NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF WALES ENTERPRISE AND LEARNING COMMITTEE
EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF CSAG PETITION “TO RE-OPEN CARNO STATION AND END THE WASTEFUL PRACTICE OF STOPPING TRAINS OUTSIDE TALERDDIG WITH NO PASSENGER BENEFIT.”
Carno, along with many villages on the Cambrian Line from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth, had its own station until the Beeching closures of the Sixties. The station at Carno consisted of two platforms, a substantial station building and a passing loop located at the West end of the mile long settlement, beside the level crossing on the minor road to Cefn Coch. With Carno closed, there is no station between Caersws and Machynlleth, making this, at 22 miles, the longest stretch of line without an intermediate station in Wales. For comparison, the average station spacings on the Cambrian Coast and Heart of Wales lines are 2.2 miles and 3.7 miles respectively.
There is a local 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, and the re-opening of Carno station is seen as way of providing the locality with an attractive alternative to the car, particularly for commuting and longer journeys. There is strong support for the re-opening plan within the community, as has been demonstrated at a number of well-attended public meetings.
This document has been drawn up by the Carno Station Action Group, which is affiliated to the Carno Community Council and has been campaigning on its behalf for the re-opening of Carno Station for several years.
2. BENEFITS OF A STATION AT CARNO
2.1 User Benefits
The train is a safe, comfortable, and fast means of travel. The train journey time to Newtown would be 15 minutes – less than that safely achievable by car and half the time taken by the existing bus service. Shrewsbury would be 55 minutes away by rail and Birmingham 1 hour 50 minutes.
Although there is a station 6 miles away at Caersws, the inconvenience of getting there is a considerable disincentive. Motorists are reluctant to leave their vehicles at the unattended car park overnight for fear of vandalism and theft, while those without a car are discouraged by the almost complete lack of connecting bus services. If the station in Carno were re-opened, more drivers would switch to the train for medium and long distance journeys, and the journey opportunities available to non car-owners would be dramatically expanded.
Many people believe that car ownership is a necessity in rural areas, forgetting that the young and frequently the old are unable to drive and that the worst off cannot afford one. The re-opening of Carno station would thus have important social inclusion benefits.
2.2 Population growth
A new estate of 40 houses has recently been completed behind the Aleppo Merchant, bringing the population of Carno to over 750. It is expected that the former Laura Ashley factory site will be redeveloped for housing, with the construction of over 30 new houses.
The closure of the Laura Ashley factory in 2005 has resulted in a significant loss of employment in the area, increasing the need for travel. With the transfer of Welsh Assembly jobs to Aberystwyth, growth in the numbers commuting there from Carno may be anticipated, and the railway is well placed to meet this demand.
2.4 Congestion relief
Congestion in both Newtown and Aberystwyth is becoming a matter of concern. The reopening of Carno station would reduce the number of car journeys to both centres for work, shopping and leisure purposes. It would also reduce the number of people driving through Newtown to destinations further East.
2.5 Carno Community Centre
The spacious, modern community centre at Carno is regularly used for conferences. It is often chosen for the conferences of organisations serving the whole of Wales, because of Carno’s relatively central location. The re-opening of Carno station would clearly be of great benefit to conference participants, as in many cases it would eliminate the need for long car journeys.
2.6 Environmental considerations
The 22nd Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution “Energy – The Changing Climate” recommended that Britain should adopt a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050. Now that the government has adopted this target, strenuous efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels will be necessary both in the short and long term.
In the Welsh context, the Welsh Assembly Government has a duty under section 121 of the Government of Wales Act 1998 to promote sustainable development, which likewise requires it to take measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
As transport now accounts for about one third of CO2 emissions, and motor cars emit significantly more CO2 per passenger mile than buses and trains, the promotion of a modal shift from the private car to the bus and train is clearly a priority. This modal shift would also help reduce the other negative environmental effects of road traffic – air pollution, noise and congestion.
