Swansea Bay Railways

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Post  penddu on Mon 2 May 2011 - 15:34

There has been a lot of discussion recently on the electrification of the Great Western Railway to Cardiff and possibly beyond, as well as proposals to create a Cardiff (or South East Wales) Metro. There are also a number of improvements that could be implemented to improve rail services around Swansea Bay, and improve journey times to the west of Wales.

Anyone who has tried to cross Swansea Bay by rail, whether using local services or intercity, can confirm that it is a long and tortuous process. To be fair, the intercity service is reasonably good until Port Talbot, but after that the train slows to a crawl through Neath and down the Swansea Valley to the terminus in Swansea. Then a change of trains to continue westwards to Llanelli and beyond. It currently takes almost one hour to travel from Swansea to Cardiff, with Llanelli more than 1 hour and 20 minutes from Cardiff.

But it doesn’t have to be this way – Brunel built a much faster route across Swansea, closely following the M4 from Briton Ferry to Pontardulais, and if this route was adopted for intercity trains, with a new ‘parkway’ station built adjacent to junction 45 of the M4 to serve as Swansea’s main intercity railway station, then journey times from Swansea to Cardiff could be reduced by 10-15 minutes, with journey times from Llanelli and all points west reduced by 20 minutes or more.

Swansea’s existing railway station would remain albeit renamed Swansea High Street, as the terminus for local westbound services to Llanelli and beyond, and for local eastbound services via Neath to Port Talbot and beyond. Additional stations could then be added at Cockett and Landore (for the Liberty stadium), and possibly elsewhere. I would complete the network by connecting Swansea High Street to Swansea Parkway using a tram or express bus service – which could run alongside the trackway from High Street to Landore, before continuing at street level to Parkway and maybe beyond to Pontardawe.

At the same time, I would divert the Heart of Wales line from Llanelli to Swansea Parkway which would bring places like Ammanford more than 60 minutes closer to Cardiff, while adding a local Llanelli to Pontardulais (or extended from Carmarthen to Ammanford) service to retain this link.

Neath would lose its regular direct intercity connection although would be connected via local services to the main line at PortTalbot, and I would suggest scheduling a percentage of intercity trains to travel via Neath to terminate at Swansea High Street to maintain direct connections to both stations.

Ps – I don’t like the Parkway name, and am open to alternative suggestions.
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Post  Cibwr on Sat 7 Jan 2012 - 18:54

Great post, makes perfect sense to me - the only question is why our betters running the Welsh Government are not publishing plans, which are at least aspirational, for the transport infrastructure of Wales?


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Post  Rhydgaled on Fri 22 Feb 2013 - 2:01

The railway you speak of, shadowing the M4 from Briton Ferry to near Pontardulais, I believe is the 'Swansea District Line' (SDL) which still survives, though not used for many passenger trains. It is significantly quicker than the route via Swansea High Street. Cardiff to Llanelli using that route is only 1hr (1hr 1min to be precise, based on the forthcoming diversions when Swansea High Street to Llanelli is closed to replace the viaduct and redouble the track).

It is a real shame that the centenary of the SDL last year (2012) wasn't marked with a campaign to make use of it for fast passenger trains, something which was proposed by the fishguardtrains.info website.

I'm not sure about using the SDL for the Intercity trains from London, the SDL is too far away to serve Swansea city centre. I have wondered whether a chord linking the SDL with the line into Swansea High Street near Llansamlet would be feasible, but that would mean Intercity trains missing Neath. However, having regional express services from Cardiff to Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire that miss out the Swansea stop would be a great move, provided they are additional services and the current frequency to Swansea High Street is maintained (though with all services terminating there, since through trains to Cardiff would be using the SDL). My proposed service pattern would be:

Swansea High Street eastbound services

  • Hourly Swansea High Street - London service, calling at Neath, Port Talbot Parkway, Bridgend, Cardiff Central, Newport, Reading and London Paddington.
  • Hourly Swansea High Street - Cardiff service, calling at all stations and extending either up the Cardiff Valleys or to Ebbw Vale
  • Hourly Swansea High Street - Bristol service, calling at Neath, Port Talbot Parkway, Pyle, Bridgend, Cardiff Central and stations to Bristol Temple Meads
  • Hourly Swansea High Street - Manchester Piccadilly service, calling at Neath, Port Talbot Parkway, Bridgend, Cardiff Central, Newport and stations via Hereford and Shrewsbury to Manchester (there is unlikely to be sufficient train paths between Port Talbot/Bridgend and Cardiff for all proposed services though. If there aren't enough, it is this service I would drop).

Swansea High Street westbound services

  • Hourly Swansea High Street - Carmarthen all-stations service
  • Hourly Swansea High Street - Carmarthen service calling at Gowerton, Llanelli, Pembrey & Burry Port and Carmarthen
Of the above, one every two hours would extend to each of Milford Haven and Fishguard, with one every 90mins to Pembroke Dock

Last but by no means least would be the aforementioned through service from Carmarthen and Pembs to Cardiff. This would use the SDL, and between Cardiff and Carmarthen I'd have it call at Llanelli, Port Talbot Parkway and Bridgend only. Ideally it would be an extension of the Portsmouth - Cardiff service, and run hourly to Carmarthen with 1 train every two hours to Milford Haven (and Aberystwyth in the other hours, but the necessary line's a long way off if it ever happens). Coupled with the Swansea service above, this makes an hourly Milford Haven service


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