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Welsh Assembly Members back plans to reopen abandoned railway tunnel for cyclists and walkers

Project could lead to fare more cycling facilities says Plaid AM

The Rhondda Tunnel Society has earned the backing of a number of Welsh Assembly Members in its bid to reopen Wales’ longest tunnel for cyclists and walkers as a tourist attraction reports Wales Online. The tunnel – the longest in Wales – was closed as part of the Beeching cuts in 1968.

The Rhondda Tunnel runs from Blaencwm in the Rhondda to Blaengwynfi in the Afan Valley. Formed in September 2014, the Rhondda Tunnel Society’s initial aim was to replace the tunnel's original cover stone above the entrance of the tunnel at Blaencwm. However, the group now has the larger aim of reopening it for the use of cyclists and pedestrians.

Speaking at a debate led by Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins, Transport Minister Edwina Hart described the opportunity as ‘very exciting’ and said she would give further consideration to any future discussions.

Jenkins, Plaid South Wales West AM, said: “This is a grassroots campaign that will open up the Afan Valley and would, I believe, lead the way to far more of the kinds of facilities for cycling and walking visitors that have been springing up there, such as accommodation, cafes and cycling shops.”

The scheme has also won the backing of Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales Central, who lives in the Rhondda.

“These plans offer the opportunity to not only bring two neighbouring valleys together but also increase the number of visitors to the area.

“Facilities for cyclists and walkers have already been provided and, undoubtedly, if this initiative became a reality more would be developed, bringing job opportunities to two valleys which need them.”

Speaking last month, Rhondda Tunnel Society chairman, Stephen Mackey, pointed to Bath’s Two Tunnels as being an example of what could be achieved.

“In the long term I do believe in my heart that it can reopen, because there’s a project that just happened in Bath called the Two Tunnels. It opened as a cycle path and thousands of people head through it every week.

“In addition, RCT council is planning a cycle path from Pontypridd to Blaencwm – and there are excellent cycle trails in the Afan Valley, so in the future cyclists could pedal from Pontypridd to Port Talbot without hitting any traffic. Imagine that.

“It could be a wonderful tourist attraction. So much has been taken from the Rhondda valley over the years – coal, jobs, factories they’ve all gone, it’s about time we had something back.”

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rogermerriman | 9 years ago

It may, work the population while nowhere as large as Bristol/Bath is still sizeable and Swansea area draws in tourists, I can't see many riding to the Beacon Beacons from there to be honest.

But I would expect assuming it can be made to connect up, and work.

OldnSlo | 9 years ago

There's a tunnel entrance in Bryn which "may" link up to to this but there are few "old dram roads" - some of which that have been made available for leisure use. Needs a bit more design and panache and ethically sustainable funding to be turned into cross county cycle route.

matthewn5 | 9 years ago

The Rhondda tunnel was known to move even when it was in use, due to subsiding mine tunnels. There's so much coal there that locals used to sneak in and dig a bit of coal from holes in the tunnel wall! So the story went.

All this is confirmed by two tunnel nuts who managed to penetrate it by crawling up a 2' drain, and have photographed it in the last decade. It's in a fairly shocking condition now, water gushing in fast, a stack of sleepers built to hold up the roof starting to rot away, steel ribs added at some point to shore up the brick walls rusting, etc.

Have a look at and see if you think the miserable cycling budget is going to pay for what needs to be done any time soon.

For starters, the approach cutting has been filled in with a million* tonnes of rubbish for about half a mile, and covered over with a local park.

That said, it would be an attraction and if it got people on bikes just to ride through it, might be worth it for the health benefits.


Jacobi | 9 years ago

I think it's great.

Anything that encourages people to get on their bikes has to be a good thing.

ct | 9 years ago

Lovely - how about paying for it then Edwina?

Surely it would offer more value than the £1.9 million that was gifted to the WRU for a new pitch....

bendertherobot | 9 years ago

It's practically meaningless. So, the elected representatives have said, good idea. Great. That gives it some gravitas. Edwina can consider it.

But, ultimately, it's just a matter of paying for it and getting planning.

Those are matters for the local authority possibly with the assistance (on the funding side) of the Welsh Government. Planning should be easy and the Welsh Government won't interfere.

It's a great project, obviously. But what's it for? It's not going to function as a commuter route. It's a novelty. One that will require ongoing maintenance and repair. I just can't see it happening.

welshman001 | 9 years ago

Tidy idea!  41
Really welcome that. The Valleys offers amazing cycling country and access to the Brecon Beacon NP....

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