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.”
“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.”