Update - November 2015Press Release - Joyce Watson AM.
Network Rail "investigating" money-saving options for Barmouth Bridge
Network Rail is considering reducing future maintenance work on Barmouth Bridge, in a bid to help keep open the historic viaduct's foot and cycle paths.
The public-funded rail track company set out its plans in a letter to Labour Mid and West Wales AM Joyce Watson.
Mrs Watson appealed to Network Rail to consider waiving or reducing the £30,800-a-year maintenance charge to Gwynedd Council after it announced money-saving proposals to close the spectacular Victorian viaduct to walkers and cyclists.
Network Rail writes:
"We are discussing our proposals to refurbish the bridge with Gwynedd Council, plans which will help secure the viaduct's long-term future and its crucial role in the economy."
"We are still in the very early stage of planning this project, but we investigating (sic) whether we can reduce the amount of ongoing maintenance required on the bridge, which could potentially help reduce Gwynedd's liability in the future. We are working collaboratively with both Gwynedd Council and Cadw to ensure the long term future of Barmouth viaduct."
Gwynedd Council is trying shave £9m from next year's budget. More than 40,000 people have so far signed a petition urging the council to protect public access to the Barmouth-Fairbourne link - if closed, walkers could face a 16-mile detour.
Mrs Watson took part in last month's 'day of action' demonstration on the bridge and has raised the issue in the Senedd.
Update - November 2015
Keep It Open - Make It Safe
Our day of action on October 31st was a resounding success, with more than 150 people attending, it highlighted the importance of Barmouth Bridge to the area and its visitors.
Update - October 2015Press Release - Joyce Watson AM.
Assembly debates future of "spectacular" Barmouth Bridge
Assembly Member Joyce Watson is calling on Network Rail and Gwynedd Council to "get it together" to keep open pedestrian access to Barmouth Bridge.
The footbridge is owned by Network Rail. It charges Gwynedd Council a 10% annual maintenance fee – currently £30,800 – in exchange for a licence to use the bridge.
Now Gwynedd Council is consulting the public on whether to save money by closing the spectacular Victorian viaduct to walkers and cyclists. So far more than 41,000 people have signed a petition calling on the council to drop the plan.
On Saturday 31 October, Mrs Watson will join campaigners for a day of walking and cycling action on the bridge.
The Mid and West Wales member has called on Network Rail to waive or reduce the charge, citing the budget squeeze on local authorities. In a letter to Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne, Mrs Watson writes:
"I have been communicating with Gwynedd County Council on behalf of constituents who are concerned about reports that pedestrian access to the Barmouth bridge could be lost in order to save the council £30,800. The council have told me that this is the amount that they pay Network Rail for pedestrians crossing the viaduct. I am sure that you are aware of the financial pressures that local authorities across the UK are experiencing.
"I am writing to you today to ask if Network Rail would consider waiving this charge, or reducing it, so that the risk to local residents and visitors of losing access to this popular route is removed."
Joyce also raised the issue at the National Assembly for Wales. Speaking in the Senedd on Wednesday (21 October), the Labour AM, herself a keen walker and photographer, suggested that closing the bridge would hit tourism and called on transport and economy minister Edwina Hart to help find a solution
Joyce Watson AM said:
"Given the (Barmouth Bridge) walkway’s strategic importance as a key link in both the coastal path and the national cycle network, which attracts thousands of visitors to the area, I wonder, Minister, if you could somehow use your good offices to get these two sides together, Gwynedd Council and Network Rail, to arrive at a solution that actually keeps that bridge open?"
The minister responded:
"I think we all recognise the importance of the facility to communities and tourists alike. However, Gwynedd is including this in a list of possible cost savings that it is consulting on in the autumn, and I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the public consultation, but as soon as I am aware of the outcome, it might then be appropriate for me to approach Network Rail."
Joyce Watson is a member of the National Assembly for Wales committees for business and the environment.
Update - October 2015
B-VAG issued the following Press Release
on 13th October 2015
Celebrating a "National Treasure"
Gwynedd Council who are currently consulting the public on major cuts to council spending have listed the annual cost of maintaining the pedestrian and cycle way across Barmouth Bridge as one of the possible savings. The pathway, goes back almost 150 years and forms a key part of the Wales Coast Path and Lôn Las Cymru Holyhead to Cardiff cycle route.
Despite a petition of more than 30,000 signatures Gwynedd Council is still including the option of cutting the annual fee paid to Network Rail. This has led to the Barmouth Viaduct Access Group (B-VAG) working with SUSTRANS to call for a day of action on the bridge. They are inviting cyclists, walkers, locals and visitors to cross the bridge to emphasise its value.
Keep it open - Make it safe
B-VAG have been working for the last three years to develop a new safe and traffic free route connecting Barmouth Harbour to the bridge path and thus completing the final link in the Mawddach Trail. A recent economic study carried out by B-VAG has highlighted just how important the bridge access is to the local economy and how a new traffic free link could boost visitors and jobs. According to B-VAG spokesperson, Dr John Smith, "At a time when we should be on the threshold of improving access across the bridge, we are facing a step back - potentially closing the path altogether." He went on to explain that as well as proposing ideas for the new access B-VAG and the Town Council have also put forward realistic alternatives for the future funding of the bridge path.
