West Wales Lines
|West Wales Lines|
Train passing over Tenby Viaduct
|No. of tracks||Double track Swansea to Clarbeston Road (remainder single line)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The West Wales Lines (Welsh: Llinellau Gorllewin Cymru) are a group of railway lines from Swansea through Carmarthenshire to Pembrokeshire, West Wales. The main part runs from Swansea to Carmarthen and Whitland, where it becomes three branches to Fishguard, Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock.
Before the rail cuts of the 1960s, the routes were more extensive, with the towns of Cardigan, Newcastle Emlyn and Llandysul also served, and with a cross-country route from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth, via Lampeter.
- 1 The route
- 2 History
- 3 Services
- 4 Usage
- 5 Plans
- 6 References
The cities, towns and villages served by the route are listed below. Towns in italics are served by InterCity express services.
Swansea to Whitland
- connection with South Wales Main Line
- Pembrey and Burry Port
- Kidwelly (request stop)
- Ferryside (request stop)
- Whitland (junction for Pembroke Dock branch, served by Intercity services on Summer Saturdays)
Pembroke Dock branch
All stations on this line are served by at least one of the two Intercity services that run down this line on Summer Saturdays.
- Narberth (request stop)
- Kilgetty (request stop)
- Saundersfoot (request stop)
- Penally (request stop)
- Lamphey (request stop)
- Pembroke Dock
Whitland to Clarbeston Road
- Clunderwen (request stop). Former junction for the North Pembrokeshire and Fishguard Railway.
- Clarbeston Road (request stop, junction for Milford Haven and Fishguard branches)
Milford Haven branch
- former connection with the North Pembrokeshire and Fishguard Railway. It closed in May 1949.
- Fishguard and Goodwick
- Fishguard Harbour
The railway to west Wales was first projected in 1844, and the proposal was for a line to run from the Great Western Railway near Gloucester to Fishguard, with a branch from Whitland to Pembroke. The railway was called the South Wales Railway, and although it was in theory independent of the G.W.R, in practice it was very closely linked. This was shown by the fact that Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the engineer, and the line was laid to the 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge.
Construction began in 1847, but the company ran into financial difficulties. In addition, the Irish potato famine reduced the prospective revenue from Anglo-Irish traffic. As a result, instead of completing the line to the proposed port at Fishguard, the Haverfordwest branch was extended to Neyland, where a harbour could be provided more cheaply.
The line from Swansea opened as far as Carmarthen on 11 October 1852; then to Haverfordwest on 2 January 1854; and finally to its terminus at Neyland on 15 April 1856. At first, the railway was leased to the G.W.R., but in 1863 the two companies were amalgamated.
The original powers for the branch to Pembroke lapsed, and so in 1859 the Pembroke and Tenby Company was authorised to build a 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm), standard gauge, line from Pembroke Dock to Tenby. The line opened from Tenby to Pembroke on 30 July 1863, and to Pembroke Dock on 8 August 1864. The extension from Tenby to the G.W.R. line at Whitland opened on 4 September 1866. There were two adjoining stations at Whitland with no physical connection between the two lines because they operated on different gauges.
The Pembroke & Tenby Company obtained powers in 1866 to extend their standard-gauge line from Whitland to Carmarthen. This would have enabled the Pembroke & Tenby to link up with the standard-gauge network through the Llanelly Railway, the Vale of Towy Railway and the Central Wales line. Through a series of inter-company working agreements, this would have had the effect of giving the London & North Western Railway unrestricted access to west Wales. Within the Act for the extension to Carmarthen was a Schedule which allowed either party (the Pembroke & Tenby or the Great Western) to request the Great Western for running powers to the Pembroke company. In doing this the cost of adding a rail to mix the gauge and installing the necessary junctions at Whitland and Carmarthen was £20,000 to be paid to the Great Western within 18 months of the request. The request was made by the Pembroke company and consequently the Great Western converted the up line to standard gauge leaving the down line purely as broad. This was not what the Pembroke company was wanting but had to live with it. The Great Western maintained a crossing loop at St Clears for the broad gauge and this caused some hindrance to the Pembroke company. The conversion is noted as the first pure broad to standard gauge for the Great Western.
The Pembroke & Tenby ran the first goods trains to Carmarthen on 1 June 1868, and passenger services in August 1869.
