The draft Carno Transport Appraisal was prepared by the Carno Station Action Group in the first half of 2008. It examines alternative options for enabling residents of Carno and Llanbrynmair to access the local train service conveniently and was prepared in accordance with the Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WeltAG). The genesis of the document, a summary of its contents and subsequent developments are set out below.
The draft Carno Transport Appraisal can be viewed in a new browser tab or downloaded as a PDF by clicking HERE.
One of the key recommendations of the NAW Enterprise and Learning Committee, following its hearing into the station re-opening petition in Carno on September 4th, 2007, was that a formal business case should be developed.
In his response to Recommendation 4 of the Enterprise and Learning Committee’s report 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.”
However the Deputy First Minister’s response did not chart a clear way forward, and it fell to Enterprise and Learning Committee member David Melding to seek clarification during the subsequent scrutiny of the Minister by the committee on November 14th, 2007, when he said:
“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.”
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.”
Heartened by this official support for the production of a station business case, our group set to work to produce the draft Carno Transport Appraisal.
Summary of the draft appraisal
The draft appraisal investigates three different options for improving access to rail services, and assesses them against economic, social and environmental criteria. These options are:
1. Re-opening Carno Station
2. Introduction of a dedicated shuttle minibus between Llanbrynmair, Carno and Caersws to connect with trains at Caersws station
3. Modification of existing X85 bus service to connect with trains at Caersws and a 2 hour extension of its hours of operation into the evening
The economic appraisal of the first option constitutes the business case for re-opening Carno station. The key points are summarised in the following paragraphs.
Passenger demand forecast
This predicts 3700 journeys by new passengers and 6640 journeys by ex-Caersws passengers in 2010. The forecast is based on current usage of Caersws station and assumes that the train service from Carno station would be virtually identical to that from Caersws today – ie one train every two hours in each direction.
User benefits and Transport Economic Efficiency
User benefits have been estimated from the predicted passenger demand under two different scenarios:
- Scenario A: All journeys from Carno station were previously made by car
- Scenario B: 90% of journeys from Carno station were previously made by car and the rest by bus
Under Scenario B, the Present Value (PV) of the discounted user benefits over the (100 year) life of the station consists of about £0.7 m worth of travel time savings and about £0.9 m worth of vehicle operating cost (VOC) savings, offset by fares paid of about £0.85 m. However, the fares paid by passengers equate to train operator revenue, so the net PV benefit of the project in the Transport Economic Efficiency (TEE) table is equal to the user travel time and VOC savings totalling £1.6 m, offset by the PV of the station operating cost of £0.3 m – ie £1.3 m net. Adding in the PV of projected savings in road accident costs of £0.6 m gives a total benefit of £1.9 m.
Note that the TEE benefit of the station is significantly affected by vehicle fuel costs. In this appraisal, the fuel component of VOC has been based on a 2008 fuel price of £1.00/litre, rather than the £0.85/litre implicit in DTI guidelines, together with subsequent real price increases of 1% per annum. It already looks as if this fuel cost trajectory may be unrealistically low.
Station cost and Benefit Cost Ratio
The cost of the station depends on the platform length and the extent of savings that can be realised by prefabricated construction. An upper bound of £1.7 m for a 4 car platform can be derived from the £4.3 m cost of the new Llanharan station, which consists of two 4 car platforms and a £1 m footbridge, but the Appraisal adopts a lower figure of £ 1m as the central cost estimate for a new Carno station. Accordingly, the Benefit Cost Ratio for the station re-opening is estimated at 1.9, assuming a two-hourly service is provided. It is anticipated that this figure would rise significantly if the service was made attractive to commuters – eg by additional stops at commuting times, following the introduction of the hourly service.
The Benefit Cost Ratios of the dedicated shuttle minibus and the improved X85 bus service are only about 0.2.
Draft Carno Transport Appraisal handover to TraCC
Members of Carno Station Action Group travelled to County Hall, Llandrindod Wells on July 1st, 2008, and formally handed over the draft appraisal to Councillor Gwilym Evans, who was the TraCC Chairman at the time. [Councillor Ray Quant of Ceredigion took over the chairmanship later in the same month.]
Completion of formal business case
Carno Station Action Group anticipated that the next stage in the process would be the evaluation of the draft appraisal by TraCC, followed by further research into some of the basic input data (such as the station cost estimate, in conjunction with Network Rail) and appropriate amendments, leading to a final approved document. However, TraCC have advised that they have done no work on the Carno Transport Assessment since they received the draft copy in July last year, citing lack of resources as the reason. Consequently, no official document constituting the formal business case called for by the E&LC has been produced.
Time is now short if the business case is to be completed in time to guide the final version of the RTP, as foreseen by the Head of Rail. CSAG have called on the Deputy First Minister to break the impasse.