regional transport plans, and we would look to see Carno as a priority within such a plan, so that it can be considered along with the other consortia in the round. TraCC can help Carno with making a business case that fits the Assembly government’s appraisal criteria.

11.40 a.m.

 

[308] David Melding: I am still a bit confused. It seems that recommendation 4 was the key one in that this committee felt that a formal business plan should be submitted and that support would be needed for that. I cannot determine whether a business case will be presented yet; the officials tell us about the regional procedures, but is there a business case currently under construction on whether there should be a station at Carno? That is not the responsibility of the Carno Station Action Group, because I agree with the recommendation that it should be the consortia-the Assembly, Arriva Trains, and Network Rail. Therefore, are those organisations consulting the Carno Station Action Group, and are they working on a business plan for a station at Carno? We need a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to that. I note that Network Rail’s response is that it does not consider that an appropriate business case exists for a new station at the site, but that, if a third party were to submit a business case for its reopening, it would be assessed by Network Rail. It seems completely disassociated from the process-that is what concerns me.

 

[309] Mr James: On whether a business case exists, the answer is ‘no’. However, one is being worked on; I am aware that the action group has contacted TraCC and has asked for its help. 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, which sets a clear framework for appraising projects. Therefore, the current answer is that it is in progress-it is probably in its early days.

[310] On Network Rail’s position, it is stated that Network Rail would not be prepared to fund the station itself. However, there is a window for third-party funding, so, if there is a business case, and if it is a priority, then it is something that we can do because we have the powers to do that under the Railways Act 2005.

 

[311] Gareth Jones: As one of the Members who was present in Carno at that crucial meeting, I am pleased to hear you say, Minister, that, whatever we write in our letter to you, or to the Petitions Committee, if that content is positive and gives support, then that you would seriously consider that.

[312] I accept that this is not a business case as you would normally require, Minister, but, as a mark of respect to the action group in Carno, I believe that it is to be warmly congratulated on the way in which it has presented this case to us, and to the Assembly. Its objectives in relation to the community and what it expects in terms of development in this part of mid Wales are in line with our objectives and aspirations as the Welsh Assembly Government. Getting all of that in line with a successful business plan is another matter.

[313] However, I can reassure those people from Carno who are here that we as a committee thank them for the work that they have carried out. We recognise their sincerity and aspirations, as well as their expertise in this matter, and their aspirations. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all members of this committee when I say that we will be declaring our support for what they wish to see, namely the reopening of the station in Carno.

[314] I remind you, therefore, that we will be writing to the Chair of the Petitions Committee, as a result of this session. I thank you, Minister, for joining us, and for your comments. We wish this action group all the best; it is carrying out good work for the community in Carno.

 

[315] The Deputy First Minister: Thank you.

Action Group Goes To Cardiff For Questioning Of Minister

Fifteen members of Carno Station Action Group travelled to the National Assembly on Wednesday November 14th to see the Minister of Economy and Transport answer questions on plans for Carno Station re-opening. The Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was being scrutinised by the Enterprise and Learning Committee on his responses to their recommendations following their hearing in Carno.

Group Members on steps of National Assembly
Group Members on steps of National Assembly

One of the key recommendations of the Enterprise and Learning Committee was that Carno Station Action Group develop and submit a formal business case with support from the Minister’s officials. However, the Minister’s view was that it was the rôle of TraCC, the Mid Wales Transport Planning Consortium, to develop business cases for transport infrastructure and he replied that Carno Station Action Group could best contribute towards this process by working with them.

 

The Minister confirmed that the selection of Talerddig rather than Carno as the passing loop site for the hourly service would not prejudice the re-opening of the station at Carno at a future date.

Members of the Committee were concerned about the high costs of new stations and queried whether the standards called for in the Department of Transport publication “New Stations – A Guide for Promoters” were appropriate for Wales, in view of its unique commitment to promote sustainability. There was recognition of the danger that setting unnecessarily high standards for new stations would price many of them out of existence altogether.

Tony Burton, Chairman of Carno Station Action Group, commented “It was a very worthwhile day. The Enterprise and Learning Committee examined our initial case thoroughly and helped to give it credibility. Yesterday we saw them in action getting clarity on the Minister’s responses to their recommendations. The Minister did not said yes, but he did not said no. The door is now open for us to make a formal case.”

MINISTER RESPONDS to Enterprise & Learning Committee recommendations

The Minister responded to the recommendations of the Enterprise and Learing Committee on Friday November 9th – see below. The Committee will have the opportunity to questions him on his response at their meeting on Wednesday November 14th. Sixteen members of the Action Group are planning to travel to Cardiff then to attend the meeting.

Enterprise and Learning Committee

EL(3) 10-07 (p3) : 14 November 2007

 

Written Response to the Enterprise & Learning Committee’s  recommendations in respect of the petition to reopen Carno Railway Station by Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister and Minister for the Economy and Transport.

