The Corwen Connection (March 2012 update)
From an original article in the Llangollen Railway magazine ‘Steam at Llangollen’ Autumn 2011 issue.
The Transport and Works Order authorising the Railway’s Corwen extension was confirmed in August 2011.
The Railway secured a grant of £500,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) which has agreed that the Railway’s financial input into obtaining the Order plus the voluntary labour, amounting to £200.000 in value can be counted as match funding towards the promised grant.
The Order contains protective clauses for the Environmental Agency, Welsh Water and the Countryside Council for Wales.
Before work can start, the Railway has to submit detailed plans to these respective organisations for their approval in order to ensure that proper consideration is given to the environment, wildlife and structures such as sewers, water pipes etc. A conservation management scheme has also to be agreed with the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) as parts of the extension pass through Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation. Cynefin Consultants, with CCW, are preparing the conservation management scheme that is required.
The Railway has appointed a Trust Member as Project Manager who is working closely with Denbighshire County Council in preparing these plans. These works are in progress.
As the funding is limited, the extension is being planned in two stages. Stage one to rebuild the railway to the outskirts of Corwen where a temporary platform capable of accommodating a two-car diesel multiple unit will be constructed to provide a service from Carrog. Stage two will follow when more financial assistance is available for the construction of the new, permanent, Corwen Station and reversing loop.
So, what next? In one word; fundraise!
Buy shares in Llangollen Railway, travel on the Railway, donate to the Corwen appeal, support the various fundraising schemes, think up new ideas for fundraising and start collecting the money!
Everyone can do something. The line from Carrog to the site of the temporary platform just outside Corwen will take all the grant money promised. Most of the match funding has already been spent on the legal and consultancy costs of the T&WO.
After this, funds must be raised for the new Corwen Station, the more expensive part of the project, which will have to wait for further grant/private funding at some future date. So once fundraising has started, it will not end for a long time to come.
There has been some speculation about the possibility of returning to the original Corwen Station. The official Llangollen Railway position on this is as follows:
It is no longer possible to return to the site of the old Corwen Station for the following reasons.
(1) The station is private property and a private business and is not available to the Railway. The track-bed between the platforms was filled in the 1970s and the eastbound platform buildings demolished. In contrast to the Llangollen Station complex which was left largely intact, at Corwen all the buildings on the westbound platform including canopy remained intact until 1978 when the entire site was cleared. Only the two end wings of the main station building were retained.
(2) The cost of replacing the bridge would be prohibitive. A working clearance between the bridge and the road is not achievable without severely compromising the Railway or the road.
(3) HM Railways Inspectorate has stated that a level crossing would not be acceptable because Green Lane, on its approach to Corwen, has an S bend by the railway embankment which would mean there would be a right angle turn of the road next to a level crossing gate. The situation of the present day Sports Field and Pavilion prevents straightening of the road.
(4) The Transport and Works Order ends at Green Lane as it only applies to Council owned land. In short the railway will end at Green Lane. It is not possible for it to be extended further.
In 1992 the Light Railways Act, 1896 was repealed and the Transport and Works act 1992 came into force.
From 1992, T&WOs were required for Heritage Railways, the same documentation and approval procedures which would be required for a new 200mph main line. Hence all the additional approvals and the complicated sequence of stages that an applicant is required to go through before a T&WO can be granted. Llangollen Railway was one of the first in Wales to go through this process.
Meantime the Railway continued to rebuild as far as Carrog (re-opened in 1996) and to maintain/repair its various bridges and structures (most notably the Berwyn viaduct and Dee bridges together costing around £400,000). In addition, as with all operating preserved railways Llangollen Railway was working constantly to maintain and repair its locomotives, carriages and wagons, stations, consolidate its permanent way and to install and commission new Signal and Telegraph installations as at Carrog (2006). The latter had to be completed before any extension of the line towards Corwen could be undertaken.
In 1998 the decision had been taken to abandon plans for the Corwen by-pass and the restriction applicable to Railway use of the old embankment was removed.
It was thus in 2009 that the Railway was ready and applied for a T&WO for the Corwen Extension.