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 Driver's view of the line

Photo:- Robert Davies/ "Of Time and The Railway"


This page updated 21st July 2018

SARPA is the local rail users group for the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth line running from the English border through Montgomeryshire to the coast of North Ceredigion and ending up in the increasingly important University (and Assembly administration ) town of Aberystwyth. We exist to preserve and promote the line so that there is a more sustainable transport system for future generations. SARPA is one of the more active rail user groups in Wales and are continually campaigning on various issues from train times and frequency to station maintenance and welcome any comments anybody has about the rail service in Mid Wales.

The Wales and Borders Franchise changed hands in October 2018 and the bid has been won by KeolisAmey. We look forward to working with the new operator, who run under the brand name "Transport for Wales".


Since the last newsletter, the situation on the Cambrian looks very different. On the face of it, we've achieved a lot. From 2023, there will be brand new trains and a full hourly service on the Cambrian, amongst other improvements. In a presentation that KeolisAmey gave to Assembly Members, a map was annotated to denote that a full hourly service on the Cambrian was a long-standing demand from stakeholders. Therefore we can greatly congratulate ourselves: it's entirely possible that these changes would never have happened without our hard work over a number of years. Many thanks to all those who helped in the effort.

But there is still a lot of work to be done. There is no promise of anything happening before the end of 2022. In the meantime, it's likely that a lack of carriages, short formations and cancellations will continue, and perhaps worsen, if Keolis do not make earlier improvements. Rather than a "big bang" in 2023, it would be preferable to have at least some additional carriages, new trains and additional services sooner.

Another matter is the design of the new trains. SARPA has argued for many years that large luggage racks are necessary for large bags and cases, on a line that sees many tourists and long-distance passengers. Tables and seats aligned with windows are needed, and also plug sockets by each seat. Tables and large luggage racks do not appear in at least one of the proposed designs that was recently released, so we need to push for these on the trains.

It's also worth noting that several things are happening in the valleys that we have been calling for on the Cambrian. As part of the South Wales Metro, there is talk of better connections with bus services, in particular long distance buses. Why can't we have this on the Cambrian? Similarly, the Amey side of KeolisAmey will be building passing loops and so on: we need additional loops in order to allow the timetable to return to normal following disruption. Despite this, the news about the franchise is very welcome, and I look forward to us getting a chance to discuss our aspirations with the officers of the new franchise when the opportunity arises. There's a lot to celebrate, but there is also a lot to fight for. I'm reminded of the old British Rail slogan: "We're getting there".

Jeff Smith
June 2018

You can see what we said about the railway industry in the past by clicking on this link to our archive page. We have archived all the newsletters back to November 2001.

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Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passengers Association (SARPA)
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