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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Railway should get the support it needs, says North Wales MS

* Sam Rowlands MS, far left, with members of the trust board and station master Ben Jackson at Berwyn.

A leading opposition Senedd Member says the Welsh Government should ensure Llangollen Railway is not taken for granted and gets the support it needs.

The comment was made by the Welsh Conservatives’ Sam Rowlands, who represents North Wales and chairs the Senedd’s Cross-Party Group on Tourism, during a visit to the heritage attraction yesterday (Monday) afternoon.

He was shown round by members of the seven-strong trust board who rescued the railway from liquidation last March and have since put it firmly back on track.

After taking a trip aboard one of the railway’s vintage diesel trains to Berwyn station and back to Llangollen, Mr Rowlands said: “I was impressed to see the real quality offering for tourists coming into the area and also for locals to embrace.

“I’ve also been impressed by the volunteers I’ve met and the trust board members who have put a whole lot of heart and effort into ensuring the railway continues to function and continues to be a quality offer for anybody in Llangollen and along the whole stretch of the line.

“It’s a beautiful place to come and see, with breath-taking views along the route and I’m really keen to see the railway flourish.”

He added: “The cross-party tourism group I chair is always looking to see how it can speak out for the benefit of tourist attractions and this railway ticks all the boxes in terms of a good offer for tourists and locals alike.

“The group has its next meeting in January and I’ll be sure to share my experiences of coming here and also within the wider Senedd, making sure that these sort of heritage attractions are on people’s radar.

“I saw that if this place hadn’t been able to re-boot we would have seen derelict stations and a derelict line which would have been a tragedy for Llangollen and the surrounding areas, so we have to see that this place isn’t just taken for granted and receives the support it needs.”

The trust board’s vice-chairman Phil Coles explained that as the railway recovers from its financial crisis and the worst effects of the pandemic it was planning to take on four or five additional paid staff over the next few months.

He said: “I think the visit went very well because the more politicians we can talk to and give an understanding of what we’re about, hopefully the more able we’ll be to get grant aid and to fill some of these positions.”

Asked about when the new Corwen station at the end of an extended line was likely to open to the public, Mr Coles said: “We’re hoping that will be in mid to late May. But it’s very much dependant on things like whether we have a bad winter. If we have freezing weather that will set us back.”

And speaking about how the revival of the railway has been progressing, he said: “It’s gone very, very well. The cashflow is ahead of our forecast. In fact, it’s gone so well that at times it’s been difficult to cope, not so much with the amount of passengers but the fact that the business started running away from us before we got everything in place.”

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