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 Driver's view of the line

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


This page updated 19th January 2023

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 Welsh Government 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 we are continually campaigning on various issues from train times and frequency to station maintenance. We welcome comments from anybody about the rail service in Mid Wales.

Transport for Wales rail services were brought under Welsh Government control from February 2021. The takeover from KeolisAmey has taken place with day-to-day services now run by a publicly-owned company. This follows significant falls in passenger numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

KeolisAmey will continue to be involved in operations, particularly in the South Wales region.

However, all is not well and the current dire state of Transport for Wales rail services, not only on the Cambrian but elsewhere across Wales and the Borders, was feared by some as the outcome of the Welsh Government getting its hands on control over day to day rail provision. The consensus is that the service provided is currently at its worst in living memory, worse than the maligned Arriva Trains Wales operation, worse than Central Trains and worse than British Rail's later post sprinterisation years. For all the bluster of a world class Wales and repeated use of phrases like Metro and embarking on journeys; the actual journeys that the public in Wales are finding on their rail network at the end of 2021 are very different.

We really do hope that the effort is made to effect a real improvement.


As we enter what appears will be the last full year of Class 158s working on the Cambrian, SARPA has been busy, lobbying politicians and questioning Transport for Wales regarding their plans for the line, as well as matters currently affecting the line. We are continuing to apply pressure regarding reliability of service on the Cambrian and in our December meeting Elin Jones, Member of the Senedd for Ceredigion, joined us in our Aberystwyth meeting to hear our concerns. We are very grateful for her support and we of course work with politicians of all parties in order to keep up pressure on the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales.

Recently, further strengthening work has been undertaken on Barmouth Bridge. SARPA supports this work, which is very important for the future of the line. We were also very pleased to see that a shuttle rail service was in operation between Harlech and Pwllheli, with buses between Harlech and Machynlleth. This is similar to what we had been calling for for a long time. However, the buses and trains didn't connect well and passengers travelling between stations north of Harlech and stations east of Machynlleth (or vica versa) often had to wait for an hour and a half after travelling on the bus. We have therefore asked Transport for Wales about improving the arrangements for the next time this happens (further work will be carried out this year).

Recently, Transport for Wales have been consulting on the proposed timetables for December 2023 onwards. Overall, the proposed timetable looks better than expected. There will be an hourly service at least from some time in 2024 onwards - hopefully! We are also pleased to see that there will be so many through trains from the Coast Line to Birmingham International. However, some 2-car trains between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury will require strengthening to avoid overcrowding. There are also problems with connections between the Aberystwyth section of the line and the Coast Line at Dyfi Junction northbound (southbound connections are fine). We have therefore given feedback calling for improvements, whilst acknowledging that the proposed timetable is better than expected.

A happy new year to you all, and I'm looking forward to working together to ensure further improvements to the services on the Cambrian Lines.

Dr Jeff Smith, SARPA Chair
January 2023

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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