One Wales makes a commitment to improve train services and railway stations.

Welsh Assembly Government is working in partnership with Network Rail, Train Operators and the four Regional Transport Consortia to deliver the One Wales commitments for the people of this country.

In the context of improving the Cambrian railway line, I have already agreed to provide capital funding of £8 million in 2008-09 to improve the infrastructure between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury.  Network Rail is investing another £5 million from its Performance Fund. Total investment including project development work is £13.4 million.

The investment will provide for a major improvement in punctuality of train services, will make possible potential future enhancement of train frequencies, and delivers economies of scale by virtue of being incorporated within Network Rail’s European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) national pilot project.

The investment will enable the installation of new or improved passing loops – to ensure trains from opposite directions can pass without being held up – and the raising of the track at Dovey Junction by 0.6 metres to reduce the risk of flooding from the adjacent estuary.

Works to be carried out between Autumn 2007 and December 2008 will include additional passing provision at Dovey Junction, Talerddig and Welshpool and the removal or improvement of a little used former farm level crossing at Weig lane near Caersws.

The Project will be undertaken in parallel with, and by the same contractors for, the installation of the £60 million plus European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) national resignalling project.

I have set out below my response to the Report’s individual recommendations.

Detailed responses to the report’s recommendations are set out below:

Recommendation 1

Recommendation:

The Committee….Welcomes the decision to proceed with the Cambrian Line Infrastructure Enhancement Project and urges the Welsh Assembly Government to provide the necessary funding for an hourly service on the line as soon as possible after the infrastructure work has been completed.

Response:

The Cambrian Line Infrastructure Enhancement Project will be completed in December 2008. Thereafter, the provision of a more frequent (i.e. hourly) train service will be assessed in the context of relative priorities within the Regional Transport Plans and the availability of funding within the Government’s revenue budget.

Recommendation 2

Recommendation:

The Committee…..Supports the view that safety must be a primary concern in the provision of any new railway infrastructure.

Response:

Welsh Assembly Government agrees with this recommendation.

Recommendation 3

Recommendation:

The Committee…. Asks 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.

Response:

The Cambrian Line Infrastructure Enhancement Project provides passive provision for a single platform station in the locality of Carno. The optimum site for a new station within the locality is not known. A technical feasibility study would need to be completed to understand:

  • Compliance to engineering standards
  • Compliance to the Disability Discrimination Act
  • Ownership and availability of land
  • Safety standards
  • Impact on timetable reliability, performance and punctuality
  • Cost and benefits

Stopping train services at Carno would increase actual journey time, and the impact of this on the timetable has not been fully modelled. A technical feasibility study would need to be undertaken before a definitive response to Recommendation 3 can be provided.

 

Recommendation 4

Recommendation:

The Committee…….Asks that the Minister’s officials provide support to the Carno Station Action Group in developing and submitting a formal business case for such a station.

Response:

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.

Recommendation 5

Recommendation:

The Committee…. Considers that the position of Carno on a stretch of line between Caersws and Machynlleth where there is no station for a distance of more than 20 miles adds considerable weight to the case for a new station at this location.

Response:

This recommendation is noted, and should feature within the business case for a station at Carno.

Recommendation 6

Not Applicable to Welsh Assembly Government

Recommendation 7

Recommendation:

The Committee…..Asks the Minister to publish general guidance on preparing business cases for the opening of new stations in Wales, including guidance on what the potential costs could be.

Response:

The railway in Wales is an integral part of the UK rail network, and consistency of approach is therefore necessary. In view of this, the primary reference document for general advice is New Stations – A Guide for Promoters (September 2004), originally published by the Strategic Rail Authority and now a Department for Transport document [No longer at the original web link. – try Investment in Stations – a guide for promoters and developers, 1.3MB pdf, instead]

In Wales, the majority of new transport projects will be assessed using an appraisal framework called WelTAG (Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance). The purpose of WelTAG is to ensure that a balanced approach is taken when assessing the business case of projects, taking into the following impacts:

  • economic
  • social
  • environmental

The Cambrian Line Infrastructure Enhancement Project was appraised using WelTAG principles.

Recommendation 8

Recommendation:

The Committee…..Asks the Minister to clarify the Assembly Government’s view of the future role of the Cambrian Line – as an inter-urban service or one that also serves rural communities in mid Wales.

Response:

The Cambrian Line is part of the UK railway network and plays an important role in local, regional and national transport links.

The Assembly Government believes that, with careful timetable planning, the Cambrian Line is able to serve local, regional and national markets. These markets can be mutually inclusive rather than mutually exclusive.

