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The Ebbe Vale Tale

Betsan Powys | 16:29 UK time, Wednesday, 12 December 2007

35,000 metres of fencing,

30,000 tonnes of ballast,

21,000 metres of rail,

8,000 metres of cabling,

800m of platform,

382 parking spaces,

45 years,


24 cycle lockers,

17 daily journeys,

15 days of public exhibitions,

13 signals,

8 passenger help points,

6 new stations,

5 new switch and crossing units

4 days of press releases

3 minutes for WAG to turn on Blaenau Gwent Council

2 million pounds before the line gets a clean bill of health

1 almighty blame game

0 first passenger train since 1962 to arrive at Ebbw Vale Parkway at 11.42 on Friday 14 December.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:05 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Foucault wrote:


You have a very dry wit, with a hint of irony, and a healthy dash of critique. Our lives our better with you in it. Have a great Crimbo season.

  • 2.
  • At 10:03 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

And if the WAG had been the slightest bit serious about rail projects they'd have been involved in it from day one not left it to a council to struggle to implement. That said fr anyone being £2M over on a £30M capital project isn't actually that bad - the rise in material and fuel costs during implementation is horrendous.

But the WAG are the same people who scream about green issues but still haven't sorted out fishguard trains other than for the ferry (no new infrastructure at all). The same people who want to close the swansea district route and lose opportunities forever rather than open a morriston parkway station. The same people who are declining to extend passenger service to Hirwaun when tower colliery closes - which involves NO new track at all. The same WAG who still haven't reopened any of the needed mid wales stations (no new track needed) - Rhyd Y Pennau, Carno, Abermule, Hanwood. The same WAG who still haven't managed to put two braincells together and restore the rail link to Caernarfon, opening it up to commuting along the north wales coast and tourism from Liverpool. Something the place desperately needs to replace to replace the current major employer - drug dealing.

The only meaningful project under WAG control was the re-opening of the airport link, and that was primarily done to get people flying polluting short european flights from "Cardiff" airport, which in truth is Barry Airport anyway.

If the WAG were serious about green issues we'd have a real transport network, not a patchwork of superb services managed by some of the northern councils despite the assembly, and a capital city that is choking in its own exhaust fumes.

  • 3.
  • At 11:08 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

And a thought on what £30M gets you.

Las year £30M buys you one railway (ok £32M) or -1 mile- of dual carriageway road.

  • 4.
  • At 10:26 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Nick Morris wrote:

Gosh, the biggest embarrassment since, err, the Millennium Centre bail-out only a few weeks ago.

  • 5.
  • At 11:05 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • valleysmam wrote:

But I see no trains - 1000 people invited to the "do" on Friday , but umm opps nothing to launch.
How bloomin silly does that make everyone look!

  • 6.
  • At 11:54 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

'..and One Partridge in a Pear Tree' !!

Nadolig Llawen..

  • 7.
  • At 12:28 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

On the twelth day of christmas my goverment sent to me

Twelve months of waiting
Eleven more committees
Ten schools a closing
Nine cabinet ministers
Eight consultations
Seven new excuses
Six libdems fighting
Five wasted years
Four more tax rises
Three percent inflation
Two lost cdroms
Now we shall blame it all on Rhodri ?

  • 8.
  • At 12:59 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Dewi wrote:

£32m does not buy you one Railway - railway was already there. £32m converts a recently closed Freight line into a passenger line. Now for a couple of billion could get a High Speed brand new Railway linking North and South.....

  • 9.
  • At 03:48 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Arfon Jones wrote:

I find it hard to believe that a Project Board with a remit to spend £32 million didn't have expertise from Railway companies and Network Rail to identify project risks and issues. We need an independent review into what's gone wrong here. Mind you should we be surprised, after all there are big question marks on how European funds have been spent in Wales i.e. does every village in West Wrexham need a Resource Centre...that's how the £6million Urban II fund was spent.
But I supposed we couldn't expect better from a un reconstructed Labour authority like Blaenau Gwent which is a 'throwback' to the bad old days of Michael Foot's tax and spend days.
Wales needs some doses of 'economic realism' as well as much more entrepreneurialism.

