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West Wales lines

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West Wales lines
A Class 153 unit in Heart of Wales line livery crosses the viaduct near Tenby railway station c.2007.
OwnerNetwork Rail
TypeHeavy Rail
SystemNational Rail
Number of tracksDouble track Swansea to Clarbeston Road (remainder single line)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Route map
Map of the West Wales lines.
West Wales lines
Landore Junction
Swansea Loop West Jn
Cockett Tunnel
Pembrey and Burry Port
Burry Port
Lando Platform
Kidwelly Flats Halt
Carmarthen Junction
St Clears
Whitland Tunnel
Narberth Tunnel
Clarbeston Road
Lydstep Halt
Waterston oil refinery
Beaver's Hill Halt
Robeston oil refinery
Milford Haven
Golden Hill Platform
Llanion Halt
Hakin Docks
Spittal Tunnel
Pembroke Dock ferry/water interchange
Wolf's Castle Halt
Welsh Hook Halt
Mathry Road Halt
Jordanston Halt
and Goodwick
ferry/water interchange Fishguard Harbour

The West Wales lines (Welsh: Llinellau Gorllewin Cymru) are a group of railway lines from Swansea through Carmarthenshire to Pembrokeshire, West Wales. The main part runs from Swansea to Carmarthen and Whitland, where it becomes three branches to Fishguard, Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock.

Before the rail cuts of the 1960s, there were routes to Cardigan, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandysul, and via Lampeter, cross-country from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth.



The railway to west Wales was first projected in 1844, and the proposal was for a line to run from the Great Western Railway near Gloucester to Fishguard, with a branch from Whitland to Pembroke. The railway was called the South Wales Railway, and although it was in theory independent of the GWR, in practice it was very closely linked. This was shown by the fact that Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the engineer, and the line was laid to the 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge.

Construction began in 1847, but the company ran into financial difficulties. In addition, the Great Famine of Ireland reduced the prospective revenue from Anglo-Irish traffic. As a result, instead of completing the line to the proposed port at Fishguard, the Haverfordwest branch was extended to Neyland where the harbour would cost less.

The line from Swansea opened as far as Carmarthen on 11 October 1852, Haverfordwest on 2 January 1854, and to its terminus at Neyland on 15 April 1856. At first, the railway was leased to the GWR, but in 1863 the two companies were amalgamated.

The original powers for the branch to Pembroke lapsed, and so in 1859 the Pembroke and Tenby Railway was authorised to build a 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm), standard gauge line from Pembroke Dock to Tenby. The line opened from Tenby to Pembroke on 30 July 1863 and to Pembroke Dock on 8 August 1864. The extension from Tenby to the GWR line at Whitland opened on 4 September 1866. There were two adjoining stations at Whitland with no physical connection between the two lines because they operated on different gauges.[1]

The line was engineered by Sir James Szlumper.[2] It had its own police force until 1897, due to the high-security of the Naval Dockyard at Pembroke Dock, and the munitions transported.[3]

The Pembroke & Tenby Company obtained powers in 1866 to extend their standard-gauge line from Whitland to Carmarthen. This would have enabled the Pembroke & Tenby to link up with the standard-gauge network through the Llanelly Railway, the Vale of Towy Railway and the Central Wales line. Through a series of inter-company working agreements, this would have had the effect of giving the London & North Western Railway unrestricted access to west Wales. Within the Act for the extension to Carmarthen was a Schedule which allowed either party (the Pembroke & Tenby or the Great Western) to request the Great Western for running powers to the Pembroke company. In doing this the cost of adding a rail to mix the gauge and installing the necessary junctions at Whitland and Carmarthen was £20,000 to be paid to the Great Western within 18 months of the request. The request was made by the Pembroke company and consequently the Great Western converted the up line to standard gauge leaving the down line purely as broad. This was not what the Pembroke company was wanting but had to live with it. The Great Western maintained a crossing loop at St Clears for the broad gauge and this caused some hindrance to the Pembroke company. The conversion is noted as the first pure broad to standard gauge for the Great Western.

