Rhondda tunnel step closer after Welsh Government grant

Inside the tunnel Image copyright Rhondda Tunnel Society
Image caption It is hoped the tunnel, which is nearly two miles long, will boost tourism if it can be reopened for walkers and cyclists

A project to reopen a disused Rhondda railway tunnel for walkers and cyclists has been awarded a £10,000 grant from the Welsh Government.

The Rhondda Tunnel Society was given the cash to carry out an initial "tapping survey" on the 3km (1.8 miles) tunnel.

Experts will tap the inside of the tunnel, which runs from Blaencwm to Blaengwynfi in Neath Port Talbot, with long poles to determine its condition.

The society has welcomed the grant.

The tunnel was closed during cutbacks of the UK railway network in the 1960s.

Image caption The tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in Wales, was filled in after cuts to the UK rail network in the 1960s

The tunnel is currently owned by Highways England, formerly the Highways Agency.

There are calls for the Welsh Government to take it over to move the project forward.

But a feasibility and structural survey needs to take place first, which could cost up to £140,000.

Campaigners and MEP Jill Evans will travel to Brussels in a few weeks to try to secure European funding, and the society will meet with the Heritage Lottery Fund on 19 January.

Chairman Steve Mackey said: "We are very grateful for the grant. We feel things are moving forward particularly with regard to the ownership issue of the tunnel.

"The Welsh Government are starting to show interest and seem supportive. We are very pleased."

'Deciding factor'

Rhondda AM and Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, welcomed the grant and urged the Welsh Government to seize the initiative to see the project delivered.

"I hope that this money, secured as a result of Plaid Cymru's budget negotiations, will take us one step closer to seeing this exciting project come to fruition," said Ms Wood.

"Unfortunately, the Welsh Government has not shown the same ambition as the dedicated band of volunteers working tirelessly for the Rhondda Tunnel Society.

"The results of this survey could well prove the deciding factor in pushing the Labour cabinet into finally accepting ownership of the tunnel, which will be a huge step forward as it will allow things to progress to the next stage."

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