Eastbound from Fishguard on Spring Bank Holiday

7 mins too lateThe national rail strike is off – but can you travel east from Fishguard this Spring Bank Holiday evening? Visitors to Fishguard for the bank holiday are wondering if they can get home despite the cancelled strike.

The problem: National Rail Enquiries shows that on Spring Bank Holiday evening, the only train from Fishguard that connects to Cardiff, Bristol and Crewe is running seven minutes later than timetabled, at 19:18 instead of 19:11 from Fishguard and Goodwick. The result is a missed connection at Clarbeston Road. The Fishguard train is due at Clarbeston at 19:37, two minutes AFTER the train from Milford to Cardiff leaves at 19:35.

This is nonsense for two reasons: There’s no point running the shuttle from Fishguard to connect with the long distance train at Clarbeston, but then timing it so it misses the connection by two minutes. Second reason it’s nonsense: the set up of points, signals and single line working at Clarbeston means it is impossible for two eastbound trains to follow each other at only two minutes interval. So what’s going on?

Fishguard Trains asked Arriva Trains Wales. They checked and told us “you’ve caught us out good and proper on this one. We didn’t rejig”. Somehow train times had been amended in light of the impending strike, but not put back after its cancellation. They’re doing that job now, thanks to our query.

But what time should passengers be at the station in Fishguard? Arriva advises “Be at the Harbour or Fishguard and Goodwick at the normal time” - that’s 19:08 from Fishguard Harbour, 19:11 from Fishguard and Goodwick.

You heard it here first.

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Lost property

Your ticket, sir?

Are you Mr B Davies? Did you recently buy a ticket from Cardiff to Fishguard, but forgot to remove it from the ticket machine at Haverfordwest? If so, this is for you.

Helen Cooke today posted this message on the Fishguard Trains facebook page:

Found: Railway Ticket! It’s a long shot, but I have found a rail ticket for Cardiff to Fishguard on 14th April for a Mr B Davies (who I presume will be unable to travel without it).
It must have been left at the Haverfordwest ticket machine, as I picked it up with the tickets I collected there on Saturday.

Thanks Helen, kind of you. So, Mr Davies, if this is you, please get in touch one way or other, and we’ll see what we can do.

By the way, isn’t it about time Fishguard had a ticket machine? Then when we want to buy Advance tickets, we don’t have a 30 mile round trip to Haverfordwest just to pick them up (or fail to pick them up). Or is that not in your long term plan, Arriva Trains Wales?

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Rob Ware saves Clarbeston connection

Fishguard shuttle meets the Cardiff train

Fishguard shuttle passes the Cardiff train

Fishguard’s winter 2015 rail timetable does more than fine-tune the times of our seven trains a day. It has nearly lost one of our seven precious eastbound services.

The 19:11 from Fishguard and Goodwick is the only train after lunchtime that connects anywhere east of Swansea. By changing at Clarbeston Road, you can get as far as Cardiff, Bristol, Hereford, Shrewsbury and Crewe. But the winter timetable introduced a fatal flaw: the time at Clarbeston Road between arrival of the shuttle from Fishguard and departure of the Milford to Cardiff train is cut to four minutes. And that, according to Network Rail, is a missed connection.

As a result, online rail enquiries show no service from Fishguard to anywhere east of Carmarthen in the evening. You will search in vain for a train from Fishguard to anywhere other than Clarbeston Road. (And, lovely place though it is, who wants to go to Clarbeston Road for the evening?) Neither can you buy an Advance ticket from Fishguard to eastward destinations for the 19:11. It simply doesn’t exist.

Yes, if you know the system, for the same price you can buy a ticket from Haverfordwest and use it from Fishguard. But you have to know the system. (And sadly your ticket won’t count towards Fishguard passenger numbers – an important statistic for the future of our service.)

Is this just a ticketing problem? Surely the service itself is good? The 19:11 runs from Fishguard not to serve Clarbeston Road, but to connect to the long-distance eastbound train at Clarbeston Road, and to make good the Welsh Government promise of seven trains a day each way for Fishguard. So is this a guaranteed service, even with a four minute change?

Fishguard Trains frequently takes the 19:11 to Cardiff, Bristol and points east. We have often wondered what would happen if it was seriously delayed. A night on the platform at Clarbeston Road? Would the signalman bring us a cup of tea?

This week we had a chance to find out. The train was late coming in to Fishguard (“points trouble at Cardiff”) and by the time it had turned around it was ten minutes late leaving Fishguard and Goodwick. Fishguard Trains’ reporter was already hoping the signalman would have enough tea bags. But then, step forward Rob Ware, the Carmarthen-based guard on the 19:11. He explained that if the connection was missed, a taxi would be organised to get me to Cardiff, in time for my final connection to Bristol. That sounded extravagant but welcome. Then having waited for a mobile signal, he called the Clarbeston Road signalbox. Yes, they would try to hold the Milford train, as long as ours was not too late.

As the Fishguard shuttle slowed down for the signalbox, there was the Milford train, held up, awaiting our arrival. Thanks Rob.

