A Â£ 4million plan to expand a heritage railway through the heart of a town in Gwynedd has been submitted to national park planners.
With the Lake Bala railway currently starting and ending at Pen-y-Bont, which is a 15-minute walk from the town center, donors have long been considering expanding the line and opening a terminus more central.
Built on a section of the old Ruabon to Barmouth railway, the old narrow gauge slate quarry locomotives take passengers on a four mile journey between Llanuwchllyn, along the scenic shore of Llyn Tegid, and the outskirts of Bala.
READ MORE: Bala Lake Railway plans Â£ 2million plan to bring trains to city center
But the Snowdonia National Park Authority has now received a planning request to build an additional three-quarters-mile (1.2 km) new track, leading trains to a brand new station near the town’s main street. .
According to the railway, it is hoped that such a move will double the number of passengers and avoid a 15-minute walk from the city center, calling current access arrangements “very poor” and having “prevented the attraction to play a greater role in the local economy. “
âCurrently, the railway carries 29,000 passengers per year on a train service operating 173 days per year and this number is expected to increase by 60,000 visitors per year,â the supporting documents note.
“The Economic Impact Assessment projects the value of this development locally to be close to Â£ 1.4million and 20 full-time jobs over a year plus another 18 jobs supported during the construction phase and a Â£ 420,000 increase in local spending per year from a net projected increase of around 29,000 visitors to the region … which equates to an estimated increase of four permanent jobs in the region.
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The proposed new station would house a ticket office and cafÃ©, as well as meeting rooms and a banquet hall.
Describing the current Pen-y-Bont terminus as “an efficient no-man’s land”, possessing no amenities other than a shelter, it was also noted that visitors currently experience difficulty parking near the station.
Accessible from Heol Aran, the new downtown train station, a few parking spaces, although most visitors are encouraged to use the existing downtown facilities.
With the railway having to cross the River Dee to reach the city, the current proposal is to use the existing road bridge with a tram section, thus not requiring the construction of a new structure.
âBringing the railroad into the city and performing single days of service from there will undoubtedly increase the potential of combining railroad tours with Bala’s tour,â the supporting documents say.
But acknowledging that most of the estimated Â£ 4million cost has yet to be found, a fundraising campaign is underway as station bosses also seek grants.
It is expected that the Snowdonia National Park Planning Department will review the request in the coming months.
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