National Assembly Debates Carno Station

Members of Carno Station Action Group (CSAG) were delighted that the National Assembly held a full debate on the reopening of Carno Station. Chairman Tony Burton said “This is another step forward in our campaign, making clear that there is support from members in most parties.”

 

The National Assembly sat in a full plenary session on October 17th to discuss the motion to support the reopening of the station. The debate was introduced by Mick Bates AM who said “The Welsh Liberal Democrats have introduced this motion because we see the reopening of Carno Station as a win-win opportunity for promoting community regeneration and sustainability while capitalising on the existing infrastructure of the Cambrian main line.” Nick Bourne, Conservative Regional AM also supported the reopening, saying “It is important that we consider issues of relieving congestion and get people off the road and onto trains…”

 

During the debate much was made of the fact that the distance between Machynlleth and Caersws is the greatest between stations anywhere in Wales and that reopening Carno Station would address this issue. This debate followed positive responses from both the Petitions Committee and the Enterprise and Learning Committee during the summer.

 

Tony Burton added “It was a bit of a disappointment that the Minister proposed an amendment that watered down the motion but the full National Assembly has now noted the strong support for the reopening and awareness of the strength of our case has been raised.”

 

The Action Group is now awaiting the Minister’s response to the Enterprise and Learning Committee’s recommendations following its September hearing in Carno. Key amongst these is the request that the Minister should ask his officials to assist the group in developing a formal business case.

Enterprise and Learning Committee: REPORT PUBLISHED

The Enterprise and Learning Committee of the National Assembly for Wales published their Report on the Petition to re-open Carno railway station on September 20th. They concluded that it would be difficult to justify the case for a new station at Carno on the estimated number of new passengers alone, but that “there may be a case linked to the wider objectives of supporting a rural community and encouraging the regeneration of an area that has suffered from the closure of the Laura Ashley factory and a resulting loss of local employment. A formal business case needs to be developed.” To view or download a PDF of the report, click HERE.

 

In recognition of the importance of a formal business case, the committee recommended that the Minister requests his officials to provide support to the Carno Station Action Group in developing and submitting one.

 

Carno Station Action Group chairman Tony Burton commented: “Overall this is an encouraging report. The committee has taken on board the opportunity for rural regeneration that the station would provide and concluded that our position on a stretch of line between Caersws and Machynlleth where there is no station for a distance of more than 20 miles adds considerable weight to our case. The committee’s recommendation that the Welsh Assembly Government Rail Team assists us to develop a formal business case speaks for itself and we are delighted at this outcome.”

 

Passing loop location

 

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.

 

Tony Burton commented: “The Minister has already informed us that the choice of Talerddig as the loop location does not make the future development of a station at Carno less practicable or possible. 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. We very much welcome this.”

 

The report’s recommendations are reproduced below:

 

Recommendations:

 

The Committee:

 

1. Welcomes the decision to proceed with the Cambrian Line infrastructure enhancement project and urges the Welsh Assembly Government to provide the necessary funding for an hourly service on the line as soon as possible after the infrastructure work has been completed.

2. Supports the view that safety must be a primary concern in the provision of any new railway infrastructure.

3. Asks 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.

4. Asks that the Minister’s officials provide support to the Carno Station Action Group in developing and submitting a formal business case for such a station.

5. Considers that the position of Carno on a stretch of line between Caersws and Machynlleth where there is no station for a distance of more than 20 miles adds considerable weight to the case for a new station at this location.

6. Asks Network Rail to provide advice to the Carno Station Action Group on how such a station could be constructed to meet current HMRI standards.

7. Asks the Minister to publish general guidance on preparing business cases for the opening of new stations in Wales, including guidance on what the potential costs could be.

8. Asks the Minister to clarify the Assembly Government’s view of the future role of the Cambrian Line – as an inter-urban service or one that also serves rural communities in mid Wales.

CSAG Comments On Evidence Advanced At September 4th Meeting

1. Station cost

AM’s immediately drew attention to the huge disparity between the CSAG cost estimate for a 2 platform station of £350 k and the Network Rail ballpark figure of £5 m. The main reason for this huge disparity is the different scale of the stations considered. I would like to base the discussion on the cost of the new station at Llanharan, which is currently under construction for a cost of £4.3 million. I obtained my information from the Welsh Assembly Government website at http://new.wales.gov.uk /topics/transport/PublicTransport/Rail/LlanharanStation/?lang=en.

Llanharan station is to consist of 2 platforms 4 carriages long, linked by a footbridge with long ramps suitable for wheelchair users, and a 54 bay car park. On the other hand, CSAG is proposing a station with platforms only 10 metre long and no footbridge. If it is assumed that the footbridge with the long access ramps costs £1 m, then the rest of the station costs £3.3 m. It can be argued that most of the remaining costs vary pro-rata as the platform length, because the fencing and lighting along the platform will vary in this way, and items such as shelters and the car park will coarsely sized in proportion to platform length. Thus, assuming that the length of the platforms at Llanharan is 95 metres, the cost of the 10 m platforms at Carno may be roughly estimated at £3.3/9.5 = £0.35 million, the same as our original figure.

