THE WELSH Government has decided the proposed Magor Walkway station is a lower priority than station proposals further west on the South Wales main line.
On 26 April, Welsh infrastructure secretary Ken Skates wrote to Assembly Members to inform them that the first stage of the Government’s three-stage assessment methodology had prioritised 12 station proposals, from 46 candidates, for further development. The 12 are: Ely Mill, Newport Road and St Mellons, on the main line in Cardiff; Llanwern, on the main line east of Newport; Landore and Cockett, near Swansea; St Clears, near Whitland; Deeside Industrial Park, on the Wrexham-Bidston line; North Wrexham and South Wrexham; Llangefni, on the disused Gaerwen-Amlwch branch; and Bow Street, north of Aberystwyth. The Welsh Government applied to the New Stations Fund 2 last winter for funding for Bow Street.
Monmouthshire County Council took the Magor proposal through the first two and a half stages of Network Rail’s GRIP process and submitted a bid to the New Stations Fund 2. It asked the Welsh Government for £82,000 to complete GRIP 3.
Magor’s initial demand forecast and economic appraisal, delivered by consultants in March, assumes the station would be served by two trains per hour in each direction, alternately to/from Bristol and Gloucester or Cheltenham. It forecasts 126,000 to 132,000 passenger entries and exits at Magor in 2021, rising to more than 200,000 in 2026. Approximately 10% would be abstracted from Severn Tunnel Junction station. The main destination, for 39% of Magor passengers, would be the Cardiff area, followed by stations on the Gloucester line (24%), Newport (20%) and the Bristol and Bath area (6%).
The station’s benefit-cost ratio would be more than two, which is classed as high value for money, if implementation costs less than £9 million; a construction cost of £7 million has previously been quoted. The analysis assumes new fare revenue would cover the cost to train operators of serving Magor.
One reason for Magor’s high BCR is the relative ease of construction. No new car parking and associated road junctions are proposed. The Walkway station concept is intended to encourage non-car access.
The station would require platforms beside the relief lines, which are on both sides of the four-track formation. An existing ramped underpass and a recently renewed footbridge would provide pedestrian access.
WEST OF CARDIFF
The Government’s preferred station sites at Llanwern, St Mellons and Newport Road are all west of the Bishton flyover. There the relief lines are paired on the south side of the formation. Each station would require slewing of track and relocation of overhead electrification equipment to provide space for a platform alongside the up relief line, unless Network Rail decides there is sufficient capacity for trains on the up main line to call at the new stations.
A notable omission from the list of 12 stations is Brackla, on the main line near Bridgend. A Welsh Government minister performed the official turf-cutting ceremony for this station in 2001! The station car park was completed in January this year and immediately mothballed.
Reopening three miles of disused track to a new station in Llangefni was the subject of a Welsh Government-commissioned GRIP 1 study in 2012, which estimated the cost at £25.1 million. The proposal was not pursued at the time.
The proposed Landore station, one mile north of Swansea station, would be close to the home ground of Swansea City Football Club. The local authority opened several stations on this section of the South Wales main line in 1994, with the aim of developing a ‘Swanline’ local rail service into Swansea. Several factors were blamed for Swanline’s disappointing patronage, including the remoteness of Swansea station from the city’s main commercial and employment areas. Llansamlet, the nearest Swanline station to Swansea, generated 33,862 passenger entries and exits in 2015-16, 16% more than in 1997-98. Further east on Swanline, growth at Skewen was 51%, Briton Ferry 6% and Baglan 18%. Rhodri Clark