Goodwick Station – the next big wind

Goodwick Station passed at speed

final glimpse

Behind the rapidly crumbling facade of Goodwick Station, there’s much study and discussion going on, and we’re starting to get hints of possible outcomes.

The fate of Goodwick Station, the original terminus of the Fishguard Line, contains two linked challenges: reopening to create an accessible station for the new rail service; and rescuing the historic station buildings. Does the second challenge get in the way of the first, or could it enhance it?

Fishguard Trains has now spoken with several players in County Hall and elsewhere, and these are our best guesses at how matters stand.

The station building is “a lost cause”. It is being “held up by buddleia bushes” and roofing felt is blowing on to the track: “The next big wind could see the building falling on to the railway”. Structural engineers have condemned the derelict ruins, which are now a problem for the demolition experts. There’s little support for the idea that anything remains which could be salvaged for Scolton.

Demolition will proceed even though it breaches Pembrokeshire CC’s own Policy 80, which only allows a building in a conservation area to be demolished if it makes no contribution to the character or appearance of the area, AND if there are approved proposals for reuse of the site.  Goodwick Station meets neither condition, but demolition will still proceed on grounds of public safety – the station is dangerous. Safety trumps conservation.

But while the building will come down, and with it a part of our community’s history, there is clearly support at County Hall for the idea that effort is needed to build something worthwhile in its place. The talk there is of replacing it not with a “bus shelter” but of a well-designed replacement: “I hope it can be replicated, and affordably, to make it back into the station it was” is one officer’s remarkably upbeat comment to Fishguard Trains.

All of which leads to the finance question. With feasibility studies reporting back in the next few weeks, firm figures will soon be on the table, but the project is already seen as “very expensive”. Pembrokeshire County Council was, like everyone else, caught unprepared by the Welsh Government announcement, and has no budget for any works in this financial year. Welsh Government has been asked for station funds to support their surprise funding for the rail service, but without success. So Pembrokeshire “can only consider it at the expense of other projects”.

This seems like the kiss of death even for a bus shelter, let alone a quality replacement station. Yet officers remain supportive: “We want to reopen it, there’s no doubt about that. Trains at the Harbour won’t be as well patronised. There’s a keenness throughout our region.”

And by September 12th? A pause for thought, then, “I don’t think September 12th is practically possible”.

Fishguard Trains chances a prediction: Pembrokeshire CC will now search for any current projects that can be rolled into next financial year (with fewest political repercussions),  to fund a platform and simple shelter that will go up some time this winter, and then plan a permanent replacement for the station that is about to disappear.

10 Comments

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10 Responses to Goodwick Station – the next big wind

  1. Rhydgaled

    I imagine there may just be a way to fudge it so that a train timetabled to go to Fishguard Harbour could terminate at Fishguard & Goodwick instead.

    However, yet another worring thought has struck me. The 3 daytime trains that connect with ferries will have to go to the harbour, will these be able to call at Fishguard & Goodwick without changing the timetable? If not, then unless they have built in time to allow for reopening in the launch timetable there was never any chance of those three services calling at Fishguard & Goodwick anyway. That means, if your suggestion is right and they will be working on the station over the winter they would miss the December 2011 timetable change and there might not be another chance to open it for every train of the day until December 2012. If a gap of 4 hours or more remains in the timetable in September this could spell doom for our train service, unless all the problems are fixed from the December 2012 timetable change and they only look at the passenger figures from then on.

    A little query, if Fishguard & Goodwick station is reopened, will it need its own ticketing arangements? A three letter station code? (all I can think of for that is FGW (which could be confusing, since this is the accepted acronum for First Great Western), Fishguard Harbour being FGH.

    I should however not be too downbeat, if the station cannot possibly be opened in 2011 then at least it gives us some time to try and ensure that we get an exact replica of the station building (prefrablly with a few surviving parts of the 111 year-old orriginal, even if its just a door, built in) built in its place at some stage, maybe not from the opening date of the station but an unbreakable commitment to get it done one day.

