Carmarthen–Aberystwyth line

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Carmarthen–Aberystwyth line
End of gwili railway2017.jpg
Statusmostly disused; some reused by Gwili Railway
Opened1860 (Carmarthen to Cynwyl Elfed)
  • 1965 (passenger service and Aberaeron to Green Grove siding to all traffic)
  • 1970 (Pont Llanio creamery to Lampeter, Aberaeron Junction)
  • 1973 (Green Grove siding to Carmarthen)
Track lifted1975
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Old gauge7 ft (2,134 mm) (Carmarthen to Llandyssul)
Route map
Carmarthen–Aberystwyth line
Vale of Rheidol Railway
Llanrhystyd Road
Felindyffryn Halt
Caradog Falls Halt
Llangurig branch
(never saw use)
unbuilt connection
15 miles (24 km)
Strata Florida
Alltddu Halt
Pont Llanio
Olmarch Halt
Derry Ormond
Newcastle Emlyn
Pencarreg Halt
Alltycefn Tunnel
Pentrecourt Platform
Bryn Teifi
Pencader Junction
Pencader Tunnel
985 yd
901 m
Danycoed Halt
Llwyfan Cerrig
Bronwydd Arms
Abergwili Junction
Carmarthen Town

The Carmarthen–Aberystwyth line was originally a standard-gauge branch line of the Great Western Railway (GWR) in Wales, connecting Carmarthen and Aberystwyth.

It is now also a proposed railway link from Carmarthen railway station to Aberystwyth railway station, with five new proposed stations at Llanilar, Tregaron, Lampeter, Llanybydder and Pencader, with an estimated cost between £505 million and £700 million.

At Carmarthen, the line connected with the GWR mainline from London Paddington to Fishguard. At Aberystwyth, the line connected with the Cambrian Line. The line also had connecting branches to Aberaeron, Llandeilo and Newcastle Emlyn.

As a result of floods and the Beeching Axe, the line was entirely closed to passengers in February 1965. Freight traffic from Pont Llanio creamery (near Tregaron) to Aberaeron Junction (near Lampeter) ended in 1970; that from Green Grove siding (between Aberaeron and Lampeter) and from Newcastle Emlyn to Carmarthen ended in September 1973. The track was lifted in 1975, except for a short section at Bronwydd Arms station which was to be used by the Gwili Railway Preservation Society for its heritage train operation.


Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway[edit]

The first section of line between Carmarthen and Conwil was opened in 1860 by the Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway. This was extended by the original company to Llandyssul and eventually to Newcastle Emlyn, by the GWR in the 1890s, but never reached Cardigan. The section from Carmarthen to Llandyssul was built as a broad-gauge route, with a third standard-gauge line added as far as Pencader Junction later, after the M&MR line was built.

Manchester and Milford Railway[edit]

The Manchester and Milford Railway was an ambitious proposal to connect Manchester and the industrialised Midlands and Northwest England with the docks at Milford Haven. This was a standard gauge line using the LNWR and Midland Railway metals (the M&MR would have connected with the Mid-Wales Railway at Llanidloes) and then, via a junction at Strata Florida, with the C&CR at Pencader. Trains would then have run on the C&CR to Carmarthen before connecting to the Pembroke and Tenby Railway for connection to the deepwater port at Milford Haven. The plan was that, combined with industrial traffic from South Wales, Milford Haven could "provide the Lancashire cotton industry with [an] alternative port to Liverpool."[1][2]

The Llangurig branch as built

The scheme ran into financial difficulties. The simplest section had been constructed first which meant that it faced undertaking the toughest engineering challenge – the line between Llanidloes and Strata Florida – when the money was running out. Though it started on the Llangurig branch, diverging from the Mid-Wales Railway at Penpontbren Junction, and got as far as Llangurig, it was decided, in 1865, instead to simply divert the Lampeter route to Aberystwyth rather than build it through the mountains, abandoning the hope for a strategic route. It has been suggested that the bankruptcy of Thomas Savin, renowned Welsh railway engineer and investor, in the 1860s, may have been partly involved as it was with the failure of several other Welsh railway projects.[citation needed][3] It opened this modified through line in 1867 and remained independent until taken over by the Great Western Railway by 1911.

The initial 1861 route survey (which had parliamentary approval) and a later 1864 route were locally controversial.[2] The unbuilt section between Strata Florida and the railhead of the Llangurig branch would have been through very mountainous terrain, although only 15 miles (24 km) in length as the crow flies.


