Ten minutes – good news and bad news

clockface showing ten to two

countdown

Valley Lines and South Wales Main Line will be electrified, and the two governments have settled their funding dispute. Now it’s full speed ahead for Wales’ first ever rail electrification.

Splendid news, and credit to new Welsh Secretary Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb for prioritising solutions over disputes. It promises the best possible future for public transport throughout south-east Wales. And that is despite some media commentators finding no better way of explaining the benefits of electrification than shaving ten minutes off the Cardiff to Merthyr and Treherbert times. It is so much more than that.

But at the same time, ten minutes and more is the bad news for travellers to Fishguard and the west. Arriva’s timetable from December 14th onwards contains some nasty surprises. Here’s just one comment from a Fishguard Trains regular:

The winter timetable from Fishguard is going to add about 15 minutes to the journey to Swansea and beyond. The 06.47 first train will lead to a long wait of 17 minutes at Clarbeston Road for the Milford service; is the shelter there good enough for such a wait in winter weather? The second train, moved forward to 07.50 is going to sit in Carmarthen station for 17 minutes before moving on, on the old timetable. This is going to discourage use of these trains. All this to satisfy a whim at Cardiff about getting commuters to Carmarthen. Fishguard is getting a very raw deal; is a journey time of THREE HOURS to Cardiff acceptable – 37 mph average speed? I think this is one to shout from the roof tops and to Stephen Crabb.

 Do you agree that this is a whim from Arriva’s Cardiff  head office?

Do you support prioritising local commuter traffic between Fishguard and Carmarthen over long-distance travellers?

With only seven trains a day each way, timetabling is always going to be a juggle of compromises.   Has Arriva got this one right or wrong? If ten minutes less is such good news for Merthyr, is ten minutes more equally bad news for Fishguard?

Let’s hear your views, and we’ll make sure Stephen Crabb does – though with the franchise renewal now in Welsh hands, perhaps this is one for Carwyn.

 

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Teaching Grandmother to Suck Eggs

Fishguard train not displayed at Clarbeston Road

ghost train

Despite our best efforts (Irishman, Blocking Back, Spad et al) Arriva is still failing to inform passengers how to reach Fishguard via Clarbeston Road. Here’s the dismal evidence:

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 6 2014, CLARBESTON ROAD

The 20:30 will shortly leave platform 2 for Fishguard. But the departure is displayed on NEITHER train indicator board – not the one on platform 2, and not even the wrong one on platform 1.

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 6 2014, WHITLAND

Spad asks the conductor on the 18:04 from Cardiff to Milford if he will make any announcements about changing at Clarbeston for Fishguard? “Oh yes, I always do” he assures us. Sadly there are no announcements until the train finally pulls into Clarbeston Road. There have been none since the train left Cardiff either.

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 6 2014, CLUNDERWEN

Another passenger from Cardiff, mistakenly gets off the train with his bike, expecting – wrongly – to change for Fishguard. Three hours later he cycles into Fishguard.

This is what Arriva should be doing:

1 When a train is scheduled to depart, a platform display of that service, time and destination is required – in every case.

2 All station platform indicators that show a Milford service that offers a change at Clarbeston Road for Fishguard should say so.

3 On-train indicators that display and announce forthcoming stations also to announce changing at Clarbeston for Fishguard.

4 Conductors to make announcements about changing at Clarbeston Road from Cardiff onwards, not only after Carmarthen, and certainly not only as the train arrives at Clarbeston.

5 All the endless warnings that Clarbeston Road is a request stop to be accompanied with information about changing for Fishguard.

Can you manage that, Arriva Trains Wales (Ten Years of Service / Deg Mlynedd o Wasanaeth)?

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20:05 to Fishguard? What 20:05?

Platform indicator at Clarbeston Road ignoring the train at the platform

Ignore this train

20:03 at Clarbeston Road. The train pulls in to the platform, ready for the 20:05 departure to Fishguard – our last train of the day. And as ever, the platform indicator ignores this train, displaying instead the following 22:10 to Milford Haven.

This happens every time we change at Clarbeston for the last train to Fishguard. It happened to Irishman (see his recent comment), and no doubt it has happened to you too. Now here’s the photographic evidence.

Add this to Arriva’s continuing failure to provide timely information to westbound travllers about changing at Clarbeston for the late Fishguard train, and you wonder how passengers still manage to negotiate the information blackout to make it to Fishguard.

We are not impressed. But then, some people are never satisfied.

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We Won! Fishguard service to be permanent

The three-year trial of increased rail services to Fishguard has ended in success. Welsh Government today announced that the service is to be extended to the end of Arriva’s franchise in 2018. 

Here is the government press release in full:

Monday 11 August 2014

Extra Fishguard to Carmarthen trains given the go-ahead

Transport Minister, Edwina Hart, has given the go-ahead to continue with the additional rail services between Fishguard and Carmarthen following a review of the three-year experimental service introduced in 2011.

Feedback from the local community, passengers and business on the extra five return services has been positive and research shows these additional services have brought economic and social benefits.

