Economic Impact Assessment Report

The results of the economic impact assessment,conducted to quantify the impact of the extension of the railway to Bala Town station on the local economy.

Executive Summary

The Trust commissioned JOP Consulting to conduct an Economic Impact Assessment into the effect that the construction of the extension of the railway to Bala Town would have on the local economy. The assessment, which used a year-long survey of the railway's passengers and a consultation evening with local business as its basis, reported in November 2016 and we are delighted to present its findings here. The key points are:

  • The existing 26,000 visitors to the railway in 2016 spent approximately £700,000 in the local economy.

  • Construction of the extension will create the equivalent of 10 full-time (FTE) jobs in the Bala area and support a further 9 over 12 months.

  • It is projected that the extension will raise the total number of visitors to the railway to at least 55,000 per annum, which will increase the estimated annual spend in the local economy to over £1.1million

  • When completed, the extension will support 12 FTE jobs in the local economy.


The Trust’s aims for the extension are:

  • Access; getting to Bala (Penybont) station from the town is difficult, tedious and potentially dangerous. Parking is becoming ever harder as there is no proper car park. 

  • Visual Amenity: the route along the northern shoreline of the lake has the potential to offer one of the most spectacular views from a heritage railway in the UK 

  • Economic Benefits: the economic benefit to the railway (in increased passengers) and to the local community (in increased business and employment in an area that relies heavily on a few key sectors) 


The Red Dragon Project is estimated at a cost of £2.5million and the principal aim of the report is to ascertain if the economic benefit the extension would bring represents value-for-money. The methodology used to determine this was to establish the baseline contribution of the railway to the tourism offering in Bala (using a passenger survey, representing 343 visitors to the railway in 2016) and how constructing the extension would affect that contribution.

The main findings of the survey were:

  • Over a third of the respondents made the trip to the area specifically to ride on the train, showing that the railway is a key component of the tourism offering of the area, and the average stay of our passengers in the area is 1½ days, showing that the railway brings a significant economic benefit to the area.

  • The average spend of the respondents was £20-23 per person per day, of which 50% is directly attributable to the presence of the railway. With the railway carrying a record 26,000 passengers in 2016, this represents a total spend in the area of the railway’s passengers of £700,000, of which £350,000 is directly attributable to the railway.


The survey asked the respondents if the extension would impact on their frequency of visits (55% said it would) and their expenditure in the local area (the answers indicate an average increase of £23 per person per day). This information was used to quantify the effect on spending in the local area:

  • The survey showed a likely net additional annual spend by the railway's visitors in the local area of £420,000, based on an increase of 29,000 passengers; this would bring the total spend to £1.1million and the total passengers to 55,000.

  • Once completed, it is estimated that the extension will support 12 FTE jobs in the local area.

It is also worth noting that of the estimated £2.5million construction cost, it is anticipated (based on previous capital projects in Gwynedd) that 55% (or £1.375million) would be spent in the local area. Over the course of the anticipated one-year construction phase, 10 FTE jobs would be created, and a further 9 would be supported.


The construction of the extension will provide a 60% increase in the existing baseline contribution of the railway to the local economy (from £700,000 to £1.12million), which on a purely financial basis is an excellent return-on-investment, However, the benefit will be much more than just economic and enhance the appeal of the whole area by:

  • Allowing the town to develop other key leisure facilities (eg lake path).

  • Help extending the tourist season beyond the current levels.

  • Creating a much wider appeal to those with mobility issues to enjoy the delights of the lake without fear of accidents or having to negotiate difficult access to the town/station.

  • Creating a far more convincing link to the town, and indeed other paths and trails.