HC Deb 24 May 1954 vol 528 cc167-9

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Sir C. Drewe.]

10.48 p.m.

Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)

I am very pleased to have an opportunity to draw the attention of the House to a unique railway arrangement found at Blaenau Ffestiniog, in my constituency. I hardly think that it is paralleled in the whole network of British railways. It is not purely a local problem with which I am dealing tonight. I shall show as I proceed that this problem is the concern of the county council of Merioneth and also of many local authorities in the county.

Here, at Blaenau Ffestiniog, we find the termini of two railway systems within a few hundred yards of each other, and yet unconnected. Consequently there are two railway systems situated within a few hundred yards of one another, and functioning in complete isolation. As I have said, this arrangement is found in Blaenau Ffestiniog, the largest town in Merionethshire, and I shall give briefly the historical reasons for this extraordinary arrangement. During the 19th century, the slate industry of Blaenau Ffestiniog developed at a phenomenal rate; between 1841 and 1881 the population multiplied threefold, and the output of slate fourfold.

The town became the most important underground slate mining centre in the United Kingdom, and indeed in the whole of Europe. The result was the construction of two railways radiating from Blaenau Ffestiniog. It was from the town that the first highland railway in history was built, linking it with Portmadoc, which flourished as a slate exporting port more than a century ago.

From there ran two other railways, one linking the town with the North Wales coast at Llandudno Junction, and involving the building of one of the longest tunnels in the country, and the other linked it with the English Midlands via Bala and Ruabon.

Blaenau Ffestiniog became the hub of a railway system, one part of which has unfortunately been closed. I want to know whether the other two parts will follow suit. We want to see the two railways united to give them a true purpose and function. This is a problem which has economic and social implications. A glance at the map shows that if these two termini were connected a through railway would run all the way from Ruabon to Llandudno Junction on the North Wales coast.

It is claimed that the railways are uneconomic. Even so they are not unique in this respect. What could be expected under the present stupid arrangements? Vitually we have two culs-de-sac and culs-de-sac never become flourishing thoroughfares. Break down the partition wall between them and they become a thoroughfare with all the possibilities and consequences of a thoroughfare. The same is true in relation to these railways. If the two railways were linked together the whole picture would change.

I should now like to read a letter I have received from the secretary of the Bala branch of the National Union of Railwaymen. It reads: