RURAL rail lines should be brought back into use in Carmarthenshire to encourage tourism and help end a transport “scandal”, councillors have said.
They approved an amended motion which called for a Swansea Bay and Western Valleys Metro to consider including the Amman Valley and other communities.
The motion said this would connect the Amman Valley and the Gwendraeth Valley with Llanelli and Swansea, bring tourists into the area and give residents travel options.
Councillor Kevin Madge, who submitted the original motion, told a meeting of full council that the Amman Valley railway was 180 years old this year and that coal transportation from Tairgwaith, near Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, to Ammanford was coming to the end of its working life.
The passenger line, he said, closed in 1958.
“We must preserve it for future generations,” said Cllr Madge.
“We need everybody on board with this work.”
The Garnant ward councillor said public transport was lacking in the area, with taxis the only option for an evening out a few miles way in Ammanford.
“The main towns in this area we can’t get to. I think this is a scandal,” he said. “Our forefathers did have transport.”
Cllr Madge said the Amman Valley Railway Society was applying for a share of a £500 million UK-wide pot of money aimed at bringing back historic rail lines.
“We need to give this our best shot – it needs cross-party support,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to (Members of the Senedd) Adam Price, Lee Waters and Joyce Watson. They’re all supportive of it.”
A connected rail network linking all the way to Llanelli’s coastal park would, he said, give tourism a “massive boost”.
He added: “We could really really make a difference in the years to come.”
Cllr Hazel Evans put forward the amended motion, which called on the Welsh Government to complete a feasibility study commissioned in 2017 into the Swansea Bay and Western Valleys Metro.
“It is essential that a feasibility study be carried out, with the (Amman Valley) line being mothballed, as soon as possible to ensure that any future plans remain affordable to the public,” said the motion.
Cllr Evans, executive board member for environment, said: “I would stress to the Welsh Government the importance of completing the study so that an alternative route of transport be available to West Wales.”
She said “step off” platforms rather than new stations could be used to make it more economically viable.
This network, she said, would link to Llanelli and Swansea and also the Heart of Wales line.
“The opportunities are endless,” she said.
Cllr Evans also said a new parkway station was needed at Felindre, near Swansea, to boost journey times between Cardiff and west Wales.
Opposition leader Cllr Rob James, referring to the feasibility study, said it was “rather difficult to publish something that has not been completed”.
He added: “We share your frustration, as does the Welsh Government – that’s why it has now been moved to Transport for Wales to be completed.
“It was in the hands of local Government in the region. And it should have been this administration pushing for that completion.”
Cllr Glynog Davies said he was enthusiastic about an Amman Valley passenger service but that the past, with its heavy industry jobs, was not going to be resurrected.
“We also need to create attractions at the top of the valley,” he said.
The council is separately considering a petition calling for a feasibility study into the new Gwendraeth Valley cycle track along the old Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley railway.
Speaking at the full council meeting, council leader Emlyn Dole backed a new parkway station at Felindre but said Carmarthenshire was on “a totally different page” on this subject to some other Swansea Bay City Region partners.
Cllr Madge said: “What we need maybe is a high-powered meeting in due course where we can bring all this together.
“We need a 20-year vision. The Amman Valley line is alive and kicking so we don’t need to put a huge amount of resources into that.”