The Pembroke & Tenby was leased by the G.W.R on 1 July 1896 and finally 'amalgamated' with it a year later.
In 1895, the Rosebush line was opened from Clynderwen to Letterston along the old Maenclochog line, and construction started on extending it to Goodwick and the proposed new harbour at Fishguard. A Bill was approved by Parliament for the railway to extend eastwards to Carmarthen, although this was stopped when the line was bought out by the Great Western Railway in 1898.
The Rosebush line was stopped during World War I, and in 1917, the line is removed to provide rails for the army in France. The line was relaid in 1923, but passenger services stopped in 1937, and the line closed in 1949.
The first freight line to the Oil Refineries was built in 1960 when Esso opened their first refinery in Milford Haven. Passenger services stopped on The Whitland and Cardigan branch in 1962, followed by freight in 1963. The line to Neyland followed in 1964. Pembrokeshire escaped lightly from the 1963 Beeching Report as none of the remaining three branches - to Fishguard, Milford Haven, and Pembroke Dock via Tenby - were proposed for closure. The Pembroke Dock branch survived a later closure proposal, in the late 1960s.
Until 2013, train services on the West Wales Line were sub-optimally distributed. Calling patterns were compromised, by the existence of a stretch of single track on the otherwise double-track main line. This five-mile long stretch of single track is between Cockett West Junction in the western suburbs of Swansea and Duffryn West Junction to the east of Llanelli. Within this section the River Loughor was crossed on a viaduct which required significant works to accommodate two tracks. However, plans were advanced to replace the viaduct and restore double track, expected to be complete in 2013.
One intermediate station, Gowerton, also lies on this single-track stretch, with just the former Down (i.e. westbound) platform in use for trains in either direction. The disused former Up platform (without track) is still in existence. Less than half of all trains passing through Gowerton can be scheduled to make stops owing to pathing limitations. Additionally, this tight pathing compromised route performance which can amplify delays and hence impact connections into and out of the long-distance Intercity services between Swansea, Cardiff and London. This is important since there are many interchange passengers from the Pembroke Dock line (which is mainly served by trains terminating at Swansea) for Cardiff and English destinations.
The double tracking work between Cockett and Dyffryn was completed by July 2013 with a revamped Gowerton railway station having the disued platform brought back into use. This resulted in Gowerton railway station having an additional 95 trains stopping there every week.
Additional problems are also found on the Single Lead Junction at Swansea Loop East junction (north of Swansea station), which causes conflict between trains from west of Swansea and the eastbound mainline High Speed Train services.
There are two passenger companies operating along this stretch, Arriva Trains Wales and First Great Western, as well freight trains serving the Robeston oil refinery near Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire.
First Great Western
First Great Western operate the following services:
- Monday to Saturday, one morning High Speed Train from Carmarthen to London Paddington, stopping at Pembrey & Burry Port and Llanelli
- Monday to Saturday, one evening High Speed Train from London Paddington to Carmarthen, stopping at Llanelli and Pembrey & Burry Port
- Saturdays, one morning High Speed Train from Swansea to Carmarthen
- Sundays, three morning/afternoon High Speed Trains from London Paddington to Carmarthen, stopping at Llanelli and Pembrey & Burry Port
- Sundays, three afternoon/evening High Speed Trains from Carmarthen to London Paddington, stopping at Pembrey & Burry Port and Llanelli
During the summer months, additional services are provided between Pembroke Dock and London Paddington, although the stopping pattern of these trains are highly constrained due to the single track between Whitland and Pembroke Dock and appear to vary from year to year. In recent years, these trains have taken the path of two of the regular Arriva Trains Wales services with modification to the stations served, and timings at stations other than Pembroke Dock due to the handling characteristics of the High Speed Trains.
The following services previously operated by First Great Western (and/or one or both of its predecessors Great Western Trains, British Rail and Great Western Railway) no longer operate:
- Daily services from Milford Haven (and towards the latter years of operating, Haverfordwest) to London Paddington.