 

Conclusion: The difference between the £350 k and £5 m cost estimates lies almost entirely in the different station specifications considered – that is the platform length and the presence or absence of a DDA compliant footbridge. CSAG therefore submit that the discussion can be restricted to the question of what platform length is actually needed, which fundamentally reduces to a safety issue.

 

 

2. Safety of a short platform station

 

Mt Ian Baxter explained that there was a safety risk associated with short platforms, because the conductor-guard might open all the doors by mistake, and someone might try to alight from one of the doors away from the platform. I thought it would be useful to estimate how many accidents might arise from this scenario.

As members of the committee are probably aware, it is only within the last couple of years that slam-door trains have ceased to run on the national network. Prior to that, passengers on such trains were free to open the door when the train was moving, let alone stationary, and several accidents resulted every year.

I have obtained summary statistics of railway passenger accidents for the period 1996/7 – 2000/1 from Appendix 1 “Key safety facts” in the “Annual Safety Performance Report 2000/1” which is available at the Rail Standards and Safety Website, http://www.rssb.co.uk/.  This includes the number of fatalities and major injuries sustained as a result of accidents occurring when alighting from trains or falling out of carriages, which average 1 and 25.6 respectively each year over the five year period.

If we pessimistically assume that all these accidents occurred when passengers were trying to leave slam-door trains at stations when their carriage was not at the platform, then we can estimate the number of accidents that might occur at the short platform at Carno. It is also necessary to assume what proportion of trains had slam-doors as opposed to sliding doors during this period, and I am conservatively taking this figure as 25%.

Taking the total passenger kilometres travelled per annum as 35.7 billion, the annual number of passenger kilometres travelled in slam door trains comes to 8.9 billion.

Carno station is predicted to generate 400,000 extra passenger kilometres per year, so the expected number of accidents per annum due trying to alight away from Carno station platform would be 26.6(400,000/8.9 x109) = 0.0012 if it were served by slam-door trains. In fact the station would be served by sliding door trains, so if is pessimistically assumed that the conductor opens all the doors by mistake once in 50 stops on average, the number of accidents per annum reduces to 0.000024, or once every 42,000 years. The calculation is set out in the attached spreadsheet entitled “Carno short platform accidents 1”

This predicted accident rate of 0.000024 due to the short platform should be compared with the predicted reduction in road accidents if Carno station were to re-open of 0.176 per year – see the attached spreadsheet “Environmental benefits 1 Rev A”, which has not been submitted before. Note that the difference between 0.000024 and 0.176 is a ratio of about 7000.

Based on the difference in cost between a 4 carriage long and a 10 metre long platform of about £1.3 million pounds, the cost of preventing a death or serious injury over a 100 year period by building a 4 carriage long platform comes to £1.3/(100 x 0.000024) = £542 million and the cost of preventing a death over the 100 year period is £542 x 26.6 = £14,408 million! Clearly the £1.3 m would be better spent in improving road safety, and it would be criminal to waste it on making an already very safe railway even safer.

 

Conclusion: The anticipated frequency of alighting accidents due to the short platform is once every 42,000 years on pessimistic assumptions about conductor error. It is concluded that the road safety benefits of having a station vastly outweigh the tiny reduction in rail safety resulting from having a short platform rather than a full length one, which is likely to be prohibitively expensive.

 

 

3. Benefit to the Cambrian line timetable of siting the loop at Carno

The admission by Mr Mike Bagshaw of Arriva Trains Wales that Carno would be the optimum position for the loop was of tremendous significance. This, of course, was our group’s contention and the availability of a 5 minute time saving on the round trip time from the loop to Birmingham and back if the loop is moved from Talerddig led us to advocate it because it would significantly improve line punctuality.

The set of slides on the “Cambrian Frequency Enhancements – GRIP 4 ‘Single Option Development’ Study” presented by Mr Ian Baxter to the Shrewsbury-Aberystwyth Liaison Committee at Machynlleth on July 27th includes one entitled “Performance of an Hourly Service”. This models performance between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury only and shows an improvement from 86.81% PPM for a 2 hourly service on today’s infrastructure, which rises to 92.37% for an hourly service on the enhanced infrastructure with the loop remaining at Talerddig. However, this is not a satisfactory basis to compare different passing loop patterns, because the existing service runs to Birmingham and is subject to delays between Wolverhampton and Birmingham due to congestion, resulting in a PPM of only about 60%. Thus the benefit of having the halfway loop closer to Birmingham has not been measured in the performance modelling at all!

