Multi-million pound railway extension plans 'major' for Bala economy and local community

  • Video report by ITV Wales journalist, Ian Lang

A heritage railway in Gwynedd could be expanded under new multi-million plans that have been submitted to Snowdonia National Park Authority.

The Bala Lake Railway currently starts and ends at Pen-Y-Bont, leaving people with a 15 minute walk to the town centre.

The five million pound plans would see a brand new station built near Bala's high street and the rail line extended by just three-quarters of a mile.

It may only be a short distance longer, but the new design has been described as "a major step-change for the economy" in Bala - if it goes ahead.

Bala Lake Railway opened in 1972.

The train service runs 173 days out of a year and transports around 29,000 people annually.

If the plans are given the go ahead, it is hoped that passenger numbers will more than double - bringing an economic boost to the area.

Director of Bala Lake Railway, Julian Birley said the extension would be a "pivotal change for the town" and help local businesses.

Mr Birley said: "The last train left Bala in 1966 and it has been without a rail service for all that time.

"This is going to be a pivotal change for the town, a major step-change for the economy and above all, once it's done, it's done forever because it's going to be completely sustainable."

A member of Gwynedd Council explained that the new station would increase tourism in a positive way.

"There is concern locally, over the last three years, of over-tourism," said Cllr Alan Jones Evans.

"But family orientated tourism, as is attracted by the railway, is something that's in tune with the area and is something that is very much welcomed."

The railway's Director, Julian Birley, described the plans as a "pivotal change for the town".

David Jones, who is the General Manager of Bala Lake Railway, said putting the new station close to local shops would undoubtedly help businesses.

He said: "The biggest advantages of this extension is it takes the railway right into the heart of Bala and brings people in there to park in the town.

"It brings anyone who starts in Llanuwchllyn and delivers them straight into the town, right at the end of the high street. Right where all the shops start."

Bala Lake Railway is currently marking its 50th anniversary year. In 2017 it launched its 'Red Dragon Project' to try and raise half the funds needed for the extension.