- Daily night time service from Fishguard Harbour to London Paddington, stopping only at Whitland, Llanelli and Swansea
- Daily daytime service from Fishguard Harbour to London Paddington, stopping only at Whitland and Llanelli, and also operating express to/from London stopping only at Cardiff Central
- Daily sleeper service from Milford Haven to London
Arriva Trains Wales
Due to the Single Lead Junction at Swansea and the single track between Cockett and Dyfryn, a standard repeating departure time service is not possible, therefore a non-standard departure time service is operated on these main routes:
- Milford Haven to Manchester Piccadilly via Swansea - every two hours
- Pembroke Dock to Swansea - every two hours
- Carmarthen to Manchester Piccadilly via Swansea - every two hours
- Together with the Milford Haven - Manchester service this makes Carmarthen to Manchester hourly
- Fishguard Harbour to Swansea - one train per night, connecting with the night ferry to Rosslare Europort, Ireland
- Fishguard Harbour to Cardiff Central avoiding Swansea - one train per day (normally via the Swansea District Line), connecting with daytime conventional ferry to Rosslare Europort, Ireland
- Heart of Wales Line services between Shrewsbury and Swansea (four trains a day) travel over the Swansea to Llanelli section of the West Wales Lines.
- Irregular local trains to/from Fishguard Harbour (some going only as far east as Clarbeston Road some coming all the way from Cardiff (via Swansea)) which started on 12 September 2011, after a petition organised by two 15-year-olds. Funding will be provided by the Welsh Assembly Government at the cost of £1.4m per annum. One of these extra trains in each direction was expected to connect with the summer-only Stena Lynx fast ferry to Rosslare Europort, Ireland in summer 2012, however Stena line then sold the Lynx fastcraft which means the summer 2012 Lynx service will no longer operate.
- One of the oil refineries near Milford Haven generates daily long distance freight trains.
- Llanelli steel works generates some freight traffic
The junction on the Fishguard branch to the former North Pembrokeshire and Fishguard Railway, which now leads to the former RNAD Trecwn site, has been refurbished in recent years. Perhaps it was expected that the new owners of Trecwn would generate freight traffic or it may have been in connection with plans for Intermodal freight traffic from Fishguard.
The majority of usage of the west Wales lines is from Swansea, Llanelli and Carmarthen, the other stations accounting only for a small percentage of journeys. Most rail users drive to one of the major stations (Haverfordwest, Carmarthen, Llanelli) rather than use the smaller stops. Although there is some commuting, traffic west of Tenby and Haverfordwest is very seasonal and includes tourism. Local government is currently proposing to increase the tourist potential of the services. Passenger usage in South Wales has grown by 11.4% between 2001 and 2004 and this trend is expected to continue.
In August 2006, SWWITCH were apparently performing a business case review of the Fishguard branch, to decide whether it was viable to continue to operate a passenger service, given the very scant (boat-trains only) service. The results of this may have led to the withdrawal of services from Fishguard, or their improvement. The services were not withdrawn and, in 2011, a local campaign resulted in additional services. With extra trains secured, thoughts turned to reopening Fishguard and Goodwick railway station, and an announcement was made that it would reopen in March 2012. However, the reopening was then delayed to coincide with the timetable change on 14 May 2012.
It was announced by the Welsh Assembly Government on 3 December 2008 that funding was secured from the Strategic Capital Investment fund for improvements to be carried out in the section between Gowerton and Loughor. This was completed in July 2013. This did not include the doubling the Single Lead Swansea Loop East junction.
Even without improvements to Swansea Loop East junction, the redoubling through Gowerton has permitted more trains to stop at Gowerton and has decreased train waiting times, improved timetabling and enabled an increase in the frequency of services between Swansea and Llanelli. The re-doubling could facilitate a new station to be opened at Cockettin the near future, although this plan doesn't appear to be being progressed at present (as of 2014).
The replacement of Lougher Bridge with a new, stronger structure, the subsequent redoubling of the line between Swansea and Llanelli, and the reopening on the old platform at Gowerton railway station was completed on 8 July 2013. It has allowed for an increased number of services to stop at Gowerton as well as increase reliability in the area.
Also under consideration by WAG is changing the status of the Pembroke Dock branch to a community railway and possibly then using light-rail or tram/train vehicles to provide a better and more cost effective service. Currently it is not clear how any such changes would be funded and Network Rail have no plans to perform them.
Plans are under consideration (by Pembrokeshire County Council) for a new deepwater road/rail intermodal port at Milford Haven.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to West Wales Line.|
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