This is the latest response from the Welsh Govt. about the ownership and funding for the Rhondda Tunnel. It is a matter of "please be patient". The main issue over changing the ownership is the possible future liability. For a tunnel under peoples' homes, this can be considerable. Air shafts are also a problem. The Rhondda Tunnel's sole air shaft has recently received a clean bill of health and there are no buildings under the line of the tunnel and none proposed. So while the tunnel remains in its present condition, the liabilities remain trivial. When it is re-opened, it will be able to pay for itself.
We were invited to give a presentation on how the Rhondda Tunnel Society had got such a high profile for the project. Here is the presentation:
Click the link to open the 2018 audited accounts for the Rhondda Tunnel Society. 2018 Accounts
The statement below about the ownership of the tunnel has been agreed with the Highways Agency Historical Railways Estate and explains the current ownership situation.
Ownership of the Rhondda Tunnel
In the second half of the last century, many railway lines were closed leaving a large number of bridges and tunnels unused but still presenting a risk to the public if they were not kept safe. A QUANGO (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation) called BRB (Residuary) Ltd. was set up to manage these structures. Most are in England but some bridges, tunnels and viaducts are in South Wales, including the Rhondda and Abernant/Merthyr tunnels.
After the 2010 general election, one of the incoming coalition government’s policies was to have a “bonfire of the QUANGOs” as there were cost savings to be had out of reorganising them. BRB (Residuary) Ltd. was abolished in 2013 and its functions were split between London and Continental Railways and the Department for Transport (DfT) which is a Westminster Government department, whose minister is the Secretary of State for Transport (SoS). The Highways Agency took over the management of structures on behalf of the DfT but not the ownership.
In 2015 the Highways Agency was restructured into an arms-length government-owned company called Highways England. The Historical Railways Estate (HEHRE) team is a specialised group within Highways England and is based in York; it continues to carry out the management of disused railway structures owned by the SoS. The current agreement between Highways England and DfT with regard to historic railway structures ends on 31st. March 2020.
Therefore the tunnel is currently owned by the SoS. There is a clear separation between HEHRE and the SoS. Any decision regarding transfer of ownership comes from ministers or civil servants working on behalf of the SoS (i.e. the Westminster Govt). Many of the structures have been handed on to Sustrans who have re-used them to become some of the best features of the National Cycle Network such as the Hengoed Viaduct and the Bath Tunnels.
HEHRE has always been helpful and supportive of the Rhondda Tunnel Society’s campaign, but it is clearly not within its remit to make any change of ownership. While the tunnel is owned by the SoS the Rhondda Tunnel Society cannot tick a box in grant applications which asks if the owner consents to the tunnel being re-opened. The Welsh Government and Local Authorities will not take on ownership until they understand the potential liabilities.
The RhonddaTunnel Society sees the best way forward as an agreement between the Welsh Govt. and SoS that ownership will be transferred before the tunnel re-opens. This would enable the RTS to apply for grants towards re-opening it.
Tony Moon and Steve Mackey will be doing an illustrated talk on the history of the tunnel and an update on progress towards re-opening it. It will be in the Park & Dare Theatre Lounge at 19:00 on Wednesday 17th. April. RTS members are free; non-members £1 entry. The Park & Dare Theatre is in Station Road, Treorchy, CF42 6NL. This is much the same talk that we gave in the G2 Blaengwynfi in January, and have been presenting to local history and civic societies, etc.
These are the two presentations at the AGM and the accounts.
A most useful meeting; very encouraging and great to feel that we have such support. See our presentation. We agree that the Llynfi Valley would benefit, and that benefit could be that much greater if we can re-open the Caerau Tunnel.
Third AGM of the Rhondda Tunnel Society: Wednesday 6th. February 2019
To be held at the Parc & Dare Theatre Lounge, Treorchy at 19:30
A G E N D A
1. Introduction & Apologies
2. Chairman’s Address
3. Treasurer’s Report
5. The Society’s Data Protection Policy
6. Election of Trustees / Main Committee
7. Motions from the Floor
8. New Video Presentation
9. Future Role of the Rhondda Tunnel Society
Graeme Bickerdike, who made some of the videos and still photos of the Rhondda Tunnel has made a 30 min. video of how tunnels like the Rhondda were made. Well worth a watch. Follow this link to see it:
The third AGM of the Rhondda Tunnel Society is to be held in the Parc & Dare Lounge, Treorchy CF42 6NL on Wednesday 6th. February 2019 starting at 19:30. All members are very welcome. New members may join at the door. There will be a report on the great strides that have been taken this year to re-open the tunnel, including a details of the activities that RCT Council are undertaking with funds from the Welsh Government, as well as the usual elections and report of accounts. Please do try to come to the is important meeting.