The excuse given for not modelling performance over the whole route to Birmingham was that the December 2008 timetable was not known. Yet the existing timetable was known, and could have been used instead to get a useful comparison between Talerddig and Carno.

Could Network Rail be asked why they did not use the existing Wolverhampton-Birmingham timetable to model performance on the complete Aberystwyth-Birmingham route in order to evaluate how much the existing very poor performance would improve with the loop moved to Carno?

CSAG contend that the Welsh Assembly Government is missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a step-change improvement in the currently unacceptable punctuality on the line. Could Mr Tim James be asked why the potential extent of this improvement has not even been evaluated?

 

The Ministerial decision on passing loop pattern

The Minister has stated in replies to critics of his decision in favour of Talerddig that “There were a number of value for money and operational considerations involved in the choice between Talerddig and Carno as the optimum site for this infrastructure”, but gave no details. Could the Minister be asked to set out what these considerations were? As regards cost, Mr Ian Baxter indicated that the net  additional capital cost of moving the loop to Carno was £0.6 m, but failed to answer our question about the additional maintenance costs associated with the 2 km longer dynamic loop at Welshpool.

If the loop remains at Talerddig, Network Rail will be faced with the additional maintenance cost of the 2 km of new track required for the longer dynamic loop. We do not have access to any track maintenance costs for relatively lightly trafficked lines, but a rough estimate can be made from published figures. Based on the UK total track length of 31105 km (Network Rail, 2006 Annual Return, Table 47) and the Network Rail 2004-5 annual maintenance expenditure of £1271 million (Office of Rail Regulation Annual Assessment of Network Rail, Table 15), the annual maintenance expenditure per track kilometre comes to about £40,000 per km. Because of the low traffic intensity, it is likely that maintenance expenditure on the Cambrian line is significantly less than the average, so it is suggested that the maintenance figure per track mile on the Cambrian line is taken as £20,000 per km, giving an annual maintenance expenditure on the extra 2 km of track at the Welshpool dynamic loop of £40,000. Discounting 60 years worth of additional maintenance expenditure back to the present (at 3.5% over the first 30 years and 3% over the next 30 years) results in an additional contribution of £40 k x 34.34 = £1.4 million to the project whole-life costs. This far exceeds the £0.6 m capital cost saving of retaining the Talerddig loop as opposed to relocating it at Carno.

 

Conclusion: The decision to retain the loop at Talerddig as opposed to relocating it to Carno is wrong on two major counts:

  • It fails to realise the major punctuality benefits associated with saving 5 minutes on the round trip time from the loop to Birmingham and back
  • It is more expensive in whole-life cost terms

 

 

4. Option of combining a single platform with the passing loop

 

After we had submitted our written evidence, we realised that it would be possible to combine a single platform with a passing loop at Carno and still provide a 2 hourly interval service to Carno after the introduction of the hourly service serving the other stations. When a train stopped at the station platform on one track of the passing loop, the passing train would run through on the other track without a platform.

This arrangement would obviously cost much less than the two platform station envisaged originally, particularly if the latter were deemed to require a footbridge. Based on the £346 k cost estimate for two 10 m platforms and car park, the cost of one 10 m platform and car park would be £346 x 0.6 = £208 k, giving an increased Financial Benefit Cost Ratio of £0.887/£0.208 = 4.26. Even a 2 carriage long platform (corresponding to the length of most trains after the introduction of the hourly service) would cost only about £0.825 m based on the Llanharan costings, giving a Financial Benefit Cost Ratio of £0.887/£0.825 = 1.08.

During the questions session, AM’s appeared to accept the £5 million ball-park cost estimate given by Network Rail.

 

Conclusions:

  • A single platform would be sufficient to provide Carno with a 2 hourly train service in conjunction with a passing loop.
  • The station would cost only about £200 k if the platform were 10 m long, giving a Financial Benefit Cost Ratio of 4.3.
  • The Llanharan costing indicates a £1.65 m cost for a 4-carriage long platform (which would be fully compliant) and a £0.825 m cost for a 2-carriage long platform which would be fully compliant most of the time.

 

 

5. Feasibility of inserting Carno station into the hourly train service timetable in the absence of a loop

Now that the Minister has announced that Talerddig passing loop is to be enhanced instead of constructing a new loop at Carno, it is vital to establish whether a station stop can be inserted in the timetable at Carno once the hourly service has been introduced, unless this decision is quickly reversed.

Network Rail stated at the Cambrian Line Liaison Committee meeting on July 31st that the selection of Talerddig as the loop location instead of Carno would neither make it easier to re-open the station at Carno nor make it more difficult and the Minister has stated in replies to critics of his decision in favour of Talerddig that “Nothing in this makes the potential future development of a station at Carno less practicable or possible.” We do not agree.

