Merthyr Tydfil councillors and officers are confident that Wales’s longest disused tunnel can be brought back into use for cyclists and walkers.
At just under a mile-and-a-half long, the Merthyr (Abernant) Tunnel would provide a direct, traffic-free route from Merthyr Tydfil to Aberdare.
The journey times of commuters between the two towns would be roughly halved, while the reopened tunnel would create a convenient link between Merthyr Tydfil’s major tourist attractions.
“It would be an exciting addition to the existing attractions - BikePark Wales, the refurbished Rock UK Summit Centre, Parkwood Dolygaer, Cyfarthfa Park and Castle, Garwnant and the proposed Forest Holiday development,” said County Borough Council Head of Regeneration Alyn Owen.
“It would also be a great addition to Merthyr Tydfil’s active travel routes, having excellent transport links directly to the planned Hoover South Wales Metro park and ride development.”
Welsh Government recently announced an extra £60m investment in active travel across Wales over the next three years. Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council will be making a bid for funding for the tunnel on behalf of the two local authorities.
The Isambard Kingdom Brunel-designed structure was built as part of the railway service between Merthyr Tydfil and Neath in 1853, and the last train ran through it in 1962.
As a result of Welsh Government Local Transport Fund (LTF) support, Sustrans Wales was commissioned to carry out a development study looking at the condition, potential maintenance and running costs and ownership of the tunnel
“Conclusions from the study show that the opening of the tunnel is realistic and that it is currently in excellent condition,” said Alun Owen.
“The next steps are further analysis of maintenance/running costs and a full detailed business plan. We also plan to develop a community engagement strategy,” he added.
“As well as the obvious boost for our local economy, it will importantly encourage a modal shift – replacing a saturated means of transport with another to make the first less congested – in this case, by encouraging commuting.”
Merthyr Tydfil a place to be proud of