Clarbeston Road: The Broken Link

red signal showing at Clarbeston Road station

signal at danger

On the first morning of Fishguard’s new rail service, the Clarbeston Road link broke.

Three days ago, Fishguard Trains published concerns about the lack of passenger information at the halt which has become a critical link in the transport chain connecting Fishguard to the world. Four times daily, passengers must change trains here to continue their journey to and from Fishguard. They will be left standing on an empty platform with no access to information about their next train. Today, on the launch day of the new service, it happened – to us.

To cover the start of the new service, the Fishguard Trains team divided, some to report the official launch at Fishguard Harbour, some to travel on the 9:22 from Clarbeston Road to Fishguard (the final stage of the first long-distance train into Fishguard which left Hereford at 5:25).

close-up of new rail timetable at Clarbeston Road

in the pink

Arriva has posted a new timetable at the roadside that confirmed the 9:22 and the other new services. But the view on the platform was discouraging, with signals set firmly to red.

When the train was  ten minutes late, we left the platform, crossed the bridge and went to the so-called “Information Point”. This time we filmed and recorded what happened when we pressed the button. Fishguard Trains will supply the video evidence to any interested party.

First the faint recorded voice reported the “dauddeg-naw i deg o’r gloch i Manceinion”, with detailed instructions for requesting the train to stop. Then – in English – the 9:31 to Manchester, with full instructions as before. Next, the “10:28 i Aberdaugleddau”, with the request stop instructions repeated in detail. Finally, as the English voice began the fourth repeat of the request stop instructions for the 10:28, the 9:31 train to Manchester departed in the cutting below. If that had been our train, we would have missed it while trying to get information. We stopped filming after 2′ 10″.

There was no mention of the 9:22 to Fishguard, at any point, in any language.

As before, there was no mobile signal to call National Rail Enquiries. Only after driving back to Fishguard, we learnt that the 9:22 had been delayed for half an hour.

When we published our concerns three days ago, we immediately drew them to the attention of Arriva Trains Wales and the Welsh Government Rail Unit. We have not yet received a reply. Fishguard Trains is not testing this broken part of our rail infrastructure in order to be controversial. We are very concerned that passengers who are tempted off the road and on to our new rail service will rapidly return to their cars if they encounter such disregard for basic passenger service. The Clarbeston Road link must be repaired, and it must be repaired at once. We will continue to press the rail operators and authorities to respond to this urgent issue.

UPDATE September 14th

Fishguard Trains has Arriva’s response – see the post Arriva and Clarbeston Road

10 Comments

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10 Responses to Clarbeston Road: The Broken Link

  1. Rhydgaled

    While there is an information point located on each platform at Whitland, the suituation was perhaps only a little better there. The information points did mention the train in question, although anouncing it as the 09:02 service to Pembroke Dock most of the time, mentioning Fishguard only once the two or three times I requested an update. Since I was expecting the train to split at Whitland I was ok with that, but the platform timetable (as as your image of the one at Clarbeston Road shows) said the Pembroke departure was 08:59 rather than the 09:02 claimed by the ‘information point’. That could potentially be confusing.

    Of course, sorting out the information issues at Clarbeston Road takes precedence as far as the success of the Fishguard service is concerned. However, with the extra trains it may now be quicker to get from Fishguard to Tenby by rail than by bus via Haverfordwest. That would entail spending time changing trains at windy Whitland. Esspecially when it is as windy as today, waiting ages at Whitland for a train could be very offputting, bus shelters simply cannot provide enough shelter from the wind.

    Of course that applies to most of the stations in Pembrokeshire too, but it is a bigger problem at interchange points as, unless there is a delay, passengers arriving by car or walking from home will normally arrive at the station with not long to wait. We need the ability to have a fully-enclosed indoor waiting room at stations that do not justify ‘staffed station’ status. Whitland has a station building and has the potential to become an important interchange point. Therefore it looks like a better place to start than Clarbeston Road. This is unfortunate as, for the trial period at least, Clarbeston Road is likely to be the more important interchange as far as our new rail service is concerned.

    • Rhydgaled

      My wait at Whitland for the delayed service also jogged my memory of a previous outing to Whitland. That time, the signalman shouted out of the window to some other passengers, informing them of a delay.

      He didn’t do that today, but remembering that gave me an idea. Install PA speakers on the platform linked to the singal box and add ‘providing delay information to waiting passengers’ to the signaller’s job description. I’ve no idea if the idea is viable, or how far in advance of his/her section the signaller knows where trains are, but it might be worth looking into. There’s a signal box at Clarbeston Road too, so this idea could help at both stations.