Studies have repeatedly shown that drivers are significantly more willing to switch to the train than to the bus, because of rail’s greater comfort and speed. In the local context therefore, the re-opening of Carno station is likely to be far more effective in promoting modal shift, and hence reduction of CO2 emissions, than improvements in the bus service.
2.7 The Wales Spatial Plan
The Carno Station Action Group considers that the reopening of Carno station would be fully consistent with the aspirations of 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”. The following objectives of the plan for Sustainable Accessibility are of particular relevance in the Carno context:
- to focus new transport investment to improve public transport links between centres and their catchments;
- to improve links between settlements, their hinterlands, and with regional centres in sparsely populated areas to provide access to employment, shops and services, appropriate to the needs of the local population.
The Spatial Plan also lists specific actions required for the different areas of Wales. The first action identified for the Central Wales area is to
- identify areas of poorest transport accessibility: improve the quality of journey experience so people are better connected by incremental improvements to transport infrastructure through the Trunk Road Forward and Transport Grant programmes. Enhancement to rail and long distance coach services through direct support.
3. NEED FOR PASSING LOOP AT CARNO
The Cambrian Line timetable is constrained by the need to maintain a 6 hour round trip time from Aberystwyth to Birmingham and back in order to provide a regular service at two hourly intervals with a limited number of trains. The existing turnround times at each end are already short, so there is little latitude available to permit additional station stops.
At present nearly all trains stop to pass each other at Talerddig passing loop, which is in open countryside two miles West of Carno. The Carno Station Action Group consider that this loop should be relocated to Carno, so that trains could stop at a re-opened station there without adding to existing journey times. Fortunately the loop relocation could be carried out as part of the infrastructure works for the projected hourly service as described below.
3.2 2006/2007 Welsh Assembly Government Feasibility Study
In 2006, the Welsh Assembly Government commissioned Network Rail to carry out a feasibility study to establish what infrastructure works were required to permit the introduction of an hourly service on the Cambrian line.
Network Rail began by considering a wide variety of passing loop patterns, but, at a presentation to the Cambrian Coast Rail Liaison Conference in Portmadog on November 24th 2006, on the GRIP 3 “Option Selection” phase of their study, they reported that they had shortlisted two alternatives –
- Option 1(i): Dyfi Junction/Talerddig/Welshpool and
- Option 1(ii): Dyfi Junction/Carno/Welshpool.
However, they recognised that the Talerddig to Welshpool running time was too long, and envisaged the extension of the Welshpool passing loop 2.6 miles to the West to form an extended “dynamic” loop. An extended Welshpool loop was also regarded as necessary for the Dyfi Junction/Carno/Welshpool passing loop pattern, but in this case the length of extended loop would be much less.
As regards cost, Network Rail indicated that the extra cost of a new loop at Carno would be largely offset by the reduced cost of a shorter length of double track West of Welshpool. They carried out train performance modelling on the two options and found they both performed equally well. They therefore proposed to proceed with detailed investigation of both shortlisted options through the GRIP 4 “Option Development” phase of the study due for completion in July 2007.
3.3 Cost comparison of shortlisted passing loop patterns
The estimated total plus risk costs of the two passing loop pattern options were £14.9 m and £15.0 m for Options 1(i) and 1(ii) respectively – a difference of only £100,000 or 0.7%. However, when the discounted annual maintenance costs of the extra 2 miles of double track at Welshpool in Option 1(i) are included, the whole-life project costs of Option 1(i) become significantly more than those for Option 1(ii), making the Carno option, Option 1(ii) about 10% cheaper. See table below.
|Passing loop pattern
|Total Capital Cost
|Extra whole-life maintenance cost over 60 yrs, discounted to present £m
|Capital + Risk + extra maintenance cost
|Option 1(i) Talerddig
|Option 1(ii) Carno
3.4 Benefit to Carno of loop relocation to Carno
Relocation of the loop to Carno would allow passengers to alight and board while trains were stopped for passing purposes, without an extension of journey times. However, with the passing loop remaining at Talerddig, there would be no “spare” time available for trains to stop additionally at Carno. This is because the new length of double track from Welshpool extending towards Newtown would only be made long enough to permit a 30 minute running time (including appropriate recovery time) from the end of this double track to Talerddig, after allowing for stops at Newtown and Caersws.
