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.”
(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.