1988 Confidential Letters

A Major Historical Milestone

Now that calm and cooperation is emerging between the FR and WHR, it is possible to reveal some of the depth of the problems arising in the late 1980s. These letters and memos are published for the sake of historical completeness and to give clarity of understanding: they are expressly not published to inflame further dissent and discontent!

As background to these documents, bear in mind that the County Council and the WHR'64 Co. had an agreement whereby the Council would purchase the entire trackbed and lease it to the '64 Co.

Here are:

  1. A letter from the FR to the County Council.
  2. A memorandum from the County Treasurer to the County Planning Officer.

Festiniog Railway Company

Telephone: 0766 512340Porthmadog
LL49 9NF


DP/PGM9th December 1988

Mr H Ellis Hughes
County Secretary and Solicitor
Gwynedd County Council
County Offices
LL55 1SH

Dear Mr Hughes

Welsh Highland Railway

Thank you for your letter of 18th November. We are indeed concerned about the possible extension of the Welsh Highland Railway beyond Pont Croesor.

At this stage we wish to remain entirely anonymous and not have our concern or our proposals disclosed to the Welsh Highland Railway or to any others. This matter has been kept confidential to our Board members.

We are now preparing to obtain the bond which will be required by the Official Receiver and we request your co-operation on the risk assessment that we expect to be undertaken by an insurance company before issuing the bond.

We appreciate the courtesy extended to us in our discussions on this delicate matter with the Chairman of the County Council and others last September and we should be grateful if you could now let us have the name of the individual the assessors should contact concerning the bond.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

D. Pollock
General Manager



Date:- 21 September 1988




Last week the Directors of the Ffestiniog Railway met with the Chairman of the County Council, the Chairman of Finance and Economic Development, the Economic Development Officer and myself. This was at their request and they were unwilling to broach the subject of discussion prior to the meeting.

In the meeting they advised us that they were concerned that any further development by the Welsh Highland Railway would have a serious impact on their revenues. They feel that the tourist market is such that people in general can only afford to pay for one "expensive" train ride during the holiday, and that two competing railway companies will only share the same amount of income overall. They implied that if this were to happen they would have to consider the position of the "unprofitable" sections of their operation such as Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The Ffestiniog Railway Company have put in a bid for the Trackbed of the Welsh Highland Railway. If successful they would be prepared to lease it to the County Council with convenants to prevent any railway development. On the other hand should the County Council be successful in acquiring the trackbed they would wish us not to lease any part of it to the Welsh Highland Railway.

We explained to the Directors that they could not expect us to give any instant reactions to their claims and proposals, and that the officers would need to meet to discuss the issue in its wider context.

I think it would be advantageous for us to meet as officers as quickly as possible, with a view to calling a meeting of the relevant sub-committee to consider the issue.

I await your observations.

County Treasurer.


The attempt by the FR to prevent any development of the Welsh Highland Railway failed. They were unable to buy the trackbed at that time. They were unable to change the Council policy of supporting the WHR'64 Co.

The result of subsequent Public Enquiry ensured that the Welsh Highland Railway would be rebuilt. Although the Recommendation was that the trackbed should be sold to the Council for WHR'64 Co. use, our compomised political system ensured an ironic quick of fate : the FR were sold the trackbed they had sought, but also were landed with an obligation to build a railway on it!