Past The Tracks
The Vale Of Glamorgan Line
The Vale Of Glamorgan line runs through the rich agriculture land of South Wales, between the mountains and the coast south and west of Cardiff. Opened in 1897 as a double track line throughout, the line ran from Barry to Bridgend via Aberthaw and Llantwit Major. From as early as 1860 there had been discussions about providing a line through 'The Vale' but it was only at the end of the nineteenth century that this was final achieved.
Starting from the station at Barry, the line runs along the coast towards Bridgend passing over the impressive Porthkerry viaduct. This caused problems during construction when it subsided and partially collapsed. This delayed the eventual opening of the line for over a year while the viaduct was rebuilt. However, in January 1898, just a month after opening, a sizeable crack was detected in the viaduct, and it was discovered that it had badly subsided again. It was to be over two years before the viaduct was repaired and usable again, with a hastily built loop line carrying traffic while the viaduct was under repair.
West of Barry, there were stations located at Rhoose and Aberthaw where there was also, until the nineteen thirties, a second station to service the line to Cowbridge. Further west the line passed through Gileston and Llantwit Major. A small halt at St Athan was opened in 1939 to service the RAF base there. There was a further halt at Llandow, and the line continued to Southerndown Road station before terminating at Bridgend.
The line was always fairly well patronised between Llantwit Major and Barry, with trains normally working from Barry to Bridgend, or Barry to Llantwit Major. There were very few direct trains to Cardiff. The presence of RAF St Athan also helped the line, and even into the nineteen sixties, the eastern section was quite busy. However, the western section of the line had always carried little traffic, and Southerndown Road station was the first on the line to close in 1961. However, in 1963, the Vale Of Glamorgan line appeared in the report 'The Reshaping Of British Railways' written by the Chairman of the British Railways board, Dr Richard Beeching.
There was understandable local opposition to the closure proposals, however the closure was approved and the line closed to passengers in June 1964. Unlike many other railways that were closed during the same era, this wasn't the end for the Vale Of Glamorgan line, however. It escaped being lifted like so many other lines, because the trackwork was needed for coal trains to service Aberthaw Power Station. The coal traffic was regular, and proved to be the line's salvation. It was still used occasionally for passenger trains when there were engineering works on the main line through Pontyclun.
However, despite several attempts to have the line re-opened for passengers, nothing occurred for many years, in spite of the large public demand for a re-instated passenger service. However, after many years of campaigning, the line finally reopened to passenger traffic on Sunday 12th June 2005. There is currently an hourly service, with trains running from Cardiff to Bridgend, stopping at Barry, Rhoose, and Llantwit Major. There is also a shuttle bus to connect the new Rhoose station to Cardiff Wales Airport. It is wonderful to now be able to once again experience a line that has been closed to passengers for more than forty years.
Despite the closure of the line in the Beeching era, it is refreshing to see that a line such as the Vale Of Glamorgan, not only has a place in today's world, but will hopefully prove to be both useful and profitable. It can be hoped that if the re-opening is a success, that further re-opening of similar mothballed lines will be considered, reconnecting areas of the country that miss their past railway link now more than ever.