We’re walking in the air; we’re floating in the midnight sky… Prior to the referendum of June 2016, the two sides of the debate regarding whether to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union gave a range of arguments to support their positions. Some of these arguments, on both sides, were probably valid; others perhaps less so. One of the leave campaign’s biggest arguments was the issue of ‘Freedom Of Movement’ across the European Union. Immigration figures exceeding emigration is, or was, apparently a serious concern for certain sectors of the population. There is however a difficult problem, if the UK border force are to be able to stop people moving to this country without permission they need to check everybody’s passport at the border. This is not to much of an issue at ports and airports, where travel is slowed by embarking and disembarking from ferries and aircraft anyway. A land border however, where people are used to uninterrupted travel on foot, bike, bus or train, or in car, is rather more difficult.
This was clearly a sticking point during the first stage of negotiations with the EU. The only option for avoiding passport controls on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic appeared to be to have Northern Ireland effectively remain within the EU, with freedom of movement, and introduce passport controls on routes between the island of Ireland and mainland Britain. I was concerned however that, with the Scottish desire to remain in the EU, a similar package might be demanded by Holyrood; which would have resulted in a land border with England (to the detriment of the cross-border rail links). Instead, it now appears that the whole United Kingdom will need to maintain alignment with certain rules of the EU, in order that hard borders are not necessary. The leave campaign’s dreams of abolishing the freedom of movement between the EU and Britain are now looking almost as outlandish as the squadrons of flying snowmen in Channel 4’s vintage Christmas animation.
Within the United Kingdom however, freedom of movement within the public transport system can be limited. For some time now, I have been concerned about a certain aspect of the Cardiff/Newport Metro proposals. It is possible that the project will include a new station to serve Caerleon. That in itself would be no bad thing, in fact I am strongly in favour. The issue is that the likely service offer is an hourly train between Cardiff Central and Abergavenny. As with stations on the ValleyLines network, the most-important market for travel to/from Caerleon is probably commuting to/from Cardiff and Newport. The proposed Cardiff-Abergavenny service would thus cater for that core market, but terminating at Abergavenny as planned could limit the station’s usefulness for people with other travel patterns.
It is my opinion that the proposed hourly stopping service between Cardiff and Abergavenny should instead run through to Hereford, where the line to Worcester branches off the Welsh Marches Line. Worcester is probably not an important destination for many people in Caerleon, but extending their trains to Hereford would make places like Worcester just one change of train away from them. To reach Birmingham with just one change otherwise, the people of Caerleon would first have to travel south to Newport (thus heading in the wrong direction).
Hereford also has trains along the Cotswolds line to Oxford, which would be two changes away from Caerleon if the trains terminated at Abergavenny (although changing at Newport and Didcot might be quicker, thanks to 125mph running on the Great Western Main Line). Even so, I feel that running Caerleon’s trains through to Hereford, instead of stopping them short of that important junction station, would be severely limiting the ‘freedom of movement’ by rail for the people of Caerleon.
That’s it for this blog for 2017; all that is left is for me to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.