Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Saturday, 28 February 2009

Golden bolts seal new rail line

Welsh Highland Railway train
The train runs through the magnificent Aberglaslyn Pass

The installation of golden bolts will mark the final connection in a new narrow gauge railway across Snowdonia.

The ceremony at the Harbour Station in Porthmadog is being heralded as a significant milestone in the 28m Welsh Highland Railway development.

The reopening of the 25 mile (40 km) line to Caernarfon has been delayed over the claimed non-payment of a bill.

The company said that had been "almost" resolved and passengers will be able to travel the whole line in the autumn.

General manager Paul Lewin said Saturday's bolt-joining ceremony marked the culmination of 10 years' effort by nearly 1,000 volunteers who, split into teams, have done the lion's share of laying the track.

Representatives from the teams will install the final golden bolts in the track.

Volunteer Dafydd Thomas laying a final piece of track
Our volunteers and staff have worked in all weathers and against seemingly overwhelming odds at times to reach this landmark
Mike Hart, Welsh Highland Construction

The teams work alternate weekends - the Black Hand Gang is made up of mainly Welsh-speaking locals while the Rest of the World Gang consists of volunteers living throughout the UK and beyond.

As well as the track, the 28m funding drawn from public and private backers is also paying for the trains which will run on it.

Once the connection is made the firm's latest locomotive, newly restored at its Boston Lodge works, will make the first movement on the new section of line.

It will be positioned with original Ffestiniog Railway locomotives which were built at the same works more than a century ago.

The Welsh Highland Railway is opening from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, where it will join the Ffestiniog line from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

When complete it will be the longest independent railway in the UK.

Mr Lewin said public services were scheduled to begin from Caernarfon to Beddgelert on 8 April.

The service will extend through the Aberglaslyn Pass to Hen Hafod on 21 May and finally go through to Porthmadog once the summer peak season is over.

More than 250,000 visitors a year currently travel on the two railways.

Mr Lewin said talks about a 250,000 unpaid bill had now been "almost resolved" and he was confident the railway would be completed by the autumn.

Mike Hart, chairman of Welsh Highland Construction, the subsidiary company of the Ffestiniog Railway building the new line said: "This is a very proud moment for the many people that have worked so hard to make this dream a reality."

"Our volunteers and staff have worked in all weathers and against seemingly overwhelming odds at times to reach this landmark."

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SEE ALSO
'Unpaid bill' halts new rail link
02 Feb 09 |  North West Wales
On track to opening railway line
14 Oct 08 |  North West Wales

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