The Future of the WHR: Press Release
by the Rt. Hon. John Prescott, MP
with an Introduction
by Colin Hill, Rugby, Warwickshire, UK
- Colin Hill wrote
- Today John Prescott confirmed the long-awaited granting of a Transport and Works Order for the reconstruction of the Welsh Highland Railway.
The press release issued by the Department of Trade and Industry at 2pm this afternoon follows. It comes 2.1/2 years after our application for the order and about 5 years since confirmation of the Transfer Order which enabled us to acquire the WHR Traackbed.
Initial works should be under way in about four weeks and up to full speed in eight weeks, with opening of the first section to Waunfawr in May 2000, followed by opening to Rhydd Ddu by the end of 2000.
A major 'sponsor a yard of track' appeal will now be launched to enable the raising of some of the match funding.
To Rebuild Welsh Highland Railway
Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, today announced that he has approved the proposal to rebuild the former Welsh Highland Railway through the Snowdonia National Park.
- Mr Prescott said :
- "After giving very careful consideration to this complex and sensitive case, I am satisfied that the benefits of the scheme outweigh the disadvantages and that it would be in the public interest to allow it to proceed.
"I said in April that I was inclined to grant the powers which the Festiniog Railway Company needed to reconstruct the railway. But before reaching a final decision, I wanted the Company to undertake a detailed survey of the rock faces in the vicinity of the Aberglaslyn tunnels.
"A survey has since been completed by Ove Arup and Partners. I have carefully considered their report, together with a review of that report carried out by Hyder on behalf of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, as well as other representations and advice received. I am satisfied from this information that the railway can safely be taken through the National Park without causing unacceptable harm to the environment."
- The proposed reconstruction of the Welsh Highland Railway was the subject of an application for an Order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 by the Festiniog Railway Company (FRC). The Order will authorise the FRC to build, maintain and operate a 35 km (21.5 miles) narrow gauge railway from Dinas, south of Caernarfon to Porthmadog, running through the Snowdonia National Park.
- The proposal involves restoration of the former Welsh Highland Railway which closed in 1937. At the northern end at Dinas, the railway would join the FRC's existing three mile railway to Caernarfon. At Porthmadog, the railway would connect with the existing Festiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
- Following a public inquiry in Caernarfon between 9 December 1997 and 28 January 1998, the Secretary of State announced on 7 April 1999 that he was minded to overturn the Inspector's recommendation that the Order should not be made. However, before agreeing to make the Order, he asked the FRC to arrange a survey of the rock faces around the Aberglaslyn tunnels. This was in order to establish that the full route of the railway could be completed through the Park safely and in an environmentally acceptable way.
- A survey was subsequently undertaken by Ove Arup and Partners, and in the light of their findings the FRC put forward proposed remedial works. Having given the matter careful consideration, the Secretary of State has concluded that the proposed railway can be taken through the Park safely and without causing undue harm to the environment. Hence there is now no impediment to allowing the scheme to proceed. His reasons are explained more fully in a letter sent today to the promoters and to all parties who made representations. This should be read together with the "minded to approve" letter of 7 April.
- Details of the project can be obtained from the Festiniog Railway Company, Harbour Station, Porthmadog, Gwynedd, LL49 9NF or from their Parliamentary Agents, Messrs Sharpe Pritchard, Elizabeth House, Fulwood Place, London WC1V 6HG.
- This DEtr Press Notice is also available in Welsh (No. 622)
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- This Press release is numbered DEtr 621 and dated 28 June 1999