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A visually striking portrait of the last trains to haul coal from the South Wales mines – the end of an important part of the nation’s modern history
Despite the substantial decline of coal mining in the UK over the last three decades, until recently, coal was still a vital energy source for the nation’s power stations. During 2013 and 2014, coal accounted for 36 per cent of all UK rail freight, but that amount plummeted in 2015 due to the doubling of the top-up carbon tax, a measure implemented to encourage power stations to use greener fuels. With the government’s phase-out of all coal-fired power stations by 2025, many have already closed.
South Wales is one of the last places in the UK where coal is still mined and despatched by rail for domestic consumption. Aberthaw power station was the principal customer for this coal until 2017, when they turned to imported coal. This measure was taken to reduce toxic Nitrogen emissions at the plant, which ended more than half a century of coal supplied from the South Wales coalfield and was the beginning of the end for the power station, which finally closed in late 2019.
Coal is still mined in South Wales and is supplied by rail to Tata steel in Port Talbot, to British Steel’s Scunthorpe works, to Breedon cement works in Derbyshire and to Immingham for export. However, the future of the industry remains uncertain as we move away from fossil fuels towards more eco-friendly forms of energy. Substantial amounts of coal are still required for the UK’s steel and cement industry, but coal mining and rail-freight coal flows could disappear altogether in Wales over the next couple of years.
This book looks at the last of the coaling operations in South Wales from 2013 to early 2020 and features 195 colour images of coal trains running to and from the mine sites along the scenic South Wales Valleys, and the picturesque stretch of coastline that the Vale of Glamorgan line takes to Aberthaw.