The Pembroke & Tenby ran the first goods trains to Carmarthen on 1 June 1868, and passenger services in August 1869. The G.W.R began leasing the line on 1 July 1896 before finally amalgamated it a year later.[1]

In 1895, the Rosebush line was opened from Clynderwen to Letterston along the old Maenclochog line, and construction started on extending it to Goodwick and the proposed new harbour at Fishguard. A Bill was approved by Parliament for the railway to extend eastwards to Carmarthen, although this was stopped when the line was bought out by the Great Western Railway in 1898. In 1906, the railway was extended from Letterston to Fishguard & Goodwick followed in 1909 with Fishguard Harbour.

The Rosebush line was closed during World War I because its rails were shipped to the Western Front in 1917 for use by the British Army. In 1923 the line was relaid. However, passenger services ceased in 1937. The entire line was closed in 1949.

Passenger services stopped on the Whitland and Cardigan branch in 1962, followed by freight in 1963. The line to Neyland followed in 1964. Pembrokeshire escaped lightly from the 1963 Beeching Report as none of the remaining three branches – to Fishguard, Milford Haven, and Pembroke Dock via Tenby – were proposed for closure. The Pembroke Dock branch survived a later closure proposal in the late 1960s.

The first freight line to the Oil Refineries was built in 1960 when Esso opened their first refinery in Milford Haven.

Current services

First Great Western high speed service at Carmarthen.

Until 2013, train services on the West Wales line were compromised, by the existence of a stretch of single track on the otherwise double-track main line. This 5 miles (8 km) stretch of single track is between Cockett West Junction in the western suburbs of Swansea and Duffryn West Junction to the east of Llanelli. Within this section the River Loughor was crossed on a viaduct which required significant works to accommodate two tracks.[4] Plans were advanced to replace the viaduct and restore double track, was completed in April 2013.[5]

One intermediate station, Gowerton, also lies on this single-track stretch, with just the former Down (westbound) platform in use for trains in either direction. The disused former Up platform (without track) is still in existence. Less than half of all trains passing through Gowerton can be scheduled to make stops owing to pathing limitations. Additionally, this tight pathing compromised route performance which can amplify delays and hence impact connections into and out of the long-distance Intercity services between Swansea, Cardiff and London. This is important since there are many interchange passengers from the Pembroke Dock line (which is mainly served by trains terminating at Swansea) for Cardiff and English destinations.

The double tracking work between Cockett and Dyffryn was completed by July 2013 with a revamped Gowerton railway station having the disused platform brought back into use. This resulted in Gowerton railway station having an additional 95 trains stopping there every week.[6] Additional problems are also found on the Single Lead Junction at Swansea Loop East junction (north of Swansea station), which causes conflict between trains from west of Swansea and the eastbound mainline High Speed Train services. There are two passenger companies operating; Transport for Wales Rail and Great Western Railway.

Great Western Railway introduced a new timetable in 2023, significantly increasing the service on the West Wales line. Their change added 65 trains every week on the line,[7] extending services which previously started or terminated at Swansea to call at Llanelli, Pembrey & Burry Port and Carmarthen.

Transport for Wales, Iarnród Éireann and Stena Line promotes SailRail[8] using the Fishguard Harbour to Rosslare Europort service which links with the Iarnród Éireann trains to Dublin Connolly on the Dublin–Rosslare railway line.



The cities, towns and villages served by the route are listed below. Towns in italics are served by InterCity express services.



