We’re a bit gutted about this to be honest – the train seemed so perfect and you all had brilliant and creative ideas for how it could be renovated and turned into something really special.
After chatting with everyone at the meetup and with the Railway Gardens advisory group to confirm that everyone liked the idea of the train in principle, we went back to the architects who designed the site plan, and to our quantity surveyor who helps manage the site costs, to discuss how the train could be included. They helped us understand the pros and cons of having it and – with this new information – we’ve had to make the decision that including the train is too risky. Here’s why:
Trains aren’t the most accessible places at the best of times. We’re used to seeing them pulling into platforms, where we are raised up to the level of the door but when you take a train and plonk it down somewhere else, the door is about 1.25m off the ground. To make this fully accessible for everyone is not straightforward, and significantly increases the footprint of the train which would mean losing some of the growing space. We strongly feel that if it’s not accessible to everyone then it’s not an option for the site.
The train itself was kindly being donated by Transport for Wales but the costs associated with amending site plans, storing it, transporting it to the site, renovating it, installing it, and making it accessible were quickly mounting up – it would be £3,000 just to transport it from Canton to Splott for example. We also have to pay a fee to Network Rail when we want to install something large as we’re so close to the tracks and they need to temporarily shut the line for safety. The fee to install the hub is £8,500 and we’d likely we be looking at something similar to install the train.
Unfortunately, we didn’t know about the train while writing funding bids, so the costs associated with it aren’t covered anywhere in the budget, and we’d need to find that money somewhere else.
With every structure on site we have to be very, very sure that people can’t climb on top of it and get onto the railway. This added an extra complication with the train which was the perfect height for climbing…
To include the train we would have to either apply to modify our existing planning or possibly make a whole new application – not quick or cheap! We would also have to do quite a bit more fundraising. And, as the train would need to be installed before a number of other site structures, it would hold everything up quite a bit. As well as wanting to get Railway Gardens built and open as soon as possible so everyone can start using it, we also have obligations to the project’s funders to complete everything within a certain timescale. Building in a big delay is just too risky.
As we develop the site we have to stick to the Sustainable Urban Drainage regulations – basically every time we put something on site that doesn’t allow rainwater to drain away – a building or a bit of paving for example – we have to make sure that rainwater can go somewhere and doesn’t make puddles. Our SuDs plan doesn’t include the train and would need to be redone – further cost and delay unfortunately.
So I hope this explains why we’ve decided not to go ahead with the train carriage – please do let us know if you have any questions. One silver lining is that we’ve hopefully found another community group who can make use it of it, in the Rhondda. We appreciate everyone taking the time to share their thoughts on the idea, to Natalie of Transport for Wales who got in touch to offer the train initially, and to volunteer Chris who has been looking into sourcing some tracks for it to sit on.