A £250,000 Welsh Government grant which could help turn the Rhondda Tunnel into the longest underground cycle route in Europe has been welcomed by the Deputy Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council.
Cllr Anthony Taylor says the re-opening of the tunnel, re-connecting the Afan and Rhondda valleys using the neglected Victorian railway tunnel, could provide a major tourism and economic boost for both communities.
The £250,000 grant for Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) Council is part of a £10m tranche of grants being handed out to Welsh councils this month following the Welsh Government’s Active Travel Act, passed in 2013.
The aim of the funding is to connect people to their local community facilities, places of work and city, town and village centres in ways which will encourage them to walk or cycle.
Cllr Taylor said:
“The Rhondda Tunnel project could provide walking and cycling enthusiasts with a brand new attraction and also link our Afan Valley directly with the Rhondda.
“We fully support the work RCT Council along with other partners like the Rhondda Tunnel Society has done on this project so far and an open, restored tunnel would bring major benefits for communities on both sides.
“We have had positive meetings with the Rhondda Tunnel Society and been on site as well. The tunnel project would certainly compliment ambitious plans to increase tourism and employment opportunities across the Afan Valley.”
Built in 1890, the tunnel – nearly two miles long- runs from Blaencwm in the Rhondda to Abergwynfi in the Afan Valley. The railway line which ran through the tunnel closed in the late ‘60s under the Beeching Cuts which saw Britain’s railways hugely reduced.
The structure hosted coal trains which rumbled 1,000 feet below the colliery studded hills, from the mines of Rhondda to ports including Port Talbot and Swansea Docks..
Campaigners for re-opening the tunnel believe it could attract walkers and cyclists from all over Europe and surveyors said earlier this year they were confident the tunnel could be restored.
Some of the £250,000 allocated to RCT Council will also go on a plan to re-open the Abernant Tunnel which runs from Aberdare to Merthyr.
Cllr Andrew Morgan, leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council said:
“I’m pleased with the announcement from the Welsh Government which allocates £250,000 to allow us to take forward the next stages of both the Abernant and Rhondda Tunnels in partnership with the other organisations involved.
“This package will be split to support the progression of both of these projects in undertaking a more detailed inspection and analysis of the work necessary to make the re-opening of both tunnels a reality.”