    Still trying to look on the bright side, I had a trip around Pembrokeshire’s railways today and onboard the woefully inapropriate, crammed, class 150 unit I stood by the door as we passed Fishguard & Goodwick station and looked down. What did I see? What I thought I would, a complete lack of a gap between the train and the platform at the Clarbeston Road end of the platform (widening to a big jump at the FGH end). Seeing as the public sector seems to be broke at the moment (though the Welsh Assembly seem happy to throw £600m at a 4th lane on about 16 and a half miles of the A465 despite the fact thatwould pay for a very expansive electrification programe in South-East Wales (going by a cost per mile I gathered from a price I heard given for electrifying Cardiff – Swansea) and 180 brand new Electrostar carriges to run it) this could get the station open this December.

    Now, before Network Rail try to charge the council millions, I suggest you tell them to take a trip on the Cambrian Coast Line. When I last traveled on this line there was a station where it was anounced that passengers must use the front door of the train only. There was another station where they were told to use the rear door only. The spot where the gap at Fishguard & Goodwick is small, so you might only be able to let passengers use one door of the train. Having a one door opening policy at Fishguard & Goodwick would be far from ideal, however that means no work is needed to open the station. Surely, if we’re going to have to wait 16 months or more for the station to reopen otherwise that is miles better than having to wait while the money is found.

  2. Swansea Jack

    From what I can see these is sufficient time to allow an extra call at Fishguard and Goodwick in the services as planned, in both directions. As far as a station code goes, if you follow the GWR practice of 3 letter codes for the MPD you have a choice of FGD as separate to FGH or use GDK!

    ‘Unbreakable commitment to replacing the original building with a replica’ – are you going to pay for it, as there is no way Cardiff Bay will pay for that! We need to realise here that Goodwick station is about getting the station reopened for the minimum possible cost, ideally in the shortest possible time. The idea of stopping the front door alongside the very South end is not going to happen! From what I can see everyone involved in this issue is pulling in the same direction, but the present budget in Cardiff Bay makes things extremely difficult. Remember there is no commitment to fund the station at all, from Cardiff Bay. If people start pressing for a replica of the 1899 station, or some 1950s recreation then there will be no chance of getting a station and the whole trial service could be a short 3 year trial

    The people of Workington were happy to get a very basic set-up, we in North Pembrokeshire need to have the same attitude, the time to go looking for a more expensive set-up will be after we have proved the demand for the enhanced train service and for the station itself. You could push for the marina development to close the Harbour station and enhance Goodwick at some time in the future if you so wish, personally i believe we need both as they are ideally suited to 2 different markets!

    As far as your concern about the afternoon gap in services you need firstly to remember that we have only got 5 return trips to play with, realistically 3 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, and as I’ve mentioned previously the 15:30 Cardiff to Fishguard proposed service which serves Swansea at 16:40 and Carmarthen at 17:35 ticks all the boxes for me anyway. There is not going to be a spare set of stock anywhere in Wales to, at the same time, provide a service out of Fishguard. we have done extremely well to a) secure funding for the train service, and b) to acquire 1 extra train, we are not going to do better than that for the present. The consultation gave potential passengers the opportunity to call for a mid-afternoon Fishguard departure rather than a mid-afternoon from Cardiff – lets see what they prefer!

    Try asking HOWLTA (Heart of Wales support group) if they would be happy with 1 extra train to shuttle along the Central Wales line each day, or STORM (Severn Tunnel Action Group) if they could have 1 extra train to improve services to Caldicot and Chepstoew, or people from Maesteg, Portishead etc etc etc…….we really are fortunate to be getting 1 in the present climate, 2 sets is not going to happen with the present DMMU shortage nationally.