  2. Paul

    Excellent overview of the launch today on the fishguardtrains website. Shame I could not be there for the launch. Maybe I can take a trip down west on the weekend!

    Talking of connections, right now the incoming train from Manchester to Clarbeston Road is showing on NRES live departure boards as arriving CLR at 2011 (11 minutes late). The 2005 CLR to FGH (last train of the day) is showing as 2005 departure. Would be interested to know how this was handled. Will/did the 2005 to FGH wait for the incoming arrival?

    • Rhydgaled

      A rathing worrying point there Paul. It’d better be held, otherwise we effectivly only have 2 extra trains into Fishguard, the 06:42 and 15:14 services from Cardiff.

      On the other hand, if that service is held and the 21:05 412 bus was extended to run from down at Fishguard’s railway through to Cardigan, you could change the lastest departure from Cardiff to reach Cardigan by public transport from 16:04 (arrives Carmarthen 17:53, last bus to Cardigan leaves there at 18:05) to 17:39. The particular bus used on the 21:05 service would then have to spend the night at Cardigan rather than Newport and this could therefore result in an 08:00 or 07:50 412 service from Cardigan in the morning (currently the bus starts at Newport at 08:15 leaving a gap in the normally hourly schedule between the first bus (at 7am) and the next (at 9am).

    • Blocking Back

      Yes, it was delayed by a slow-running additional oil train in front of it, but the Down Fishguard was held to meet the connection. With that connection, there are a number of fairly complicated moves to be made:

      1. Up Fishguard into Up platform to drop off passengers.
      2. Empty stock shunts forward to crossover signal.
      3. Empty stock shunts back from crossover signal to main aspect signal on Fishguard line.
      4. Up Milford Haven service passes through Up platform.
      5. Empty stock shunts back out onto Up Main, to wait behind crossover signal.
      6. Down Milford Haven passes through Down platorm (preceded by an oil train on this occasion).
      7. Empty stock crosses over onto Down platform to pick up passengers for Fishguard.
      8. Down Fishguard service departs.

      Thus it’s not really possible for the Down Fishguard service to depart until the Down Milford service has passed through, allowing the Down Fishguard service to be moved onto the Down platform.

      A connection will always be held if the overall delay is minimal (as it was in this case) and there are minimal knock-on effects. If the delay is serious (e.g. 30 minutes or more), Arriva will break out the road transport. If connections are going to missed, the guard should inform you well in advance and arrange in advance for road transport to be arranged – so make sure that you make enquiries if your train is running late.

  3. John Davies

    The timetable posters on display at Cardiff Central station do not show the 15:14 train to Fishguard for some reason. For people without access to the internet this will be a problem. Potential revenue for the service will be lost.

    • Blocking Back

      That is inexcusable. The service is clearly shown on the Working Timetable and TRUST (the internal computerised train reporting/timetabling system) and has not disappeared from that at any time. I’ve advised Arriva Control in Cardiff, so hopefully they’ll do something about it.

      • Spad

        Thanks for this Blocking Back. To read our full story on this, see Network Rail: count the mistakes. Anyone passing through Cardiff, please check the platform timetables, and tell us if anything changes!

      • Rhydgaled

        Is there any way the general public can access this TRUST system? As you may have read in my comments, I’ve a feeling the Welsh Government’s excuse for not plugging the 5hr gap is untrue and would like to scrutinise the rolling stock diagrams to find out for sure.

        The excuse I was given by the way was that there is not available rolling stock to plug the gap without sacrificing the 15:14 through train from Cardiff. Loss of that service might not be a price worth paying for a 15:10ish departure from Fishguard, most of use to vistors to Fishguard returning eastwards. However, if the Welsh Government’s story is incorrect, it might be worth pressing for an extra trip each way. Given that the first two trains into Fishguard are essentially ECS moves, that might still be within the 10 extra services promised.

        Anyway we can worry about that if and when we can prove rolling stock exists that isn’t being used elsewhere (there are plenty of other, possibly more deserving, routes in Wales that could do with extra services/capacity) to plug the gap without sacrificing any other services.

  4. Anthony

    I want to know what happens to the stock which forms the 07:09 Pembroke Dock – Swansea service (Arr 09:20) as the train now longer works a 09:55 departure from Swansea to Manchester and there is already a train at 10:00 to Carmarthen which connects with the 10:56 Carmarthen – Pembroke dock service.

    Somone told me that teh units sits in Swnasea then is used to work the 13:10 Swansea – Shrewsbury service while the stock which works the 09:05 Shrewsbury – Swansea service sits in Swansea till it works the 17:10 Swansea – Cardiff service.

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