Monday, 29 March 2010

The valleys and tunnels

Great article in the Western Mail today about the abandoned tunnels that scatter the south Wales valleys. The legacy of heavy industry, these feats of engineering were used to transport coal and materials between areas that would have otherwise been separated by thousands of tonnes of rugged landscape.

Now Plaid's prospective General Election candidate for Cynon Valley, Dafydd Trystan, has proposed opening up these tunnels to link up communities that are very close geographically but miles away from each other due to the road network.
Speaking as a board member of the sustainable travel charity Sustrans about the tunnels between Abernant and Merthyr Tydfil and between Penrhiwceiber and Quakers Yard, Dafydd said:

Both these tunnels could provide a fascinating walk or cycle ride, especially for anyone interested in our transport history, as well as a convenient inter-valley route. I very much hope studies can go ahead which could eventually lead to their reopening.”

I think this is a fantastic idea and should be seriously explored. There's a blocked up tunnel between Treherbert and Blaengwynfi in the Afan valley. If the tunnels in question are in a good state of repair it should cost a relatively small amount of money to reopen them and the benefits to all communities concerned would be felt instantly.

Travel time between the major town of Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil could be slashed, which would not only be beneficial to commuters and the economy, but also to the environment. We need to be doing all we can to reduce our green-house gas emissions, and car-travel, which is almost essential for travelling between valleys, is one of our greatest emitters. Cutting time spend on the road would reduce emissions from cars, but re-opening the railtrack, if it still runs under the mountains, would help to reduce car usage much more.

Many communities would, I'm sure, feel and be a lot less isolated if some of the old tunnels could be reopened. It is very difficult to place a value on the benefits it could deliver as I've never experienced life living in a community where the road runs out. The idea deserves wider consideration as it could provide good opportunities to people who would otherwise struggle to access employment.

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