The Minister has now agreed to extend the service until the end of the current franchise in 2018.

She said:

“The extra services between Fishguard and Carmarthen have been very popular with passengers, helped improve access to services and provided a boost for tourism and other local businesses. The results of surveys with passengers, the local community and businesses point to a need for these extra services. These services have made it easier for people to access hospital services, have improved tourism to Pembrokeshire and have helped reduce reliance on cars.”

All stations in Pembrokeshire served by the services have experienced increased usage, with passenger numbers to Fishguard, Goodwick and Fishguard Harbour stations doubling since the introduction of the additional trains in 2011.

More than 60 per cent of passengers surveyed said they would not have been able to make their intended journey without the additional services. Businesses reported that the extra trains helped attract visitors to the area which saw increased usage of the coastal path and ferries to and from Ireland.

Cllr Rob Lewis, Cabinet Member for Transport said:

“The announcement by the Minister that the additional rail services to Fishguard are to continue is much welcomed and provides a much needed boost to the County. The additional services have resulted in significant increases in the number of people travelling to the area providing many benefits to the local economy, environment and social inclusion.”

Stephen Hale Chair of the North Pembrokeshire Transport Forum said:

“The North Pembrokeshire Transport forum is truly delighted that the enhanced train service to Fishguard and Goodwick is to continue. We are grateful to have been given the opportunity to demonstrate the positive benefits to the local economy and community that the additional trains have provided over the past three years.

We are pleased that the enhanced train service will continue to reduce the isolation felt by rural north Pembrokeshire and will work with our partners to ensure these services assist in strengthening the local economy, in particular the important tourist industry.”

Jeremy Martineau Honorary Secretary of the Chamber of Trade and Tourism said:

”This is great news and a sensible decision as we work hard at the regeneration of the area. Being able to travel by train is a boon to local residents, adds a significant opportunity to holiday makers and connects us to the rest of Wales in an environmentally responsible way. We have been pleased to help with the research which has advised the Minister to take the right decision for our entire community.“

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And another thing …

crowded car park at Fishguard and Goodwick

meeting the 18:46

Can we have a larger car park please?

 

crowd of passengers in car park

want a lift?

crowd arrives on 18:46

standing room only

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Dear Stephen …

Stephen Crabb, Wales Secretary

on the right track?

Dear Stephen Crabb

Fishguard Trains congratulates you on your appointment as Secretary of State for Wales. Our website is non-partisan, but we are delighted to have a Pembrokeshire politician heading the Wales Office and speaking for Wales in cabinet.

You tenure will coincide with some momentous events, including the impact on Wales of the outcome of the Scottish independence vote and of course the general election. We take this opportunity to remind you of another forthcoming decision that will be equally momentous for a small part of your patch – north Pembrokeshire.
This summer Welsh Government will decide the future of the enhanced rail service which Fishguard has enjoyed for the past three years. This too has been a non-partisan initiative, announced by a Plaid Cymru minister, launched by his Labour successor, and used by a growing number of residents and visitors, to the great economic and social benefit of our community. Already, Fishguard generates twice as many rail journeys per head of population as Pembroke Dock. The new car park at Fishguard and Goodwick Station is regularly full to overflowing.
Surely it is unthinkable for Welsh Government to abandon such a successful innovation. We look forward to good news soon. But now is the time to correct the shortcomings in the trial service, putting it in good order for the future. The absence of afternoon and Sunday services are just the most pressing of several issues.
On your appointment you said “this government is ambitious for Wales, working to ensure Wales is at the front of the economic recovery”. Fishguard has demonstrated it is ready to take advantage of better public transport to strengthen and diversify our local  economy, and we now look forward to you supporting Welsh Government to secure this service for the long term.
Best wishes
Fishguard Trains

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What, no survey?

passengers arriving at Fishguard and Goodwick

ignore these travellers?

Wednesday June 4th, and the 18:46 arrives at Fishguard and Goodwick. Getting off the train, one cyclist, two dogs, and numerous passengers, most from Cardiff or further afield. But there is no surveyor and no survey. Why not?

We are in the middle  of the Welsh Government review of the three-year Fishguard rail experiment. Rail users and non-users in the community are being surveyed, and passengers on every train are supposedly being handed questionnaires to complete. But while ferry passengers (who are completely unaffected by the additional trains, and who would not notice if the Welsh Government cut funding in September) are evidently being questioned on the boat trains, yet a full evening trainload of local passengers is ignored.

This is not the first train in the survey period to be excluded from the survey. Several people arriving at Fishguard and Goodwick in recent days have reported to Fishguard Trains that there were no questionnaires on the train. This evening we saw for ourselves.

So the question is, why are Irish ferry passengers being surveyed about a service that does not affect them, while local Fishguard travellers are being ignored? Can we have confidence in the outcome of the review if this is the way it is being conducted?

Who would like to shed light on this?

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Fishguard rail review: Minister wants our views

Edwina Hart AM

whether to continue?

Edwina Hart AM today launches the government review of Fishguard rail services, urging “anyone with an interest in these rail services to have their say in this survey”.