    • Rhydgaled

      “We need to realise here that Goodwick station is about getting the station reopened for the minimum possible cost, ideally in the shortest possible time. The idea of stopping the front door alongside the very South end is not going to happen!”

      You say opening just one door of the train alongside the very South end of the station is got going to happen, but it is one way of getting Fishguard & Goodwick station opened very for the minimum possible cost and in the shortest possible time. If the building is demolished then there is only the matter of clearing away all the buddleia to make the car park bigger and if the building is gone they might be able to let voluenteers in to do that.

      Yes, opening only one door and at the far end of the station from the entrance is far from ideal, and it’ll need sorting ASAP (is there a track renewal in the next few years that we could use to get the track put back next to the platform?) but it could get the station opened this year, which the above article suggests probablly can’t happen otherwise due to shortage of funds.

      As for the service, I think they can fill the gap with just that one extra unit we are apparently getting anyway. With some help from the forums it seems three units (plus those on the existing services) are involved in the timetable put out for consultation.

      The first is an existing ATW class 175 unit, which currently runs from Carmarthen to Pembroke Dock, then forms 07:09 Pembroke Dock to Manchester, arriving Swansea at 09:23 and waiting there until 09:55 before proceeding. In the proposed timetable, this unit would instead go to Fishguard, forming the first two Fishguard services and arriving in Swansea at 09:50 to take up the 09:55 Manchester run.

      The second unit, which would presently run 09:00 Carmarthen – Swansea instead seems to run the proposed 08:50 Carmarthen – Fishguard and 09:55 Fishguard – Carmarthen, after which would pick up its current Pembroke Dock work.

      The third and final unit is the one which forms the one new service between Swansea and Carmarthen, which starts from Cardiff at 15:30. Presently, this unit would leave Cardiff earlier (15:14) and only go to Swansea, ending its days work by running the 17:10 Swansea – Cardiff. It has been suggested on the fourms that the 175 operated Cardiff – Holyhead express could start from Swansea to take the slot from the 17:10 service and allow the 15:30 Cardiff – Fishguard to happen. That unit would then end its day at Carmarthen rather than Cardiff (which is probablly why the extra unit is needed). This means the unit is available to take the 07:09 Pembroke Dock service in the morning (which lost its 175 to the morning Fishguard) and would end up in Swansea at 09:23.

      This does not require more than 1 extra unit and covers all current services (except those the consultation document said would no longer run) and the planned Fishguard workings.

      Now to plug that 5hr gap. The third unit has nothing to do as far as I can tell after it gets into Swansea at 09:23 off the Pembroke Dock service. Since it spent the night in Carmarthen, I expect it would then need to go to Canton for fueling. An idea could be to run a 10:11 Swanline service, an hour after the previous one. It would then go for fuel in Canton, I’ve given it at least 2hrs to do so, then it would leave about 13:30ish for a 15:50ish arrival in Fishguard. It could then form a 16:00ish departure, arriving in Swansea at about 17:45.

      Of course that is a 6th extra train to and from Fishguard, which brings us back to Stena’s offer of overnight stabling at Fishguard (which perhaps remains a problem due to the last service in being a Sprinter and the first out being a 175). Regardless of that, the anouncment was for 5 extra trains between Fishguard and Carmarthen. Seeing as one train each way in the proposed timetable only ran as far as Clarbeston Road (without even a connection in one direction) this is not really 5 extra trains between Fishguard and Carmarthen so using the unit that would otherwise be sat doing nothing all day after its 09:23 arrival in Swansea to plug the 5hr gap isn’t quite so much to ask. There’s still staffing and fuel costs that could knock it on the head, but it should be within the realms of possibility without a second extra unit if I’ve got the diagrams right.

  3. Swansea Jack

    I think we should concentrate on getting the agreed additional services to be successful first! Part of that will involve getting Goodwick station open as soon as possible. We need to be positive over this, the old building is definitely not salvageable in-situ and any protracted campaign to save it will result in any chance of getting the station opened within the next 12 months disappearing, while the structurally dangerous nature of the building will still result in its demolition.

