Station car park
First the good news – the Environment Agency wrote to the Chairman last month advising against the raising of the car park. An extract from their letter is reproduced below:
“It was concluded that the raising of the car park is unlikely to be an appropriate flood risk mitigation measure, in this instance. When considering flood risk, any raising of this land could potentially impact on flood flow routes which are currently controlled by the existing railway embankment to the north and road bridge to the south. This may have impacts on flood risk elsewhere which should always be avoided. Therefore, our advice would be that no ground raising takes place from a flood risk perspective.”
This is excellent news, as not raising the car park will reduce the station cost by about a quarter of a million pounds to under £1.5 m and, as a result, significantly improving the station Benefit Cost Ratio.
Station funding conundrum
As was made clear at the public meeting in November, TraCC, the Regional Transport Consortium, want to build the station but have no funding to do so. This is because the Welsh Government gave them no funding to match their new responsibility for Regional rail infrastructure.
TraCC met with the Minister on March 5th to try to clarify matters and at the next Board meeting on March 23rd Chair Trevor Roberts announced that TraCC now “knows where it is going” on the funding of Regional Rail Schemes.
Accordingly Cllrs Rachel Davies, Michael Williams and Gwilym Evans wrote to the TraCC Chair in April asking him to set out his new understanding of the funding arrangements, but no reply has yet been received.
Judging from the Minutes of the TraCC Management Group meeting on 31 May, the Management Group itself is not yet fully clear about “where it is going” on the funding of rail infrastructure. Minute 11.2 stated: “The Management Group reaffirmed its position that responsibility for rail schemes remained somewhat unclear and that currently proposed schemes were unaffordable within existing regional transport grant funding allocations.”
Carno Station in the RTP – Now you see it, now you don’t
At the TraCC Board meeting on March 23rd, we had sight of the TraCC 5 year Regional Transport Plan 2011/2 – 2015/6 (Final 10th February 2012). This includes £425 k worth of “development work” expenditure in 2014/5 and 2015/6 followed by £1.7 m for station construction in 2016/7 – all with the caveat “Rail projects funding is uncertain and therefore not confirmed as items within the RTP”.
The TraCC 5 year Regional Transport Plan 2011/2 – 2015/6 (Final 10th February 2012) also appeared in a briefing document distributed to the new TraCC Board before their meeting on July 13th, but in this version all reference to rail schemes had disappeared.
Proposed meeting with TraCC
As TraCC had not briefed us about the plans for Carno – albeit tentative – in the earlier issue of the 10th February 2012 version of the 5 year Plan, CSAG decided that a formal meeting with TraCC was long overdue and in May asked Simon Thomas AM to convene such a meeting involving other AMs as well.
New TraCC Chair is from Powys
Following the May council elections, chairmanship of TraCC has rotated to Powys and Cllr Barry Thomas has been elected to chair. He attended the June 22nd CSAG meeting before his election to the TraCC chair and was clearly interested in the station proposal.
More recently Cllr Thomas has asked Steve Holdaway, a PCC officer, to arrange a meeting with us “to address your concerns even if we are unable to resolve them”. It is hoped that a date for this meeting will be set shortly. Our Chairman has made it clear that we would like our local and regional AMs to be invited.
More on the funding conundrum
Clearly our main obstacle is funding. At our request, the Chair of the Enterprise and Business Committee, Nick Ramsay, wrote to the Minister for Local Government and Communities, Carl Sargeant, posing a number of questions on this issue. The Minister duly replied, but side stepped one crucial question, so we still do not know the Minister’s justification for transferring responsibility for regional rail infrastructure to TraCC without parallel transfer of the requisite funding stream. Although we have pointed this out to Mr Ramsay, he is not optimistic about being able to get any further on this issue.
Despite this, there has been a much more hopeful statement from the Minister himself in the Senedd recently. In reply to a question from Elin Jones he said, in relation to Carno and Bow Street stations, that “if this is a scheme that TraCC believes is one of its priorities, it should apply to me for the appropriate funding.” Over to TraCC, then?
The Action Group
There have been some important changes in the Action Group since June. Cllr Graham Jones, the new councillor for Trefeglwys, has joined the group in place of Cllr Gwilym Evans. We would like to thank Gwilym for his long standing support and we wish him a long and contented retirement. Also the new councillor for Llanbrynmair, Dai Jones, has signalled that he wants to support the campaign and has joined our group as well. These are both welcome developments.
There have also been some changes in members’ rôles. Jeremy Barnes has taken over as chairman since Tony Burton’s move to London and Barry Long has taken on the tasks of Secretary and Press Officer. Bernard Evans has agreed to be Progress Chaser in addition to sending out Supporters’ Newsletters. Alan Humphries has taken over as Treasurer from Myra Channell, to whom our thanks are due, and Rob Ritchie and Pippa Scott have taken over responsibility for the deployment of the “Gorsaf Carno Nawr!” sign. If anyone else would like to help (and help is certainly needed as the action hots up), please contact Jeremy on 420712.