Great Western Railway

Regular services
Class 175 DMU en route for Carmarthen

In May 2023, Great Western Railway added extra services for the first time since their reduction in the late 1990s.[7] They now operate the following services:

Summer period
  • Additional daily services are provided between Pembroke Dock and London Paddington. Two services run from Pembroke Dock to Paddington, one runs from Paddington to Pembroke Dock with a fourth service which runs between Swansea and Pembroke Dock only.
Cancelled services

The following services previously operated by Great Western Railway (and/or one or both of its predecessors First Great Western, Great Western Trains, British Rail and Great Western Railway) no longer operate:

Transport for Wales


Due to the Single Lead Junction at Swansea and the single track between Cockett and Dyfryn, a standard repeating departure time service is not possible,[clarification needed] therefore a non-standard departure time service is operated on these main routes:

Transport for Wales have proposed operating additional services to Tenby, from Swansea, in the Summer of 2025.

Most services are timed to provide a connection at Swansea to Great Western Railway services to London Paddington

Other services




The junction on the Fishguard branch to the former North Pembrokeshire and Fishguard Railway, which now leads to the former RNAD Trecwn site, has been refurbished.

  • One of the oil refineries near Milford Haven generates daily long-distance freight trains.
  • The Tata Trostre tinplate works generates some freight traffic

Developments & upgrades

The former wooden Loughor Rail Viaduct was replaced by a concrete/steel structure in 2013.

In August 2006, SWWITCH performed a case review of the Fishguard branch to decide whether it was economically viable to continue to operate a passenger service to the harbour given the very scant (boat-trains only) service. In 2011, a local campaign resulted in extra service being launched. A year later it was announced that the closed Fishguard and Goodwick railway station would reopen.[12][13]

In December 2008 the Welsh Assembly announced it had secured funding from the European Fund for Strategic Investments to upgrade sections of the line between Gowerton and Loughor.[14] The work, which was completed by 8 July 2013, included the replacement of the wooden Loughor Rail Viaduct with a concrete/steel structure across the River Loughor, the subsequent redoubling of the line between Swansea and Llanelli and the reopening on the old platform at Gowerton railway station.[15] The improvement work has allowed more trains to stop at Gowerton while decreasing overall travel times, and an increase in the frequency of services between Swansea and Llanelli. In 2015, Network Rail made the proposal to reopen Cockett in its annual Strategic Business Plan.[16]

In 2018 community campaigning began to improve services and facilities at Pembroke Dock.[17]

See also



  1. ^ a b "Railway Magazine", October 1959
  2. ^ "Build a Free Website with Web Hosting - Tripod". lycos.co.uk. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  3. ^ "British Transport Police". www.btp.police.uk. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Network Rail - Page not found" (PDF). networkrail.co.uk. Retrieved 27 November 2015. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  5. ^ "Rail Plans for West Wales Unveiled". Network Rail. 12 December 2011. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012.
  6. ^ "Revamped Gowerton train station is on track to fine future". South Wales Evening Post. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b "65 extra trains every week in south Wales as GWR introduces new May timetable". GWR News. 18 May 2023. Retrieved 21 April 2024.
  8. ^ "SailRail". Irishrail.ie. Archived from the original on 8 February 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  9. ^ a b Parker, Richard (2008). The Railways of Pembrokeshire. Noodle Books. ISBN 978-1-906419-07-3.
  10. ^ "Pupils' petition for more Fishguard trains pays off". BBC News. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Farewell as Stena Line's 'Lynx' Fast-Ferry Sets Sail for South Korea". afloat.ie. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  12. ^ "Goodwick railway station near Fishguard to reopen". BBC News. 2 January 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  13. ^ "Station on track for March opening". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  14. ^ OnlineWales Internet Ltd 20150411. "Wales Holiday Accommodation – Cottages, Hotels, Bed and Breakfast :: Stay in Wales". Stay in Wales. Retrieved 27 November 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ "Welsh Government – Rail Improvement Delivers a New Beginning to South West Wales". wales.gov.uk. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  16. ^ "Network Rail" (PDF). networkrail.co.uk. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  17. ^ "Pembroke Dock: Plans to put train station back on the map". The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser. 6 March 2018.

Further reading

KML is from Wikidata