Gwynedd councillors are concerned about what they are calling “unacceptable” planned cuts to “immensely important” trains.

They say the Cambrian Coast line is important for locals accessing shops, jobs and services and is a popular route for tourists.

In April Transport for Wales (TfW) announced it will remove four services between Machynlleth and Pwllheli (two in each direction). Two further services are re-timed until December, 2024.

A mooted hourly service will only run between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury from May to September, from May, 2026.

At a council meeting on 9 May, Llanbedr and Harlech Cllr Gwynfor Owen raised a “notice of motion” about the proposal.

Llanbedr and Harlech Cllr Gwynfor Owen
Llanbedr and Harlech Cllr Gwynfor Owen (Gwynedd Council)

Cllr Owen said the railway was of “immense importance” to the county, with thousands of visitors and locals using the it daily for school, work, shopping or leisure.

“The way to improve train use is by increasing the number of trains and definitely not cutting them,” he said.

“This council makes it clear to TfW and Welsh Government, owners of TfW, that any cut in the number of trains on the Cambrian Railway is not acceptable, and instead they should look at how to increase the number of trains throughout the year.”

He said the message to “stop using cars and use public transport” was “impossible” for his constituents where there were already fewer bus services.

People are under a “curfew” due to timetable cuts and young people are “denied a social life,” he said.

A formal question was tabled by Cllr Eryl Jones-Williams who asked if the council would make “strong representations” to get TfW to change their minds.

Cllr Eryl Jones-Williams
Cllr Eryl Jones-Williams (Gwynedd Council)

He said: “This will have a serious effect on locals travelling to and from work locally, and on long distance rail travel.

“Did the decision makers take into account the Cambrian Coast Railway line closed for three months in the past three years for work to be undertaken on Barmouth Viaduct with no trains running and the replacement bus services unreliable?”

Cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Dafydd Meurig said the leader of the council had received correspondence from James Price, chief executive of TfW on 10 April, regarding timetable changes, which had been shared with councillors with constituents most affected.

Cllr Dafydd Meurig
Cllr Dafydd Meurig (Gwynedd Council)

He said he responded asking for confirmation, but said no response was received.

He said: “I referred specifically to the impacts of the changes on the local communities and the public in general, influencing factors relating to service levels over recent years and the impact on passenger numbers.

“Such a negative change is in complete divergence with the strategic aims, aspirations and objectives set out at a local, regional, and national level.

“We are looking to promote, facilitate and achieve a modal shift to mitigate the impacts of climate change, improving access in general and the quality of life and health of our residents.

“However, reducing the availability and attractiveness of what are already limited opportunities to travel by public transport in the areas served by this railway is a significant step in the wrong direction.

“I have made this point quite clearly to TfW.”

Dolbenmaen Cllr Stephen Churchman said: “When you consider Welsh Government wants us out of our private motor cars and on to public transport – a laudable dream – how do we do it when our public transport network isn’t fit for purpose?

Cllr Stephen Churchman
Cllr Stephen Churchman (Gwynedd Council)

“They have already mucked up our bus services.

“Residents are prisoners in their own homes, not expected to have social lives, the services are not fit to get people to and from work – it is no good for employment, it denies people the chance to earn a living.”

Aberdyfi councillor Dewi Owen was pleased the matter had been raised, noting that there was a major rise in tourism during the summer months.

Cllr Dewi Owen
Cllr Dewi Owen (Gwynedd Council)

He said: “This will be a huge hit if this goes on we must fight to keep these trains going.”

A vote to accept the motion was passed unanimously with 63 votes.

Gwynedd Councillors are not the only ones concerned about the proposed cuts.

Machynlleth Town Council said recently that it “deplores” TfW’ plans to cut train services to the Cambrian Line.

In their April town council meeting councillors unanimously voted to write to TfW bosses over their “extreme concern” for the plans potential impact on the town community.

And we recently relayed MP Liz Saville Roberts and MS Mabon ap Gwynfor’s fears that axing four train services a day “will have a significant adverse impact” on people in Gwynedd.

The service cuts between Machynlleth and Barmouth and Machylleth and Pwllheli incensed the politicians who said they were calling for a meeting with TfW to express their “deep concern about the proposed reduction of train services on the Cambrian Coast line”.

But Colin Lea, TfW Planning and Performance Director said: “Travel patterns and demand on our network have changed post the pandemic so we’ve completed a review of our rail services.

“It’s fundamental that we provide a rail service that serves new patterns of customer demand and our proposed timetables will help deliver this, whilst carefully balancing value for money for the taxpayer. We’re strengthening popular routes, providing more resilience across our network during winter and have had to defer some earlier commitments.

“TfW is a not-for-profit organisation and all revenue generated on our services will be reinvested into the network.”