A disused Anglesey railway line could be one step closer to its revival.
Welsh Government transport chiefs believe a new study of the Amlwch-Gaerwen line would provide a “strong strategic argument” for its reopening.
Until the infamous ‘Beeching Axe’ was swung in the 1960s, regular passenger services ran the 18 miles of track linking the north of the island with the North Wales coast line.
But despite being closed to passengers in 1964, it continued as a freight service until the early 1990s, which essentially means the tracks remain in place and preserved to some extent.
The Island Member State welcomed the announcement of seeking funding to enable a study that would confirm the economic and community benefits of a shared line encompassing rail and a multipurpose track.
A formal request has been made to the UK Government Railways ‘idea fund’ to determine how a rail service, initially from Amlwch, via Llangefni, Gaerwen and Bangor, could possibly reach Llandudno as part of the network railway.
In 2012, a license was granted by Network Rail to the Lein Amlwch Group to begin the arduous task of clearing the overgrown line.
However, there are also counter-efforts from others who support Lon las Mon – a proposed shared path to use the existing route for non-motorized use, including walkers, runners, cyclists and even horses.
But with a 2009 report from Sustrans Cymru concluding that it could be used for a dual-use heritage railway and a mixed-use one, Mr ap Iorwerth says he is eager to bring together groups who are currently nurturing opposing visions for the line.
“It’s an important step forward, and it’s this kind of serious study that we need to consider the opportunities and challenges of this line,” he added.
“I particularly welcome the fact that the government has clarified the need to look at options for active travel along the railway and how to incorporate the use of the ‘heritage railway’ as well.
“At the same time, I have recently corresponded with the local authority and others about various options that could be considered for active travel lanes.
“There are many opportunities on this front, but only one option on the island to develop rail as public transport.”
In response to Mr ap Iorwerth, Department of Transport officials confirmed that their bid to the UK government was for funds to explore the potential of a heritage railway running side-by-side with an active travel route, encompassing cycling, walking and other similar activities.
They added that the study brief would also mandate consultation with local interest groups, noting further: “Conventional rail operations would be regular services between Amlwch, Llangefni and Bangor, with the possibility of extending services as along the coast to Llandudno.
“We believe the study should show that there is a strong strategic case for reopening the provision of these services, which will make a significant contribution to the economy and wellbeing of Anglesey.
“Rail infrastructure is an undelegated responsibility, and the UK government should commit to investing in reopening these services when the case is proven.”
Anglesey Council has included the reopening of the Lein Amlwch railway line in its North Anglesey economic plan, put in place last year following the closure of several employers in the Amlwch area, including the former Magnox nuclear power plant and the Rehau plastics factory.
A council spokesman said: “We would welcome any opportunity to revitalize Lein Amlwch in terms of the economic benefits it could potentially bring to North Anglesey and the island as a whole.”
The island’s MP, Virginia Crosbie, added: “I am delighted that part of the historic infrastructure of Ynys Môn can be used in the future for the benefit of the local community and as an attraction for visitors to the island.
“Over the past few months I have had discussions with groups wishing to promote the use of the abandoned Amlwch to Gaerwen line both to revive the railway and to use the route as an active travel route for walking , cycling and access for the disabled.
“I believe both uses have a strong business case and it would be a real hit to see them co-exist.
“I have met and spoken personally with the Minister for Transport, the Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, and the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to assess potential funding opportunities and promote the benefits of both schemes.
“Indeed, I am the sponsoring MP for the Welsh Government’s Beeching Reversal Ideas Fund application form to the UK Government for funding of the study.
“I also signed with the Menter Môn team in relation to the potential of the route.”