In view of this, I submitted the following questions to Mr Ian Baxter of Network Rail the day before the meeting: “Network Rail stated at the Cambrian Line Liaison Committee meeting on July 31st that the selection of Talerddig as the loop location instead of Carno would neither make it easier to re-open the station at Carno nor make it more difficult. Could Network Rail explain how an additional station stop can be fitted in between passing loops optimally spaced for an hourly service in each direction? Presumably if a target running time of 28 minutes (30 minutes less 2 minute safety margin) is required between loops, then an extra stop costing 3 minutes just cannot be accommodated.” Mr Ian Baxter failed to answer this question.

Neither did Mr Tim James from the Welsh Assembly Government Rail Team submit evidence as to how the Carno stop could be inserted.

We would be grateful if the committee could obtain answers to these vital questions.

We would also ask you to note that our local Assembly Member, Mr Mick Bates, has tried repeatedly since March to secure a meeting between our group and the Minister for Economy and Transport to discuss the loop siting before any decision was made, but was unsuccessful.

 

 

6. Lack of Information

One of the great difficulties we are labouring under is lack of information from the authorities. We have tried for months to obtain a copy of the GRIP 3 report, which reported on work completed in December. We am sure that the information in the GRIP 3 “Option selection” report and the GRIP 4 “Single option development” report (which presumably should now be available) would be helpful to us and to your committee.

The lack of information available to us is made explicit in the list of questions we submitted to Mr Ian Baxter on Monday and to Mr Tim James on Tuesday during my presentation. Of the eight question for Mr Baxter (see attachment), answers were only given to the first two during the meeting, and Mr James neglected to respond to the three questions addressed to him, which were as follows:

a) Stakeholder Consultation: Why were SARPA’s representations that passing loops should be located in centres of passenger demand ignored? No response was received to SARPA’s letter of October 24th (copy attached).

  • b) GRIP 3 Next Steps: Why was the Carno loop option not pursued in GRIP 4 as proposed by Network Rail? Although Network Rail originally gave an undertaking to provide a written answer to this question, they recently stated that CSAG should seek the answer from WAG, who were the client for the feasibility study.
  • c) GRIP 3 Report: Why has this report not been made public in the interests of transparency, despite many requests over many months?

We believe that the provision of answers to the pertinent questions we have raised would assist your work, and we trust the committee will be able to obtain them.

With reference to the cost breakdown I requested in the last of my questions to Network Rail, we can report that this breakdown is provided in full for the Talerddig option on one of the slides on the “Cambrian Frequency Enhancements – GRIP 4 ‘Single Option Development’ Study” referred to above. The costs are as follows:

Dyfi Junction Loop + 0.6 m line and platform lift                                      £2.72 m

Talerddig Enhanced Loop including retained Engineer’s Siding                 £1.14 m

Welshpool 4 km Dynamic Loop to Fron LC                                             £4.99 m

Weig Lane AOCL conversion – MCB CCTV + track condition works     £0.63 m

Sub-Total #1                                                                             £9.48 m

Network Rail Costs                                                                               £0.65 m

ERTMS Incremental Signalling Costs                                                     £0.40 m

TOC compensation costs                                                                       £0.25 m

Sub-total #2                                                                              £10.78 m

Generic 20% risk at GRIP 4 (post QRA)                                                            £2.15 m

TOTAL                                                                                    £12.93 m

 

In his written evidence, Mr Ian Baxter stated that the cost of the enhancement scheme with the loop at Carno was £0.6 m more (cf £1.0 m more at GRIP 3), so the GRIP 4 breakdown of costs for the latter scheme should be available. Please can you assist with obtaining the information?

 

 

7. Conclusions

 

1. Station costs: The difference between the £350 k and £5 m cost estimates lies almost entirely in the different station specifications considered – that is the platform length and the presence or absence of a DDA compliant footbridge. CSAG therefore submit that the discussion can be restricted to the question of what platform length is actually needed, which fundamentally reduces to a safety issue.

2. Safety of a short platform station: The anticipated frequency of alighting accidents due to the short platform proposed at Carno is once every 42,000 years on pessimistic assumptions about train conductor error. It is concluded that the road safety benefits of having a station vastly outweigh the tiny reduction in rail safety resulting from having a short platform rather than a full length one, which is likely to be prohibitively expensive.

3. Benefit to the Cambrian line timetable of siting the loop at Carno: The decision to retain the loop at Talerddig as opposed to relocating it to Carno is wrong on two major counts:

  • It fails to realise the punctuality benefits associated with saving 5 minutes on the round trip time from the loop to Birmingham and back
  • It is more expensive in whole-life cost terms

4. Option of combining a single platform with the passing loop:

  • A single platform would be sufficient to provide Carno with a 2 hourly train service in conjunction with a passing loop once the hourly service is introduced on the line.
  • The station would cost only about £200 k if the platform were 10 m long, giving a Financial Benefit Cost Ratio of 4.3.
  • The Llanharan costing indicates a £1.65 m cost for a 4-carriage long platform (which would be fully compliant) and a £0.825 m cost for a 2-carriage long platform which would be fully compliant most of the time.

