Merthyr line

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Merthyr Line
Transport for Wales 150213 Pontypridd to Merthyr Tydfil (52009459280).jpg
OwnerTransport for Wales[1]
Rhondda Cynon Taff
TypeHeavy rail
SystemNational Rail
Operator(s)Transport for Wales Rail
Rolling stockClass 150 DMUs
Line length
  • Merthyr–Abercynon: 8 miles 18 chains (13.2 km)
  • Aberdare–Abercynon: 6 miles 8 chains (9.8 km)
  • Abercynon–Cardiff: 15 miles 74 chains (25.6 km)
  • Total: 30 miles 20 chains (48.7 km)
Number of tracksDouble track Cardiff to Abercynon,
single track with loops on Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil branches
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Merthyr line
Tower Colliery
Trecynon Halt
Mountain Ash
Matthewstown Halt
Pontcynon Halt
Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr Vale
Quakers Yard
Abercynon North
Treforest Estate
Taffs Well
Cardiff Queen Street
Cardiff Central

The Merthyr line is a commuter railway line in South Wales from central Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare. The line is part of the Cardiff urban rail network, known as the Valley Lines.


The line is historically the Taff Vale Railway, the first rail development in the Valleys in the 1840s and associated with the notorious Taff Vale Judgment in 1901 when the courts penalised trade unions for losses caused by strikes.

The Aberdare line was closed in 1964 under the Beeching Axe. The line was re-opened in 1988 in an attempt to stimulate jobs and employment in the valley in response to the closure of the last few coal mines.

In 2005, following further grant from the Welsh Assembly, the stations at Abercynon, Penrhiwceiber, Fernhill, Cwmbach and Aberdare were extended to four-car length to accommodate longer peak trains in an initiative to relieve overcrowding, train leasing/running costs also funded by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The route[edit]

The line follows the Rhondda line as far as Pontypridd, serving Cathays, Llandaf, Radyr, Taff's Well, Treforest and Pontypridd. It then divides at Abercynon with separate branches to Merthyr and Aberdare up diverging valleys.

The Merthyr branch serves Quakers Yard, Merthyr Vale, Troed-y-rhiw, Pentre-bach and Merthyr Tydfil. The Welsh Assembly Government confirmed in February 2007 that it is grant funding, in conjunction with European Union Objective 1 assistance, a scheme to upgrade the line north of Abercynon, including reinstatement of 2 miles of double track, to enable the introduction of a half-hourly train service, the revenue costs of which the Welsh Assembly Government will also meet. The enhanced service was said to commence in 2008 but postponed to May 2009.[3][4]

The Aberdare branch serves Penrhiwceiber, Mountain Ash, Fernhill, Cwmbach and Aberdare. The line continues beyond Aberdare – for goods purposes only – to serve Tower Colliery, which was the last deep coal mine to remain open in South Wales. Mountain Ash station was redeveloped with a grant from the Welsh Assembly Government in the early part of the decade, the scheme including the provision of a new station and a passing loop to permit an upgrade of the passenger service to two trains per hour from late 2003. There are a few gaps in the half-hourly service to enable coal/stone trains to run to/from Tower Colliery/Hirwaun.


The line is currently operated by Transport for Wales (TfW) as part of the Valley Lines network. TfW replaced the previous franchise, Arriva Trains Wales in October 2018.

Both the Merthyr and Aberdare branch lines have a half-hourly service during the day which decreases to hourly in the evening. On a Sunday service frequency decreases to two-hourly.

In December 2017, Arriva Trains Wales introduced extra sunday morning services on the Aberdare line on a trial basis. This was in response to demand from the local Assembly Member.[5] The trial was deemed a success and the extra Sunday services were made permanent from April 2018.[6]

Extension to Hirwaun[edit]

EWS Class 66 moves coal from Tower Colliery towards Aberdare, 2006

Since its termination at Aberdare following the Beeching Axe, there have been various proposals to extend the line northwards towards Hirwaun again. In recent years, these have been driven by the Welsh Assembly Government.

In 2006, a study by local transport alliance Sewta appeared to rule out any such extension for the foreseeable future.

In November 2009, WAG sponsored Network Rail in a feasibility study to reopening both the section to Hirwaun, and parts of the former Anglesey Central Railway between Llangefni on Anglesey, and Bangor. Network Rail has already begun work on gathering evidence for its study, beginning with cutting away vegetation on track sections to examine the condition of rails and track bedding. Its report was expected to be published in early 2010, before any business case to reopen the lines can be developed.[7]

It was announced in March 2011 that the Welsh Assembly Government's 2011–12 capital programme would include the re-opening of the line to Hirwaun as part of the Cynon Valley Scheme[8] although the project appears to have advanced little at that time. In 2019-2020, the Cardiff Capital Region's transport authority secured £100,000 of funding from the Welsh Government's Local Transport Fund to undertake a Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG) 1 study into the feasibility of extending Aberdare Line passenger services through reopened Trecynon and Hirwaun stations to a new terminus serving the Tower strategic development site.[9]

As already noted the line is now closed above Aberdare, but the aspiration to reopen with a passenger service remains, so the track is being retained in situ.


On 16 July 2012 plans to electrify the line were announced by the Government as part of a £9.4bn package of investment of the railways in England and Wales.[10]

The announcement was made as an extension of the electrification of the South Wales Main Line from Cardiff to Swansea and the electrification of the south Wales Valley Lines at a total cost of £350 million. The investment will require new trains and should result in reduced journeys times and cheaper maintenance. Work was expected to start between 2014 and 2019.[11]

However, as part of Welsh Government's South Wales Metro this line has been taken over,[12] and is now being electrified[13] in preparation for new Class 398 tram-train rolling stock.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Impact of Core Valley Lines divestment on the Wales & Western region" (PDF). Retrieved 23 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Yonge, John; Padgett, David (August 2010) [1989]. Bridge, Mike (ed.). Railway Track Diagrams 3: Western (5th ed.). Bradford on Avon: Trackmaps. maps 28B & 29A. ISBN 978-0-9549866-6-7.
  3. ^ Green Light for New Rail Links Welsh Assembly website. Retrieved 4 March 2009
  4. ^ New half-hourly train service due to start Wales Online. Retrieved 14 May 2009
  5. ^ "Christmas boost for Cynon Valley as Arriva Trains Wales confirms pilot of extra Sunday services". Arriva Trains Wales News. Archived from the original on 7 December 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Extra Sunday Aberdare services confirmed after successful pilot". Archived from the original on 28 April 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Old tracks could see trains again". BBC News. 5 March 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
  8. ^ WalesOnline (24 March 2011). "Aberdare-to-Hirwaun rail line set to reopen".
  9. ^ Gupwell, Katie-Ann (2 July 2020). "Brand new train station to be built as part of £2m valleys railway line improvements - Wales Online". Wales Online. Retrieved 23 December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "£9Bn Railway Investment Announced By Coalition". BBC News. 16 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Rail electrification to Swansea and south Wales valleys welcomed". BBC News. 16 July 2012.
  12. ^ "Impact of Core Valley Lines divestment on the Wales & Western region" (PDF). Retrieved 23 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Core Valley Lines Transformation | Transport for Wales". Retrieved 23 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ "Transport for Wales: meet the fleet". Railcolornews. Retrieved 23 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Further reading[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML

Coordinates: 51°36′50″N 3°19′50″W / 51.6140°N 3.3306°W / 51.6140; -3.3306