Bridge fiasco could close Porthmadog line until 2015
By: Chris Milner
FOLLOWING the cessation of train services between Harlech and Pwllheli that was imposed on November 4 after movement of the Victorian Pont Briwet viaduct was detected during the construction of a new viaduct, Network Rail has said there will be no further services until the construction work is complete. This means the line will be closed until 2015. It had been hoped to restart services early in the new year.
The RM emailed Gwynedd Council on December 23 asking for clarification of closure to 2015, but as of January 1, 2014, had received no reply.
Detailed examinations have now established that piling work in the river bed for the new crossing is significantly affecting the structural capability of Pont Briwet viaduct, making it impractical to run trains during the remainder of the construction works.
The new viaduct is costing £19.5million and is being built alongside the 1860 Grade II listed viaduct that carries a single track rail line and a single lane toll road over the River Dwyryd between Llandecwyn and Penrhyndeudraeth. The construction of the new bridge is being led by Gwynedd County Council with the construction contract awarded to Hochtief (UK). The scheme is jointly funded by Gwynedd County Council, Network Rail and the Welsh European Development Office.
With services suspended, Arriva Trains Wales will be running an amended timetable. All (northbound) services from Machynlleth will now terminate at Harlech. Coaches and minibuses will also take people on to stations towards Penrhyndeudraeth, Porthmadog, Criccieth and Pwllheli. Road transport will also be available to take passengers from these stations to connect with southbound trains that will start from Harlech.
Mark Langman, route managing director for Wales said: "We fully understand the inconvenience this will cause and we apologise for this. Following the examinations, we found that the only option to complete the new bridge was to keep the railway line closed until the new structure is in place. We will work closely with Gwynedd Council and its contractor so that the new bridge can be completed as soon as possible so that rail services can resume".
The extended closure will decimate the normal passenger traffic, and as the weather improves, the seasonal tourist traffic too, and this could have a knock-on effect on visitors to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.
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