The Welsh Government has awarded a £10,000 grant in a bid to re-open a disused Rhondda railway tunnel for cyclists and walkers.
The Rhondda Tunnel Society has been given the money to carry out a “tapping survey. The tunnel, which runs between Blaencwm in the Rhondda and Blaengwynfi in the Afan Valley, will be tapped by experts with long poles to establish its condition.
The Society has welcomed the grant and if the tunnel is reopened the plan is to create a pedestrian pathway and a cycle route. The would provide a gateway between the two valleys. If the opening is successful it would be the longest walking/cycling tunnel in Europe and the second longest in the world running at 1.8 miles.
Currently owned by Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency), the Victorian tunnel was closed in the 1960s because of beeching cutbacks. A structural and feasibility survey needs to take place which could cost up to £140,000. There are calls from the public for the Welsh Government to take over the project and push its progression.
Chairman of the Tunnel Society, Steve Mackey said:
“We are very grateful for the grant. We feel things are moving forward particularly with regards to the ownership issue of the tunnel.
“The Welsh Government is starting to show interest and seem supportive. We are very pleased.”
Leanne Wood, Rhondda AM and Plaid Cymru leader has encouraged the Welsh Government to take over and see the project through and has welcomed the grant.
Mrs Wood said;
“I hope that this money, secured as a result of Plaid Cymru’s budget negotiations, will take us one step closer to seeing this exciting project come to fruition.”
“The results of this survey could well prove the deciding factor in pushing the Labour cabinet into finally accepting ownership of the tunnel, which will be a huge step forward as it will allow things to progress to the next stage.”
Jill Evans, Campaigners and MEP will be visiting Brussels shortly with the aim of securing European funding and The Tunnel society has a meeting scheduled with the Heritage Lottery fund this month.
If the project is a success and the tunnel is re-opened it is anticipated that it will boost tourism for the local area attracting keen walkers and cyclists.