Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Boost for campaign to reopen tunnel closed in the 1960s

A campaign to reopen a 3km-long rail tunnel in South Wales that has been boarded up for 40 years has received a major boost with news that Highways Agency engineers will carry out an inspection next month.

A campaign to reopen a 3km-long rail tunnel in South Wales that has been boarded up for 40 years has received a major boost with news that Highways Agency engineers will carry out an inspection next month.

The Rhondda Tunnel Society wants the 3.15km structure, which links Blaencwm with Blaengwynfi, to become a cycle and walking path.

It believes an £8M strengthening project could be carried out with European Union (EU) funding, creating a tourist attraction and linking the Afan Valley with the Rhondda Valley.

The tunnel was originally completed in 1890, and used to transport coal to Swansea and Briton Ferry for export. Temporarily closed in 1968 on safety grounds, the tunnel was subsequently abandoned before being boarded up in the 1970s.

“There’s a bit of romance in reopening the tunnel,” Rhondda Tunnel Society chairman Steve Mackey told NCE. “It was my playground as a kid, and every weekend we used to walk its length with candles in tins - it was quite amazing.

“But it’s also such an iconic masterpiece of Victorian engineering. It was started at both ends and they were only an inch and a half apart when they met in the middle. The brickwork in there is amazing.”

Mackey hopes that adding to the 178 steel reinforcement ribs already in the tunnel will be enough to make it structurally sound.

“We have engineers going into the tunnel in April,” he added. “We will await the inspection report and then know whether we can go forward with our plans.

“We have been to the Welsh Assembly Government, and the politicians are interested. We hope to get government funding for a full feasibility study then EU funding for the project.

“We also receive donations every day to our campaign. The public interest and media coverage has been astonishing.”

When the British Railways Board was abolished by the government in 2013, the Highways Agency was given responsibility for the Rhondda Tunnel as one of 3,400 disused structures relating to former railway lines inEngland, Wales and Scotland.

“We are undertaking an initial inspection of the former Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway Tunnel, which has been closed since 1968, with the help of the Mines Rescue Service,” said a Highways Agency spokesman said this week.

“It is hoped this visual inspection will give us some indication of whether a more robust survey can be undertaken in a safe manner in the near future.

“Any potential reopening of such a structure would not be undertaken by the Highways Agency although we would seek to provide assistance to other interested parties.”

Plaid Cymru assembly member Bethan Jenkins said in a debate in the Welsh Assembly earlier this year that reopening the tunnel “could provide an anchor project for something even bigger than bringing back to life the longest disused tunnel in Wales”.

The project could act as a catalyst for regeneration of the Valleys as a whole, she claimed.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.