Blaenau Ffestiniog Station
|Blaenau Ffestiniog Station|
Overview of the station showing the two gauges side by side, 2009
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- This article is about the current station in Blaenau Ffestiniog, for other historic stations see Stations in Blaenau
The current Blaenau Ffestiniog Station is the terminus of both the Ffestiniog Railway and Network Rail's Conwy Valley line. It lies at a height of 710ft (216.4m) and a distance of 13miles 50 chains (21.93km) from Porthmadog.[route 1][wikipedia 1]
- For more information on the changing railways of Blaenau Ffestiniog see the Blaenau Ffestiniog page
The present joint Station was built on the site of the GWR Exchange station of 1883. Prior to its opening, this new station was usually called Blaenau Ffestiniog Central by which name the former GWR Exchange station had been known from 1948 until its closure.
BR commenced operation to the new station on 22nd March 1982 and the FR passenger service was extended to Blaenau Ffestiniog on 25 May 1982, thus marking 150th Anniversary of Royal Assent of the Festiniog Railway Act.
The narrow and standard gauge lines at this station are now the other way round compared to the original station due to the connection of the old GWR and LNWR lines using a new section of track on the original FR formation. The standard gauge platform is on the northern side of the station whilst the Ffestiniog Railway has two platforms on an island at the centre of the site. Platform three on the southern side of the island is the predominately used FR platform whilst platform two on the northern side of the island is now little used.
The island platform has an elegant station canopy, erected in 1989-90, which tapers along its length, being narrower at the Porthmadog end. Under the canopy is a brick building containing the toilets and "Bunny Hutch" store room.
For the first 15 years of the new station the FR booking office was in the Victorian house "Isallt" which also housed the Tourist Information Centre. Isallt is beside the access to the footbridge from the street and an 'S' shaped path led down to the BR platform. The sales area at this time was operated from the Bunny Hutch. Isallt was no longer in railway use once the foot crossing from the car park to the FR platform was built in 1998 following the end of nuclear waste trains. Isallt is now (2017) a guest house and coffee shop.
From 1997 the FR booking office and shop was housed in part of the Queen's Hotel. When the lease ran out it was transferred to temporary buildings on the platform. The present building was previously used at Pont Croesor when that station was the temporary terminus of the WHR.
There was briefly an automatic colour light system at Blaenau Ffestiniog using track circuits and relays (like at Tanybwlch and Minffordd). Commissioned in March 2000, it was supposed to let a train into platform 3 and, if a second arrived let it in to platform 2. It was decommissioned after an accident on the 5th of May 2001 when it switched the points under a long (16 carriage) train that straddled multiple track circuits causing a derailment. Blaenau no longer has any signalling. The decommissioned signals can be seen in one of the photos below. They were later dismantled and some of the components re-used in the re-signalling of Harbour Station.
There is no signalling on the BR platform.
Since the reopening of the line to Blaenau in 1982, station facilities have been temporarily located in various buildings, most recently in temporary buildings on the platform. The Diamond Jubilee Appeal aims to raise money for the construction of permanent buildings for the station, befitting its status as a terminus and as a major interchange with the National Rail network.
Keolis Amey has won the Transport for Wales rail franchise (who operate the BR services on the Conwy Valley line), with a commitment to spend £1m on Blaenau Ffestiniog station, with work due between 2021 and 2024.
The start the FR has made on plans for the station are at an early stage.
The following issues are present at the existing station. There is no cross-platform interchange between the FR and BR, making interchange difficult. Although it has a central location with good connections with local buses, it is distant from the main trunk road and has inadequate car parking facilities. Furthermore, there is insufficient road signage to the station meaning that most visitors drive on and start their journeys at Harbour station. The aim is to attract more passengers to start their journeys at Blaenau; it was hoped, when the joint station first opened, that there would be an even split between the termini. However, twice as many passengers start their journeys in Porthmadog, unlike the WHR which sees a fairly even split between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
The booking office and shop are currently housed in a poor-quality and cramped metal Portakabin which is life-expired, in need of replacement and unworthy of a major terminus with an interchange to the national rail network. The BR platform is even sparser, containing only a bus stop-esque shelter and a departures board. A joint platform would enable passengers of both BR and the FR to benefit from enhanced facilities. Initial plans involve refurbishing the existing canopy and toilet block, which would be augmented by a new booking office and shop. The proposal is that the lightly-used FR platform two would have the platform extended over it (and possibly further over the BR loop subject to Network Rail approval, with the loop being relocated to the former LNWR station), allowing BR services to serve the island platform, facilitating cross-platform interchange. The island platform would have to be on two levels, reflecting the different floor-heights of BR and FR trains. This wider platform would also allow larger and better buildings to be constructed at platform level. Previous experiences with remote locations such as Isallt and the Queens Hotel mean that a platform building is highly desirable, as passengers often make use of platform facilities during turnarounds.
The flat crossing over the BR tracks is expected to be retained to allow level access, as well as direct access to the bus station and the square. However, measures will be taken to prevent locals from continuing to use the station as a short-cut, which the station has served as for many years.
Blanche, looking very smart, takes water at Blaenau after arriving with a morning train - but see Double Heading pictorial for the same date for news of a less satisfactory afternoon appearance!, June 2001
Earl of Merioneth arrives on a wet day in 2008. Note the by then decommissioned signals.
There is no station car park. There is a large council owned car park adjacent to the stations. This is located on your left when approaching from the north (adjacent to the Queen’s Hotel) and serves both the Ffestiniog and Conwy Valley Line stations. There are designated “Disabled” parking spaces beside the entrance to the platforms.
The car park is on the site of the FR's old Duffws station, the main building from which now serves as public toilets.
Access to the Ffestiniog platform is via a gentle ramp and a level crossing. Our booking office / shop is situated on the platform and can be accessed via a ramp. The toilets are situated in the main station building beyond the booking office. There is level access into the Ladies’ and the Gentlemen’s toilets. The accessible toilet has level access and also contains nappy changing facilities.
- Mitchell, Vic; Keith Smith (1994). Branch Lines Around Porthmadog 1954-94. Midhurst, Sussex, England: Middleton Press. ISBN 1-873793-31-6. OCLC 32132010. captions 119 & 120.
- Mitchell, Vic (2002). Festiniog - 50 Years of Enterprise. Midhurst, Sussex, England: Middleton Press. ISBN 1-901706-83-4. OCLC 51991676. captions 114 & 121
- Johnson, Peter (2017). Festiniog Railway: From Slate Railway to Heritage Operation 1921 - 2014. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 978-1-47389-625-3. OCLC 1000452534.
- http://forum.signalbox.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6424&start=15 Comments on Signal Box forum
- Prideaux, John (2019) "Blaenau Ffestiniog Station A New Opportunity?", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 244, page(s): 281-285