    Any additional service would need additional funding which is not going to happen – if the new service proves to be successful then adding in another afternoon trip could, I’m sure, be considered in the future.

    We need to stop and remember that from September 12th Fishguard will have a train service that will provide for the vast majority of travel requirements, which is considerably better than what we have at present. The Goodwick station issue is such that we might get it reopened over the next few months – try asking the population of Portishead if they would be happy with that for their town – they’d probably bite your arm off for such a chance.

    • Rhydgaled

      From the wording of the article, it doesn’t sound like any money will be available for work to start before December. If that’s the case then I think the only way of getting Fishguard & Goodwick open by the end of this year is by avoiding the majority of the works by going for the major compromise solution of opening it for one door at the end of the platform only. Once funding is available, we can then have the track brought back in reach of the rest of the platform or have the platform extended out towards the track. Alternativly, we can wait for funding to become available without opening the station, then do said works to get it open.

      As for the trains, the question is whether we can get the Clarbeston Road – Fishguard ECS service discounted as one of the 5 promised extra trains between Fishguard and Carmarthen. If we can do that, then provided rolling stock resources are available we could plug the 5hr gap, which alongside the station is I believe very important in helping making the trial service a sucess. If extra resources weren’t available, I can see that we couldn’t get the gap plugged, however as I suggested I think there is an idle unit that could be used.

  4. Swansea Jack

    The Clarbeston Road to Fishguard service actually gives you a connection from H’West and Milford by the way, which was something called for by some people, although I doubt it will get too busy!

  5. Swansea Jack

    This month’s Modern Railways (out yesterday, Friday 22nd July) is well worth a look. This month’s editorial focuses on Fishguard and Goodwick station. A very well timed and appropriate piece in my view!

  6. Rhydgaled

    Thanks for the tipoff.

    Not that much on Fishguard & Goodwick, but the large photograph of Workington North is helpful. The whole structure seems to be made out of scaffolding except for the surface of the platform which I can’t figure out.

    I can’t see how this could be done at Fishguard & Goodwick without demolishing at least part of the existing platform, unless scaffold sections can be non-rectangular or they build a scaffold platform on the other side of the line accessed through the industral estate, which instantly would make it less suitable for bus connections.

    My previous suggestion of opening the station for one door of the train only might even be able to beat Workington North, both on time and cost. I admit that idea is far from ideal, perhaps doubling the distance from the site entrance (and the nearby layby which currently has double-yellow lines that I’d guess would become a bus stop for services which do not terminate at the station) to the train compared to stopping the train right up at the harbour end of the station. It does however limit the required work to pruning/weedkilling the vegetation on the platform, putting up a fence at the end of the high narrow platform (what is that by the way, a platform for the motorail?) to prevent anyone driving onto the line and perhaps clearing the buddleia to enlarge the area that can be used as a car park.

    I return to the question of when the track is due for renewal, anything that would result in the track being lifted might as well be taken as an opertunity to realign it so that it is once again in reach of the platform all the way along. The answer to that could help inform just how temporary the measures to get the station opened need to be.

  7. Swansea Jack

    “Not that much on Fishguard & Goodwick, ” Really?? The editorial seems to me to be laying down a challenge to NR about Goodwick station, while at the same time highlighting the Fishguard issue nationally. As a regular reader of Modern Railways I think you’ll find that it has rather more influence with those in positions of power in the industry than other magazines that could be mentioned.

    • Spad

      Good to see Modern Railways has editorial space for Goodwick’s fragile station. The problem is – where in Goodwick or Fishguard can we read their editor’s words of wisdom? A search of local newsagents has failed to find Modern Railways. And the wholesalers say they’ve sold out.
      So come on Rhydgaled and Swansea Jack – lend us your copy! Then we can all learn what they’re saying up the line.

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