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Survey of tunnel land as society is given licence.

Byline: DAVID OWENS Reporter david.owens@walesonline.co.uk

There could be soon bDAVID OWEe light at the end of the Rhondda Tunnel after Rhondda Cynon Taf council granted a licence to the society hoping to reopen it as a tourist attraction.

The Rhondda Tunnel Society, which wants the tunnel to reopen as a cycle and pedestrian route, has undertaken a topography survey to determine the land required to be dug out at the entrance to the tunnel at the top of the village of Blaencwm in the Rhondda.

Rhondda Tunnel Society chairman Stephen Mackey said: "Although it will be a while before the actual work of excavating will begin, the topography survey needs to be done to work out how many cubic metres of spoil will have to be removed from the original cutting to reveal the portals."

Stephen added that "things are moving slowly, but at least it is in the right direction" for the tunnel which stretches between Blaencwm in the Rhondda and Blaengwynfi in the Afan Valley.

He said: "We are in talks and the society are meeting with RCT Corporate Estates, planning, the country ecologist and Public Health on August 15 on site at Blaencwm."

"There are exciting times ahead for both valleys, the Rhondda and the Afan" said Rod Mcintyre, vice-chairman of the society. "We are working flat out to keep the project on track and within time scales we have set ourselves."

The society has already undertaken a contamination survey, terrestrial bat survey and a detailed structural survey. Most recently, the Rhondda Tunnel Society carried out a survey which found visitors would be willing to pay a toll to travel through the tunnel as a means of paying for its upkeep if it is re-opened.

The survey was carried out as the society works towards making a business case to re-open the disused tunnel.

According to Stephen Mackey, following discussions with Rhondda Cynon Taf and Neath Port Talbot councils - the local authorities situated at either end of the tunnel - "it has become abundantly clear in these cash-strapped times, they would find it a big challenge to pay for the upkeep of a re-opened Rhondda Tunnel.

"The Welsh Government would be in a similar position if it took it on."

The society asked people using the Two Tunnels in Bath - two former railway tunnels converted to a cycle pathway - how they would feel about paying a toll (PS1 for adults, 50p for children) to travel the much longer tunnel in South Wales.

They also asked if they enjoyed the Bath Tunnels experience sufficiently enough to come to Wales to experience the Rhondda Tunnel - the feat of Victorian engineering which opened in 1890 and closed in 1969 before being covered over in 1979. In total, 232 people were questioned.

The survey results were very positive with 93% saying they would be willing to pay a small toll and 87% of people saying they would want to visit the Rhondda Tunnel when opened.

"The survey results are very encouraging," said Stephen. "They show us a way to pay for the upkeep of the tunnel without it being a liability, and they show how much the people who use the Bath Tunnels enjoy the experience."

| Visit www.rhonddatunnelsociety.co.uk

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The Rhondda Tunnel Society has undertaken a topography survey

Pictures from the latest exploration into the Rhondda Tunnel
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 11, 2016
Words:563
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