Revamped Gowerton train station is on track to fine future
TRAINS and romance still seem to go hand in hand — and you don't have to be a fan of David Lean's classic film Brief Encounter.
At the launch of a £28million rail upgrade at Gowerton, Loughor town councillor Jeff Bowen recalled the town's train station of yore when he first got married, while Mike Sander remembered the view from a London to Pembroke steam train trip 69 years ago.
As well as firing the memory synapses, railway lines are vital arteries linking communities and opening up employment and business opportunities.
The re-doubling of the five-mile stretch of track between Cockett and Duffryn, the revamped Gowerton station and the associated Loughor viaduct replacement, which came with a £20million price tag, will result in 95 additional services stopping at Gowerton every week, better links with West Wales, plus a Cardiff-Swansea service being extended to Llanelli in the evening peak.
The list goes on.
The refurbishment and viaduct replacement, funded by the Welsh Government and Network Rail, was greeted with enthusiasm at its official unveiling.
Minister for Transport Edwina Hart AM also took a trip down memory lane, recalling the Gowerton station of old and the nearby one to Mumbles.
Business leader Graham Morgan has echoed these positive sentiments.
Mr Morgan, director at South Wales Chamber of Commerce, said infrastructure work of this magnitude normally benefited a local firm or firms somewhere in the supply chain.
He added that extra rail capacity could potentially bring cruise ship passengers to this part of South West Wales via an all-purpose jetty at the Cleddau estuary, Pembrokeshire.
Mr Morgan also said that jobs in Neath Port Talbot and Cardiff, for example, had now become more accessible for people in the Gowerton area.
"Generally in Wales, the volume of rail passengers has increased over the last three to five years," he said. "Any enhancements which allow greater efficiency and more services will be very important."
Mr Morgan said this growth in demand was reflected overseas and brought an issue of its own - finding sufficient diesel engines.
Fast-forwarding a few years, he said the planned electrification of the main rail line from London to Swansea and South Wales valley lines should ease this scenario and potentially free up diesel units for West Wales.
Mr Morgan said there was a perception among holiday-makers from the affluent South East of England that Pembrokeshire was further away than another tourist hotspot, Cornwall.
"There is actually no difference," he said.
Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail Wales, said: "Investment in rail has proven to be a catalyst for economic growth and we see huge untapped opportunities in Wales."
The speeches at last week's launch at Gowerton train station were interrupted by the dulcet tones of an Arriva Trains Wales announcer letting passengers know the 10.11am service was on time.
Mike Bagshaw, commercial director for Arriva Trains Wales, said: "Many passengers, including commuters and visitors to the area will see real benefits from this package of changes."
A hint of rail romance was rekindled at the station unveiling by passenger Gwyneth Morgan, of Gowerton, who said she and her retired rail engineer husband Glyndwr Morgan sometimes took an evening jaunt towards the setting sun.
"We just go out for a night in Tenby for a nice evening meal and a drink," she said.