3.5 Benefit of loop relocation to Carno to Cambrian Line train service as a whole
Train services on the Cambrian Line have been bedevilled for about two years by late running causing Birmingham services to be terminated at Wolverhampton. This forces many passengers to make an extra change of train, often results in missed connections in Birmingham and causes confusion to Westbound passengers, who have to travel to Wolverhampton by another train. Obviously Westbound passengers are likely to miss the Aberystwyth train entirely if they do not get to Birmingham in time for an earlier train to Wolverhampton, or are not made aware of the situation.
Clearly a major factor contributing to the lack of time for delayed trains to travel through to Birmingham is the location of the passing loop at Talerddig, which is too far West and makes the whole timetable lopsided. The average running times between Talerddig and Shrewsbury and Talerddig and Aberystwyth are both 57.5 minutes in the current timetable, even though the distances are 47.25 miles and 34.25 miles respectively. Hence the average speeds inclusive of stops (3 on each leg) are 49.3 mph and 35.7 mph respectively – a huge disparity. Even if the 5 minutes recovery time that has been recently added to the timings between Talerddig and Aberystwyth is stripped out, the speed on this leg only rises to 39.1 mph.
Although trains theoretically have a 15 minute layover in Birmingham, they often arrive late and have only a five minute turnaround. In this context, the round trip time saving of five minutes that would ensue if the loop were at Carno (reducing the round trip distance by four miles) would make a real difference – especially in reducing the frequency of trains being turned back at Wolverhampton. The extra 5 minutes available could be absorbed in longer stops at Shrewsbury and Telford in each direction, rather than disturb the nominal timings at Birmingham.
3.6 Ministerial decision on infrastructure expenditure for projected hourly service
On August 8th the Deputy First Minister made the welcome announcement that he had authorised expenditure on passing loop improvements to allow more frequent train services on the Cambrian Line and that these will go ahead in tandem with the installation of the new signalling system (ERTMS). Although he indicated that Talerddig, Option 1(i), was favoured as the location of the loop, it is hoped that the powerful cost and timetable arguments in favour of Carno advanced here will lead to fresh review of the options and relocation of the passing loop to Carno.
4. STATION COSTS
With the cost of the new passing loop forming part of the hourly service infrastructure expenditure, the extra cost of providing the new station approximates to the cost of two new platforms and the necessary car parking area. No footbridge is required, as the station would be adjacent to the existing level crossing.
4.1 Platform length – Beauly station
There seems to be no justification for making the platform as long as the longest train likely to call, as Central Trains have indicated would be necessary. Early in 2002 Scotrail opened a station with a short, 10 metre long platform (15 metres with ramps) at Beauly on the Far North line near Inverness. Although the platform length is less than that of a railway carriage, the conductor of the Class 158 diesel units used on the line (which also provide the service on the Cambrian line) is able to selectively open the doors required.
The whole station at Beauly cost £237,000, including a 120 m long new road access, turning circle and 10 parking places.
Based on material quantities and rates, it is estimated that the station platform, shelter, lighting and noticeboard would account for only 35% of the total cost – but considering the extra cost of platform construction under possession, it is probably safer to allocate 50% of the total cost to the station platform plus furniture – ie £118,500.
4.2 Carno station cost estimate
Carno station would require two 10 m long platforms and a car park, but no access road. Assuming a car park cost of £59,000 (half the Beauly cost of access road, turning circle and car park), the estimated cost of Carno station in 2002 comes to £118,500 x 2 + £59,000 = £296,000. Allowing for the 17% increase in RPI between 2002 and 2007 gives an estimated cost of £296,000 x 1.17 = £346,000 at 2007 prices.
