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Reopening Caernarfon to Bangor train line 'would be cheaper than £100m bypass'

Ex-transport chief says revived network would draw in tourists and boost economy

Reopening the rail link to Caernarfon would be cheaper than building the new £100 million bypass planned.

That is the view of former Conwy council transport chief Bob Saxby who believes that pressure should be put on the Welsh Government to bring back the train.

If the line was reopened trains would take around 13 minutes between Caernarfon and Bangor, he said and more importantly it would bring a “huge financial boost”, bringing thousands of tourists annually to attractions like the town’s 13th century castle.

The previous line was axed in 1970 as part of Dr Richard Beeching’s overhaul of the UK rail network.

That historic line stretched throughout Gwynedd and ran to Penygroes, Llanberis and Pwllheli. Part of it has been converted into a cycle track which in itself is popular with tourists while other sections were sold off to private buyers.

Bob Saxby retired Conwy Council transport chief on the old Caernarfon railway line which is now a cycle track He has called for the Bangor to Caernarfon line to reopenBob Saxby, retired Conwy Council transport chief on the old Caernarfon railway line which is now a cycle track. He has called for the Bangor to Caernarfon line to reopen. 

But Mr Saxby believes its high time to resurrect the line: “The railway would be unlikely to attract much custom from the current bus service which is very frequent and serves more parts of Bangor but it would attract considerable numbers of visitors to come to Caernarfon who otherwise would not consider it. Thus the benefit to the town’s economy could be considerable.

“This would be even more so if the Virgin trains currently terminating at Bangor were extended to Caernarfon as it would then be possible to board a train in Caernarfon and get off at Euston just three hours 27 minutes later.”

Mr Saxby added: “The cost of reopening should be much less than the £100m that is about to be spent on Caernarfon bypass while the economic benefit to the town could be far greater.”

He went on to point out the success of the Settle-Carlisle line where a strong campaign kept the line open and is now carrying many more passengers and freight.

“In Scotland the Waverley Line, closed since the 1960s, is being rebuilt for 30 miles from Edinburgh to the borders at a cost of £294m. There have also been disused lines brought back into use in South Wales and in England much of the Oxford-Cambridge line is being rebuilt.

Mr Saxby strongly believes that re-opening the line between Caernarfon and Bangor is feasible. He said: “There would be a strong business case to serve Caernarfon hourly with Sprinter trains from Chester and beyond.”

Taith, the former regional Transport Consortium for North Wales, included re-opening to Caernarfon as an aspiration and former Transport Minister Iean Wyn Jones called for feasibility work on it as well as reopening the link between Gaerwen-Llangefni, on Anglesey.

Mr Saxby said: “Between Menai Bridge and Caernarfon most of the track-bed is still in place but the A55 now crosses the route near Treborth so a bridge would be needed here. Treborth tunnels still exist but the bridge over the A487 south of the tunnels has gone together with a section of embankment swept away by the Y Felinheli bypass.

“The bridge in the middle of the village has also gone and a short section of track-bed has been taken by the road near Plas Menai roundabout. None of these obstacles need be show stoppers however.”

Gwynedd Council spokesman said: “Establishing a rail link which connects Caernarfon with the North Wales coast railway line is a long-term aspiration set out in the regional transport plan for North Wales.

“With the number of rail passengers increasing nationwide, this is certainly a possible option for the future with the aim of promoting sustainable travel options and reducing the amount of traffic on our roads. However, the current financial climate in which public services operate would make securing resources for such a development extremely challenging.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Network Rail supports investment to create a bigger and better railway. Improved rail links can help boost local economies by creating better connections between people and jobs and bigger customer bases for companies selling products and services.”


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