The next concern was a problematic ten minute connection at Cardiff for the Bristol train. The Milford train was now thirteen minutes late leaving   But the extra minutes built in to timetables here and there worked in our favour, and the Milford-Cardiff train reached Cardiff three minutes early, having made up 16 minutes on the journey. Thanks to Rob Ware, and the Clarbeston Road signalman, what might have been a nightmare journey turned out well.

Fishguard Trains thinks the four minute timetabled change at Clarbeston Road is simply a missed connection waiting to happen. The tight timing seems pointless: the incoming service is timetabled in to Fishguard Harbour at 18:51. Instead of waiting till 19:08, it could be timetabled out at 19:00, restoring the broken ticketing links, restoring our seven daily trains, and reducing everyone’s stress.

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Seven Up! Your good train guide from Fishguard

close-up of text 7.UP

good for you

Every weekday seven trains leave Fishguard and Goodwick eastbound to Clarbeston Road and the rest of the world.

Here’s a quick guide to what each train is good for.

 

* THESE ARE THE NEW TIMES FROM DECEMBER 14 2014 ONWARDS – NOTE THE CHANGES

1:53 – flight path

What use is a train that runs when normal people are asleep? You might be surprised. Off on holiday? If you have an early flight, this could be just your ticket. Arrive in Cardiff at 5:01 where you change for Cardiff Airport arr 6:11, Bristol Airport arr 8:20, Heathrow (via Reading Railair coach) arr 8:25; Manchester Airport arr 9:04, Birmingham International arr 8:20. Save on overnight accommodation and sleep on the plane.

6:50 – Swansea commuter

This is your early start if you must be in Carmarthen by 8, Swansea by 9, Cardiff by 10 or London by midday.

7:53 – Carmarthen commuter

Long distance train direct to Manchester. This train will get you to Carmarthen for 9, Swansea for 10 and Cardiff for 11. It is also our morning long distance train. Stay on board to reach Manchester by 14:15. Change there for Glasgow, arr 18:01 and Edinburgh arr 18:22. Maybe you don’t often want to go to Scotland (but has there ever been a better time?). But how good is this – breakfast in Fishguard, lunch in Manchester, dinner in Glasgow or Edinburgh. And just one change.

This train was retimed in winter 2014 to leave Fishguard and reach Carmarthen a few minutes earlier at 8:43. At Carmarthen it waits on Platform One for 17 minutes – enough time to pop in the café for a snack.

9:57 – Cardiff shopper

This gets you to Carmarthen by 11, Swansea by 12 and Cardiff by 1pm.

13:32 – Wales’ only non-stop express

This is our daily fast train to Cardiff. Running non-stop from Llanelli to Bridgend, it points the way to a future high-speed network serving south and west Wales.  Fishguard to central Cardiff in under 2.5 hours is good going.

19:11 – last call for the capital

This is the last daily service that connects to Swansea, Cardiff and eastwards as far as Bristol and Crewe (but not London or Manchester).

20:53 – nos da

Our last evening train, reaches Carmarthen before 10pm and connects to Swansea before midnight.

MORE TRAVEL TIPS

When’s the train? Remember ten to the hour.

It’s easy to remember that five of our seven eastbound trains leave at 50-something – ten to the hour. To catch the train, be at Fishguard and Goodwick at 10 to 2, 10 to 7, 10 to 8, 10 to 10 and 10 to 9 in the evening. The only exceptions are the lunchtime 13:32 and the evening 19:11.

Through trains

If you can choose when to travel and don’t want to change, the 7:53 and 13:32 are for you. They both take you through to Cardiff, and the 7:53 on to Manchester.

Changing trains

On the 6:50 and 19:11 you change at Clarbeston Road. On the 9:57 and 20:53 you change at Carmarthen. On the 1:53 you change at Swansea. Changing at Clarbeston Road, you stay on the same platform. Bad news about changing at Clarbeston Road: the only facility is a shelter. Good news: we have not heard of any travellers being stranded there. The next train has always arrived. You’ll let us know if that’s not so.

Where can we go?

You can reach almost every corner of Britain, and large parts of Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands by same day trains from Fishguard, often with only one or two changes.

Day out in Tenby?

With three branch lines and sixteen stations in Pembrokeshire, you’d think it was easy to travel around our county by rail, but it isn’t. Fishguard to Haverfordwest would be good, but the line doesn’t connect – take the bus!  But there are good connections between Fishguard and Tenby/Pembroke, by changing at Whitland. Take the Fishguard and Goodwick dep 7:53, Tenby arr 9:43; or the Fishguard and Goodwick dep 9:57, Tenby arr 11:49. To return the 17:38 from Tenby connects at Whitland with the train to Fishguard and Goodwick arr 18:46.

Best prices

Always buy Advance tickets for the best prices, but leave enough time for them to arrive by free post. That’s why we need a ticket machine or office in Fishguard.

Best views

At Fishguard and Goodwick, sit on the left for the best sea views between Carmarthen and Gowerton.

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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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