The sad thing about the situation is that this is one of the most ambitious rail projects in the UK - there are no line reopening projects in England with funding or support from Westminster - so the Ebbw Valley line partners *should* be in a position to celebrate their achievement. Unfortunately, the shambolic handling of this week's supposed launch paints a picture of general incompetence.

Two thoughts - 1) Why does it fall to a small council like Blaenau Gwent to get a project like this off the ground? Surely other, better resourced agencies - like the WAG - would be in a better position to take charge and negotiate any obstacles put in their way. 2) When it comes to working out who's to blame for the latest delay, I think Network Rail - who refused to sign off the track and signalling - has a number of questions to answer. Could it be that the infraco wants to make third-party led enhancement schemes look less efficient than Network Rail led ones?

  • 11.
  • At 05:13 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

The inspections are not done by Network Rail but by HMRI which is now part of ORR (office of the railway regulator). HRMI are independant of Network Rail (one lesson learned from the Railtrack fiasco) and very very fussy - a good thing considering.

It's still farcical - even the heritage railways run by volunteers would never plan on the basis of HMRI approving something first time around. That just doesn't happen, even in the best of railway engineering. HRMI will always find something they want changed.

"Could it be that the infraco wants to make third-party led enhancement schemes look less efficient than Network Rail led ones?"

Or of course that the HSE are being wildly OTT on rail safety again, as happens rather a lot.

If the amount of effort and money that goes into rail safety was put into road safety, the number of deaths on the roads would fall to around zero - because a) safety standards would be about 1,000 times higher and b) the costs would be so horrendous nobody would be able to afford to drive.

What odds somebody will die on the roads this Christmas who could have travelled by train and lived had the railway been open on time?

  • 13.
  • At 11:45 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Richard Harris wrote:

and uphill...

(cept in Nye-Land)

Dai ap Mussolini - Ind. Wales Party (IWP)

Itza a job for Ifor the Engine! Can he fix it? Leaves on the B.G. line? ...Ask Bob ap Contract Builder...

Merry Xmas Betsan,


I've received a statement from Amey, the project managers for the scheme, which sheds some new light on proceedings - see the Transport Briefing website.

It seems there's very little left to be done before the railway can open to passengers and the WAG may have been a bit too quick to cancel the launch.

  • 15.
  • At 02:58 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Nick Morris wrote:

One of the difficulties of the situation is that the Assembly Government doesn't have the powers to compel Network Rail to make any kind of improvements to Welsh railways. This is probably one of the biggest reasons Wales doesn't have a single metre of electrified track. It's embarrassing.

  • 16.
  • At 06:25 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • insider wrote:

Whole project a total shambles of management. Network Rail currently have 8 temporary speed restrictions in the whole of Wales and Marches. Taking back Western Valley in current state would have had to impose another 7! (On like 30 miles!) - NR have been desperately trying to engage with the project for months and months - at some cost and with no success - terrible situation but NR cannot take this railway in current condition. Well worth reading the Argus blog for feelings of locals....

  • 17.
  • At 05:38 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Ryan Goldberg wrote:

"3 minutes for WAG to turn on Blaenau Gwent Council"

And not a minute too soon, BGCC have been dragging their feet about this for too long. They are absolutely useless and the Labour run Authority there has ruined a number of projects and they have made a mess of a relatively simple operation such as this line. Useless, I hope they are taken care of come May and the Local Elections.

  • 18.
  • At 05:21 AM on 26 Dec 2007,
  • Andrew Davies wrote:

Just a general comment really. Journalists in general terms have quite an easy starting point compared to the politicians or whoever they choose to write about. Journalists do not make any decisions,are rarely accountable to anyone of consequence, their own lives are not often the subject of public scrutiny and lastly it is not difficult to find fault with anything and everything that human beings do. Journalists on the whole tend tear down other people's attempts to build, rarely offer their own ideas for alternative solutions (which incidentally if offered do not get to be put to the test) and who come from the perspective that the "bottle is usually half empty" as opposed to being half full. These are just my observations.

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