B-VAG and SUSTRANS believe that the volume of support for the petition shows that people across Wales and Britain regard the bridge as a "National Treasure" and will want to turn out on Saturday 31 October to show their support for the bridge remaining open. On the Action Day people will be able to ride, walk, drive mobility scooters and wheelchairs across the bridge as part of an event that will show their support and affection for the Bridge which will celebrate its 150th anniversary in two years' time.
1. The Action Day will start in Barmouth Main Car Park adjacent to the lifeboat station at 11 am with cyclists leaving for the bridge at 11:30 and walkers leaving for the bridge at 12:15 on Saturday 31 October 2015
2. B-VAG is a voluntary group of local people that has worked over the last three years in partnership with other local organisations such as the Barmouth Town Council and Gwynedd Council to develop a route acceptable to local people.
3. B-VAG has a web site setting out in more detail the project, its make-up and showing plans of the proposed option. http://www.b-vag.org.uk/
4. The report is the Economic Impact Assessment of the Barmouth Viaduct Project and was produced by JOP Consulting Ltd. The full report can be found on the B-VAG web site
5. The Barmouth Bridge path is at the hub of a number of major medium and long distance walking and cycling routes linking North and South Wales as well as the East and West coasts of Britain. These routes include:
a. The Wales Coast Path - 882 miles Chepstow to Chester
b. Lôn Las Cymru - National cycle route 8 over 250 miles between Holyhead and Chepstow or Cardiff
c. Cambrian Way 275 mile walking route between Cardiff and Conwy
d. The Cross Britain Way - a Macmillan Way walking route, 280 miles Barmouth to Boston
6. An estimated 100,000 visitors use the Barmouth viaduct annually
7. Further information about B-VAG can be obtained from Dr John Smith
8. Further information about SUSTRANS can be obtained from Glyn Evans
Update - September 2015
Keep It Open - Make It Safe
Become part of the national campaign to ensure that Barmouth Bridge path remains open to walkers and cyclists and becomes more accessible to disabled people.
On Saturday 31st October 2015 you can join the walking and cycling action day on Barmouth Bridge.
Click HERE to register as a "Friend of Barmouth Bridge" so we can keep you in touch with our campaign to "Keep It Open - Make It Safe" to get to the bridge via a new traffic free route from Barmouth Harbour.
If you have not already done so, you may also wish to follow this link and sign the on-line petition, joining more than 26,000 people nationwide who have already expressed their support for the retention of the walking and cycleway across Barmouth Bridge.
Update - August 2015
Economic Impact Assessment Report published
"Barmouth can expect to see an extra 44,000 visitors and a significant boost to permanent jobs in the town following the construction of a proposed new pedestrian and cycle link between the town's historic harbour side and the picturesque Barmouth Bridge."
That is the conclusion of a report published this week on the economic viability of constructing a new promenade link around the rocky headland that sits between the town and the Barmouth Bridge footpath and cycle way.
The full report can be accessed via the link below:
B-VAG presents our local MP with a copy of the report
B-VAG met with local MP, Liz Saville Roberts, and presented her with a copy of the Economic Report.
"This is a hugely popular route with both cyclists and walkers, which we have used as a family in the past," Liz told the Cambrian News.
"It would boost the facilities and the economy of Barmouth if the path on the railway viaduct were made safer and more attractive for tourists and locals alike".
Update - July 2015
The Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 commenced during September 2014.
The Act requires local authorities to continuously improve facilities and routes for pedestrians and cyclists and to prepare maps identifying current and potential future routes for their use.
The Act also requires new road schemes (including road improvement schemes) to consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists at design stage.
Gwynedd Council are currently carrying out consultations under this Act and members of the public can take part by completing an on-line questionnaire.
"B-VAG's view is that the questionnaire provides the opportunity to highlight the problems of access to the Viaduct and to promote the walkway as a possible solution."
N.B. At the time of writing (30/07/15) the audit of the Barmouth area has yet to be carried out so the map of Barmouth refered to in the documentation does not show any routes.
Update - May 2015
Our on-line questionnaire is now closed and the results are being assimilated into the economic assessment that is being prepared on our behalf.
Many thanks to all those people who responded - you efforts are really appreciated.
Update - May 2015
We have recently commissioned an economic assessment of the project and as part of this process a questionnaire has been designed to assist with our understanding of the impact of the proposed walkway.
Whilst we have been asking members of the public, crossing the viaduct, to complete the questionnaire we would also like to invite recent visitors to Barmouth to complete it on line.
So, if you have recently visited Barmouth we invite you to complete our questionnaire by following this link to the introductory page.
Update - March 2015
We have added a further video which shows the route of the proposed walkway from the seaward side.
Update - January 2015
After a largely fallow year with little concrete progress we can now report that the project is moving again!
Through local donations we have been able to fund a large display board, which is to be mounted on the existing path near to the old tollhouse. This is designed to alert walkers and cyclists to the project and to connect them with B-VAG via the web site address. We expect to erect the board in the next week or two.
We have managed to raise funds from local donations, from Gwynedd Council and from Snowdonia National Park to commission a study to quantify the added economic benefit of the new access. This report will take into account the potential that the new access will give for expanding the number of individual walkers and cyclists, families and those with additional needs. We have asked that the consultants also factor in the potential for the new access to enable local and regional routes to be connected up and be used for organised group events. The economic gain that would accrue from the new access will then raise the project's profile with the Welsh Government and relevant funding agencies.
We have met with senior staff from the regional 'Visit Wales' team to ensure that they are aware of the latest developments.
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