The Heart of Wales line offers much more than beautiful scenery. It shows ‘social rail’ can transform communities
As the first hints of an autumnal chill chime with a revived sense of Brexit dread, this may not seem the best time to talk about hopeful glimmers of the future. To do so with reference to Britain’s railways, moreover, might look like lunacy, given the summer’s run of headlines – about power cuts, the apparently awful new sleeper service from London to Scotland and, last week, the announcement of yet another round of fare rises. But a fortnight ago the experience of travelling through spectacular countryside on single-carriage trains filled me with an optimism I have not felt for some time, and a sense of the possibilities that still lurk beneath our national nightmare.
With my dad and my 10-year-old daughter, I was on the Heart of Wales line, a 120-mile, mostly single-track route that runs between Shrewsbury and Swansea. As well as six tunnels and two glorious viaducts, there are 29 stops, 16 of which are so-called “request” stations, meaning that passengers who want to use them must either tell the conductor or, if they are getting on, make themselves visible as the train comes into view (you basically just have to stand on the platform, though jumping up and down adds to the fun).
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