Rail tourism grant a major boost for Gwendraeth Valley





A major award has been won by Rheilffordd Cwm Gwendraeth Valley Railway, a heritage and community line being developed on a unique disused rail corridor starting in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire.
The £75,000 award will enable the establishment of a Velorail (cycle-rail) operation in the first phase, bringing a family tourist attraction to the area.
The Velorail project will introduce to the UK a form of activity popular in France, using ‘carriages’ propelled by two ‘cycles’, with seating for another two-three people.
Velorails are great fun for everyone and suitable for all ages and abilities.
The operation will ‘kick-start’ the development of the entire Rheilffordd Cwm Gwendraeth Valley Railway, which runs between Kidwelly and Cwm Mawr near Pontyberem.
The railway was originally built on the tow path of probably the world’s first industrial canal – the first canal in Wales - providing a unique rail corridor with rail, cycle track and long tracts of waterway along the same route.
The project won the award in a Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation competition, designed to create new opportunities for UK and overseas tourists to enjoy the hidden gems of the country’s heritage and community railways.
Tourism and Heritage Minister David Evennett said, “We want more tourists to experience the hidden gems the whole of the UK has to offer - heritage and community railways are important local attractions, and these projects will help support our railway history and promote it to visitors from home and abroad.”
Rail Minister Claire Perry commented, “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and Heritage and Community Railways are part of that package. I am delighted that Gwendraeth Valley Railway is one of 17 national winners across Britain and look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Carmarthenshire.”
Directors Stuart Thomas and Jon Hobden, who presented the application at the Department of Transport in London, are keen to ensure that the scheme brings the maximum benefit to the people of the Gwendraeth Valley, an aim echoed by local MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Nia Griffith: “This is great news for Kidwelly, the Gwendraeth Valley and the entire area including Llanelli, establishing a project that will bring tourists, jobs and increasing prosperity. I am particularly pleased that this will be a UK first, not only establishing a unique heritage railway on a unique rail corridor but including a huge element of health and activity with the Velorail operation.”
As well as its unique heritage and environment, the line opens up a multimodal transport link between the A48 in the North and mainline rail, at Kidwelly to the South, helping to bring visitors and tourists to an area with an outstanding array of attractions and amenities. The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Ffos Las racecourse, Kidwelly Castle, Pembrey airport, the Welsh Motorsports Centre, Pembrey Country Park and Millenium Coastal Park are all within a few miles of the line and its stations.
Operations Director Ian Ashton and Tourism Director Peter Lloyd Harvey, are already working on detailed plans to begin operations and to promote the Carmarthenshire project. These include the development of 5.5 hectares of railside land near to Kidwelly mainline railway station, with plenty of room for a new heritage rail station and visitor parking.

Photos:
Stuart Thomas (l) and Jon Hobden (r) relax after their ‘Dragon’s Den’-style presentation at the Department for Transport in London.
Velorail is an activity for the whole family and promotes health and wellbeing, as well as tourism.
The view of Kidwelly, including the church and medieval castle, from the site of the town’s planned terminus for the new heritage railway and Velorail project.

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