5. Feasibility of inserting Carno station into the hourly train service timetable in the absence of a loop: The Minister has stated that retention  of the loop at Talerddig would not prejudice the opening of Carno station, but neither Network Rail nor the Welsh Assembly Government Head of Rail advanced any evidence to support this.

 

 

8. Further questions

 

In addition to the 8 questions we submitted to Network Rail in advance of Tuesday’s meeting and the 3 posed to Mr Tim James on the day, many of which have been highlighted above, the following additional questions have been raised in this document:

 

1. Could Network Rail be asked why they did not use the existing Wolverhampton-Birmingham timetable to model performance on the complete Aberystwyth-Birmingham route in order to evaluate how much the existing very poor performance would improve with the loop moved to Carno?

 

2. CSAG contend that the Welsh Assembly Government is missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a step-change improvement in the currently unacceptable punctuality on the line. Could Mr Tim James be asked why the potential extent of this improvement has not even been evaluated?

 

3. Could Mr Tim James from the Welsh Assembly Government Rail Team submit evidence as to how the Carno stop could be inserted into the hourly service with the loop remaining at Talerddig.

 

Tony Burton 7.9.07

Assembly Committee Hearing On Sept 4th 2007

This was held on the morning of September 4th 2007 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. To view the CSAG written evidence click HERE.  A PDF transcript of the meeting can be viewed or downloaded by clicking HERE.

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 (see below) 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.

Commenting on the Enterprise and Learning Committee hearing, Tony Burton said: “This was the first time that a committee of the National Assembly had held a special hearing into a petition presented to the Assembly and I felt privileged to be part of it. The hearing provided an excellent opportunity for us to argue the case for the re-opening of Carno station and the parallel relocation of the passing loop. We are very grateful that the committee came to Carno to take evidence, and look forward to seeing their recommendations. Unfortunately, the Deputy First Minister has pre-empted the committee’s deliberations by deciding on the passing loop locations beforehand. No evidence was presented to the meeting demonstrating that a station stop at Carno could be fitted into the hourly service timetable with the loop remaining at Talerddig. We therefore feel that the welcome avenue for influencing Assembly decisions provided by the new petitions system has been lost at the first hurdle, with the risk that the petitions system itself is brought into disrepute.”

 

Benefit to Cambrian line punctuality of loop relocation at Carno

Carno Staton Action Group put forward evidence that an important factor in the Cambrian line’s poor punctuality is the current passing loop location at Talerddig, which is too far to the West. Trains have insufficient time to make the round trip from the loop to Birmingham and back in the 4 hours required by the timetable and, as a result, westbound trains typically arrive at Talerddig 5 to 10 minutes late. However, because of 5 minutes recovery time in each direction between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth, 5 or 10 minutes lateness can usually be recouped on the run to Aberystwyth and back to Talerddig. Consequently eastbound trains usually arrive at Talerddig on time and are delayed there waiting for the late running westbound train. The current timetable imbalance is exemplified by the difference in the overall average speeds on the Cambrian line required East and West of Talerddig – 49 mph and 36 mph respectively, inclusive of stops.

 

Mr Mike Bagshaw of Arriva Trains Wales endorsed the view that the passing loop at Talerddig is too far West for the train timetable and stated that Carno would be a better location.

 

 

 

Notes:

 

(1) The Enterprise and Learning Committee of the National Assembly held a hearing in Carno on September 4th into the station re-opening petition. The petition “calls upon the Welsh Assembly Government to re-open Carno Station and end the wasteful practice of stopping trains outside Talerddig with no passenger benefit.” The Committee took evidence from the Welsh Assembly Government, Network Rail, Arriva Trains Wales, Powys County Council and the Carno Station Action Group.

 

(2) On August 8th, the Deputy First Minister, Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones, announced enhancements of the passing loops at Talerddig and Welshpool and the construction of a new passing loop at Dyfi Junction to enable train frequency to be increased in the future.

 

(3) Network Rail had shortlisted Carno and Talerddig as alternative passing loop sites in the GRIP 3 phase of their feasibility study completed in November into the infrastructure requirements for the hourly service. Network Rail proposed further detailed consideration of the Carno option for the final, GRIP 4 phase of the study, but the option was jettisoned. CSAG have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation.