The three-and-a-half week survey (closing date Wednesday June 18th) investigates the views of passengers, businesses and the community, including rail travellers and also people not currently using the services. Transport Minister Hart says “It is important that local people have the opportunity to shape how rail services are delivered in the area”.

The three-year trial service, launched in September 2011, ends only weeks after the government receives the survey results. What influence will the survey have on its future? “The information you provide will be used …” says Welsh Government, to inform the decision “whether to continue with the service permanently. If it is decided to continue with the enhanced service, the information will also be used to highlight how the service might be further improved”.

Nothing therefore is ruled out – including reverting to the previous near-non-existent one-a-day and one-a-night boat trains, or – can we dare to hope – an improved service, addressing the many shortcomings that we have cheerfully put up with for three years.

But first things first: the survey comes in three forms. The Community Survey is for anyone (presumably in the area of service), whether or not you use the trains to Fishguard. Access it here (neu yng Nghymraeg) and return it to Pembrokeshire County Council, Marketing, 2D, County Hall, Haverfordwest SA61 1TP by June 18th. The Business Survey is here in English, yma yng Nghymraeg. Finally there’s an on-train survey which is similar to the Community Survey, while adding questions about the current journey.

This  is more than a question of passenger numbers. All three surveys are looking for the difference that the trial service has made – to business, education, leisure and tourism. “As the current service is an experimental service”, Welsh Government tells Fishguard Trains, “we are mainly looking at what positive benefits the service has brought to the community”.

The surveys also enquire about service shortcomings – frequency, reliability and so on. But we notice that some topics are not listed, including the lack of a Sunday service, absence of ticketing facilities and overcrowding (yes indeed – see stories here on the Sardine Express). What should people do to raise matters that the surveys don’t cover? Welsh Government advises using the open response area in Question 10 of the Community Survey, and the “Other” box in Question 10 of the on-train survey. If you wish, they will also take direct submissions. Send these to Owen Roberts at the Transport Unit, County Hall, Haverfordwest.

Everyone who has used the new service since the launch knows the positive benefits to our community. Here is the invitation to share our knowledge with the government. Let’s take it.

 

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Welsh Government launches Fishguard rail review

train timetable with red question mark

Time for change?

Fishguard’s three-year experimental rail service is to be reviewed this month.  Replying to questions from Fishguard Trains, Welsh Government today confirmed that “arrangements for the review … have been approved and will start next week”.

The recent publication of Arriva’s West Wales May-December 2014 timetable, taking the three-year experimental service well into a fourth year – unchanged – triggered our questions to Welsh Government. Their reply today makes clear that a review will indeed be held, and that government will announce “any changes” this August – the final month of the trial.

In their announcement, Welsh Government makes clear that its review goes far wider than a simple matter of passenger numbers, to embrace both social and economic issues. Their reply in full reads:

Arrangements for the review of the experimental rail service have been approved and will start next week. This will involve a call for evidence by the Welsh Government, as well as on train and community based surveys throughout late May and June which will be supported by Pembrokeshire County Council, north Pembrokeshire passenger forum and local stakeholders who have been asked to carry out a local survey about the service.
 
As part of the review, consideration will be given to
 
  • The extent to which  the services have improved the lives of people living in Pembrokeshire through  improved access to rail and other transport networks
  • The benefits that the additional services have provided on the local economy
  • If access to enhanced rail services has encouraged less use of private motor vehicles
Once the review is complete the Welsh Government will issue a public notice in early August detailing any changes to the services.

 

We will of course be giving details of the review – and how to contribute – on this website.

Fishguard Trains welcomes the broad scope of the review. Anyone who has had any contact with the service in the past few years knows that the impact on our lives in north Pembrokeshire has been out of all proportion to the modest public investment in five extra trains a day. Past and present stories and comments on Fishguard Trains are part of the evidence of that impact.

But it is not enough for us simply to know that: Now is the time to tell government in Cardiff, to provide evidence that the benefits to our economy, our society and our environment have been real and measurable.

Fishguard Trains has both praised and criticised the trial service. The evidence we now provide to the review is not only a one-off chance to secure the future of the service, but a key moment to identify shortcomings, and obtain improvements for the future.

Let’s seize the opportunity with both hands.

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Fishguard trial service to continue

passengers at Fishguard & Goodwick

permanent way?

Fishguard’s three-year government-funded service is to continue well past the three trial years announced in 2011. Arriva Trains Wales has published it’s May-December 2014 timetable, taking the service well into a fourth year – with no changes to the present pattern of seven trains each way, Monday-Saturday.

Fishguard Trains understands that Arriva has receive no notification to the contrary from Welsh Government. The new timetable therefore went to  press on a no-change basis. The trial service was launched in September 2011, and is due to end (and be reviewed) this coming September.  And with no news to the contrary from our government, Arriva has concluded, “We think the service will continue as at present”.

Fishguard Trains has of course asked for confirmation and clarification from Welsh Government – still awaited at press time.

But if confirmed, this news will be both surprising and hugely welcome in the twin towns.

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