Funding doubts over plans to extend Llangollen railway

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

A MULTI-million pound plan to extend Llangollen Railway through to Corwen has run into a major financial obstacle.

But one of the men behind the scheme has pledged this will not derail the ambitious £4.6 million project.

The railway, which is a charitable trust, has just been granted an official order to start the work but there are now fears that because of bureaucratic delays there will not be enough money to fully finance the scheme.

The line currently runs seven miles to Carrog alongside the Dee and the plan to extend the track by another two miles to Corwen, where a new station would be built, was launched last year.

After many months of wrangling, the Welsh Assembly Government has just granted the trust a Transport and Works Order to start to work on the project but after a meeting with trust officials over the weekend, Welsh Conservative AM Mark Isherwood says they are concerned they no longer have the financial resources to get on with the work.

He said: “They told me that when they met the Welsh Government and
Denbighshire County Council five years ago, the Welsh Government and the council were focused on regenerating Corwen and recognised that getting the
railway there was a big part of this.

“The railway went ahead with this huge commitment expecting that 80 per cent of the £4.6m cost would be covered with a capital grant from the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) and the Welsh Government.

“They have already spent £200,000 of their own money on legal and professional fees.

“£1.2m was initially earmarked for them provided they used it by August 31.

“The Transport and Works Order was not provided in time and this was lost.

“They have now been offered a reduced grant of half a million pounds until March 31, 2012 but this is subject to them match-funding this and also finding funding in place of the other lost grant.”

He added: “I am therefore writing to the Welsh Transport Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones to welcome the Transport and Works Order, invite him to visit the railway and urge him to intervene so that funding arrangements may at last allow the project to go ahead.”

Bill Shakespeare, a founder member of the railway and one of its vice-presidents, said: “We are still fully committed to the project and somehow always manage to find the money in the end.

“Given the smaller amount of financial assistance we may have to cut our expectations, such as building a halt rather than a full station at Corwen.

“At the moment we don’t know exactly what we will do next.”

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