 

(4) If the passing loop were relocated at Carno, the round trip running time from the passing loop to Birmingham and back would be shortened by about five minutes. This extra leeway would make the train service more reliable and, in particular, reduce the need to turn trains back at Wolverhampton. This has been a regular occurrence for about two years now, and causes great inconvenience to passengers, especially the elderly and infirm.

 

(5) Retaining the loop at Talerddig will entail the laying of two and a half miles of extra track South of Welshpool to extend the existing Welshpool passing loop. This is required in order to achieve the required 30 minute running time between passing places, and will cost about £5 million on its own! This extra track will have to be maintained, so the Talerddig decision is likely to be more costly in the end.

Minister’s loop decision pre-empts carno station assembly hearing

The decision on August 8th by the Minister for the Economy and Transport to retain the Talerddig passing loop on the Cambrian line rather than move it to Carno has been greeted with anger and dismay by campaigners for the re-opening of Carno station. The rushed announcement by the new Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, of expenditure on improving loops at Dyfi Junction, Talerddig and Welshpool effectively pre-empts the deliberations of the National Assembly Enterprise and Learning Committee, which was due to hold a hearing into the station re-opening petition in Carno in less than four weeks time.

The Carno Station Action Group believes that, with the loop retained at Talerddig, there just would not be sufficient time to insert an extra station stop between Talerddig and the extended Welshpool loop and still maintain the 30 minute running time between these passing places, as will be required once the planned hourly service is introduced. In consideration of this, Local AM Mick Bates, Mid and West Wales AM Alun Davies and Petitions Committee member Mike German AM had all written to the Minister asking him to defer a decision on precise passing loop locations until after the Committee hearing, but their requests have apparently been ignored.

Carno Station Action Group chairman, Tony Burton, said “There had been a real hope that the new Plaid Cymru/Labour coalition government would develop imaginative responses to the problems of rural Wales and would place a greater emphasis on sustainability. However, in this case the Minister merely seems to have rubber stamped a departmental decision, which simply maintains the status quo as far as Carno is concerned.”

Community Council Clerk Mr Alan Humphreys said “It looks as if the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly are operating at complete cross purposes. In arranging an Assembly Committee Hearing in Carno within two months of the presentation of our petition, the Assembly has acted with creditable alacrity, but now it is very hard to see what the Committee hearing can usefully achieve. Despite receiving requests from the CSAG to delay his decision and being approached by his colleagues at the Assembly, including the Presiding Officer, he has chosen to proceed and it is felt  we are all entitled ask why he could not have waited to after September 4th . Mr Wyn Jones has been badly advised by his officials and shown a lack of courtesy to the members of the Enterprise and Learning and Petitions Committees. The CSAG petition was the first to be subject to the new, much publicised, procedure to give the Welsh electorate greater interaction with the Assembly and for the Assembly to be able to demonstrate it was prepared to listen. The Minister has managed to undermine all this before it could deliver a decision on its first petition and has serious damaged the integrity of the procedure and the confidence people can place in it.”

Mr Burton added: “The infrastructure changes associated with the hourly service presented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the wasteful practice of routinely stopping trains in open country at Talerddig and to give Carno back its station without extending train journey times. Network Rail proposed relocating the Talerddig passing loop to Carno as one of the two shortlisted passing loop patterns for the hourly service. The Welsh Assembly Government should have risen to the opportunity presented.”

 

Notes:

(1) The Enterprise and Learning Committee of the National Assembly are due to hold a hearing in Carno on September 4th into the station re-opening petition. This “calls upon the Welsh Assembly Government to re-open Carno Station and end the wasteful practice of stopping trains outside Talerddig with no passenger benefit.” The Committee will take evidence from the Welsh Assembly Government, Network Rail, Arriva Trains Wales, Powys County Council and the Carno Station Action Group.

(2) If the passing loop were relocated at Carno, the round trip running time from the passing loop to Birmingham and back would be shortened by about five minutes. This extra leeway would make the train service more reliable and, in particular, reduce the need to turn trains back at Wolverhampton. This has been a regular occurrence for about two years now, and causes great inconvenience to passengers, especially the elderly and infirm.

 

(3) Retaining the loop at Talerddig will entail the laying of two and a half miles of extra track South of Welshpool to extend the existing Welshpool passing loop. This is required in order to achieve the required 30 minute running time between passing places, and will cost about £5 million on its own! This extra track will have to be maintained, so the Talerddig decision is likely to be more costly in the end.

School Poster Competition

A poster competition was held at Carno Primary School in the summer term on the theme of re-opening Carno station, stimulating a lerge number of colourful and imaginative entries. A CSAG member generously provided money for prizes, which were presented to the three prizewinners by Councillor Rachel Davies at the end of term.

The three winning entries are included below – click on each to see an enlarged

First Prize
First Prize
Second Prize
Second Prize

view.

Third Prize
Third Prize