The Council has hosted a visit to the Rhondda Tunnel where representatives from Rhondda Cynon Taf, Neath Port Talbot, Welsh Government, Transport for Wales and Sustrans were granted underground access.
On February 15, senior representatives from the organisations met at Neath Port Talbot’s end of the Rhondda Tunnel. All parties are currently investigating a potential future project to re-open the tunnel as a tourism route from Blaencwm to Blaengwynfi, with support from the Rhondda Tunnel Society.
During June 2018, Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Councillors voted in favour of a Notice of Motion asking the Council to support the re-opening of the tunnel. The current investigation phase is likely to be ongoing for the next year, which will allow costs and maintenance for the potential project to be calculated.
If the project goes ahead, the former railway tunnel would be turned into a public asset to support tourism and the wider economy. It would provide the longest cycle tunnel in Europe and the second longest in the world – ensuring the potential for the site to become a major visitor attraction for Wales.
Friday’s site visit was attended by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Leader, Councillor Andrew Morgan, and Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, Councillor Ann Crimmings.
Welsh Government’s Tourism Director Jason Thomas, Transport for Wales’ active travel lead Matthew Gilbert, Sustrans’ area manager Gwyn Smith and Neath Port Talbot Councillor Annette Wingrave were also in attendance.
Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “The Council was delighted to welcome a number of senior representatives from interested organisations to the Rhondda Tunnel, as we continue to investigate the potential re-opening of the old railway line as a walking and cycling route – backed by the enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers from the Rhondda Tunnel Society.
“We know that this project carries a huge amount of public support and affection – and it also has a huge potential as a tourism project not only for the local area, but for Wales. This potential was reflected in Full Council’s agreement last summer that the Council formally supports to the project.
“The Council understands there is a real opportunity to deliver a project which could produce a national tourism offer with huge economic benefits for Rhondda Cynon Taf and Neath Port Talbot. Our ongoing investigations are required to better understand the business plan necessary to support the scheme – and Friday’s site visit was very encouraging to see the support from partner organisations in investigating the possibility of making this a reality.”
Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said: “The site visit organised by the Council was a fantastic opportunity for all parties to see inside the Rhondda Tunnel for the first time. Being inside the tunnel gives an incredible sense of the potential of this project, and the experience allowed the group to really visualise how it could be converted into a public route.
“Tourism is a major aspect of the Welsh Government’s economic strategy for Wales, and promoting the wonderful visitor offer in our County Borough is also a priority for the Council. The Rhondda Tunnel has the potential to become another jewel in the crown of our area which could attract visitors from far and wide – which it is why it is so important to continue to pursue this opportunity.”