The line closed in two stages – the northern section closed prematurely in December 1964 when a section of the line one mile east of Llanilar was damaged by floods from the adjacent River Ystwyth. The remaining southern section closed to passengers in February 1965, as part of a nationwide process of railway closures and system rationalisation in the wake of the Beeching Report (see Beeching Cuts). Goods traffic continued in the form of milk trains from Carmarthen to Pont Llanio (between Lampeter and Tregaron) and the Felin Fach creamery (on the Aberaeron branch line) using Class 35 Hymek haulage until 1970, and with Class 37 haulage until the line closure in 1973.

Current status[edit]

Disused railway bridge over the River Gwili on the former Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line

Gwili Railway[edit]

In 1974–75, the Gwili Railway was founded, and within three years, began operating over a mile long section of the line from Bronwydd Arms, north of Carmarthen.

The line was extended farther up the valley to Llwyfan Cerrig in 1987, crossing the River Gwili en route, and a further half a mile to Danycoed Halt in 2001. Since then (with the completion of the preserved line's southern extension to Abergwili in July 2017), over four miles of track have been restored, and the Gwili Railway currently runs from a new station called Abergwili Junction to Danycoed Halt.

The Gwili Railway intends eventually to restore the line northwards to Llanpumsaint.[4]

Disused railway[edit]

In the north, parts of the trackbed from Aberystwyth to Trawsgoed, plus Ystrad Meurig via the Strata Florida station site to just south of the former Allt-ddu halt on Tregaron Bog (adjacent to the B4343 road) have been incorporated into the Ystwyth Trail cycle route. However, the section of trackbed from Trawsgoed station to just south of Ystrad Meurig including the tunnel adjacent to the former Caradog Falls halt is unavailable, being mostly in private ownership. On the Ystwyth Trail eastward from Llanilar to Trawsgoed, the flooding damage which caused closure of the line in December 1964 can be seen.

During the mid-1990s, a narrow-gauge railway was unsuccessfully proposed by the Ystwyth Valley Preservation Society – based on reopening a section of route from Llanilar to Llanfarian. Some items of standard-gauge rolling stock were moved into Llanilar station yard at the time – including an LNER compartment coach plus some 4-wheel tank wagons.

Quantities of trackbed and bridge abutments remain along the route, although some parts have been farmed over. Other surviving remains include, from north to south:


Named from north to south, unless otherwise stated:[5]

Bryn Teifi station in 1962

Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway[edit]

Manchester and Milford Railway[edit]

Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway[edit]




  • Aberaeron Junction
  • Oakford: Proposed intermediate station
  • Llanarth: Summit of the proposed line
  • Gilfachreda: Proposed Intermediate Station
  • New Quay: Terminus of the proposed line


Official talks of reopening started in 2014, when First Minister Carwyn Jones shared his support towards the reopening,[7] and it was adopted as an official policy of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.[8] The next two years were followed by support from Carmarthenshire County Council, Ceredigion County Council, the Minister for Science, Economy and Transport (Welsh Government) and Plaid Cymru.[9] Official talks and meeting included Stephen Crabb MP, Secretary of State for Wales and James Price, Director General, Economy, Science and Transport (Welsh Government) shortly followed by the AECOM report.[10] There have been several support, funding and help pledges.

In October 2016, the Welsh government announced it would be allocating £300,000 towards funding a feasibility report into re-opening the railway as part of the draft 2017–18 budget.[11] The study is being carried out by engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald and began in September 2017.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Context of) Thomas Edward Owen (Manchester and Milford Railway) Papers at Archives Wales, National Library of Wales
  2. ^ a b Pontrhydfendigaid An archival site about the subject district
  3. ^ Railways that never were Discussion at Google Group UK Railway, January 2007
  4. ^ Gwili Steam Railway: History at Gwili Steam Railway Company (a community-supported commercial enterprise)
  5. ^ Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway at Railscot,
  6. ^ Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway at Railscot,
  7. ^ First Minister Shows his support
  8. ^ Welsh Lib Dems Signal Support for Reopening
  9. ^ Plaid Cymru Support – note the 5th paragraph down
  10. ^ AECOM Report
  11. ^ "Carmarthen to Aberystwyth rail links a step closer after funding pledge". South Wales Evening Post. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Aberystwyth-Carmarthen railway feasibility study to begin next month". Cambrian News. Retrieved 12 September 2017.

External links[edit]