5. DEMAND FORECAST
Passenger demand at a re-opened Carno station has been estimated by scaling existing demand at Caersws station by the ratio of catchment populations weighted by distance, assuming an access time elasticity of -0.6. This results in a predicted annual usage of 11,175 single journeys, of which 6478 would be abstracted from Caersws.
Full details of the methodology and population data used are presented in Annex A, which constitutes the first part of the Cost Benefit Analysis.
6. REVENUE FORECAST
The additional revenue from the new journeys may be estimated by multiplying the number of single journeys by the UK mean revenue per single journey of £4.26. On the basis of an estimated 11,175 – 6478 = 4697 new journeys, the predicted annual revenue from new single journeys is £4.26 x 4697 = £20,010.
It is anticipated that nearly all the existing passengers who start using Carno station in preference to Caersws will be travelling East, as it is counter-intuitive to travel a long distance to a station in the “wrong” direction. It is therefore assumed that an additional revenue of 90 pence (6 miles x typical single fare rate of 15 pence/mile) accrues to all passenger journeys abstracted from Caersws. The additional annual revenue from this source is £0.90 x 6478 = £5830.
Hence the total additional annual revenue (allowing for abstraction from Caersws) is £25,840.
7. FINANCIAL BENEFIT COST RATIO
The financial benefit resulting from the station re-opening is the future fares revenue discounted back to the date of opening at an appropriate discount rate. Based on Department of Transport guidelines, transport projects should be assessed over 60 years taking a 3.5% discount rate over the first 30 years and a 3% discount rate thereafter. Combined with a 1.23% per annum passenger growth rate, the revenues over 60 years discounted back to the year of opening equate to 34.34 times the first year revenue. Hence the discounted revenue in this case is £25,840 x 34.34 = £887,332.
The cost of the station over a notional 60 year life is dominated by the capital cost, estimated at £346,000. Station running costs – principally maintenance – should also be considered, but to simplify matters, it is assumed that these can be covered by a modest car parking charge, so they are not included in the benefit cost ratio calculation. The financial benefit cost ratio (FBCR) is therefore simply £887,332/£346,000 = 2.56.
8. QUANTIFICATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL BENEFITS
Although the environmental and social benefits flowing from the re-opening of Carno station can be considered under a wide variety of headings, only four are considered here, namely fuel savings, greenhouse gas savings, accident savings and time savings.
The average journey length for new journeys is assumed to be the distance to Shrewsbury (45 miles), as the majority of journeys on the Cambrian main line are believed to be to Shrewsbury or beyond, and the additional journey length for trips abstracted from Caersws is taken as the distance between Carno and Caersws of 6 miles. This results in an annual saving of 203,400 car miles, assuming an average vehicle occupancy of 1.23.
- a) Fuel savings: The annual fuel savings resulting from the car miles saved are valued at £30,820, assuming a fuel efficiency of 30 miles to the gallon and a fuel cost of £1 per litre.
- b) Greenhouse gas savings: The value of the annual abated Carbon Dioxide emissions is calculated at £1350, assuming that one tonne of abated Carbon (not CO2) is worth £70 – the Government “Green Book” value).
- c) Accident savings: On the basis that there are 34.94 accidents of all severity per 100 million kilometres and that the average cost of an accident is £40,290, the annual financial saving due to reduced accidents is calculated at £4610.
- d) Time savings: It is assumed that the average time savings are 10 minutes per new journey and 3 minutes per journey abstracted from Caersws. Taking the value of traveller’s time as £4.74 per hour, the value of the time savings comes to £5250.
Hence the total environmental and social benefit under the four headings chosen is £42,000.
9. COMBINED BENEFIT COST RATIO
It is seen that the estimated environmental and social benefits are £42,000/£25,840 = 1.627 times as big as the financial benefit. Hence the combined benefit cost ratio is
2.56(1 + 1.627) = 2.56(2.627) = 6.73
This is a high value, showing that the re-opening of Carno station is highly desirable.