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 Driver's view of the line

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


This page updated 19th September 2022

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.


It has been a sunny and dry summer and it was great to see high usage of the Cambrian Lines over the summer. Unfortunately, the services have not been very reliable, with many services cancelled, late or short formed. According to statistics published on Transport for Wales' website, 71.1% of trains across Wales and the Borders had run on time this year, compared to 76.8% last year (which was bad enough!). Additionally, 4.19% of services had been cancelled this year compared to 2.51% last year. Clearly, the situation shows the need for rail user groups like us all over Wales and the borders to challenge Transport for Wales regarding this.

We are pleased to see more work on Barmouth Bridge during the autumn. As we understand it there will be work all along the coast line so there will be no trains north of Machynlleth. However, it's great to see investment to safeguard the future of the line.

The day before writing this message, I had been on a train from Aberystwyth to Telford. It appeared that an email had been sent forbidding the wheeling of refreshment trollies through the train and that staff had to wait by one of the doors, with customers going to them. This will require investigation – the danger is that fewer people will go to the trolley which could endanger the future of refreshment trollies on the line. SARPA has already raised questions about when it will be possible for passengers to pay for refreshments with cash if they do not wish to pay by card, but the situation continues to be difficult for those who do not wish to pay by card.

Finally, and with excitement, we have confirmed in our Annual General Meeting that we are expanding SARPA's geographical scope to include the Coast Line. In practical terms, we have always dealt with Coast Line issues since it is intrinsically linked with the main line, but when SARPA was founded there was a very active rail user group on the coast line already. As a result, we had, on paper, restricted ourselves to representing passengers on the Cambrian Main Line between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury. Of course, some of these travel towards Birmingham, Pwllheli or further afield. Since then, unfortunately the coast line group has disbanded and we are therefore keen to ensure that passengers on the coast line have a voice. It may seem surprising that we are retaining the SARPA name but we are loathe to abandon a strong brand and we feel that we will be able to represent passengers and communities along the Coast Line successfully. A warm welcome to all!

Dr Jeff Smith, SARPA Chair
September 2022

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)
   c/o Arosfa,   7 Railway Terrace,  Heol y Doll,  Machynlleth,  Powys,  SY20 8BJ  Wales,  United Kingdom
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