On Tuesday Fishguard Trains’ team reached Cardiff without a hitch (Illustrated report here). How did we fare on the return journey on Thursday?
At Cardiff Central we check the timetables. Arriva still hasn’t managed to correct Fishguard times. Are they serious about promoting the new service?
17:40 The Milford Haven train leaves a minute late, standing room only.
Conductor and recorded announcements both warn us to request the stops at Clunderwen, Clarbeston Road and Johnston. But there’s no mention of changing at Clarbeston Road for Fishguard. So if you’re going to Fishguard and you don’t know you have to change at Clarbeston Road, then you don’t ask for the train to stop there. Very poor.
17:59 Bridgend. Five passengers sitting near us are heading for Fishguard and the ferry, having missed the lunchtime boat train. They are anxiously asking the conductor what to do. “Clarbeston Road – so how far from Fishguard is that? And is there a restaurant there?” We hand out Fishguard & Six Nations timetables, and tell them they’ll find somewhere to eat in Fishguard.
18:30 After Swansea, the new conductor announces “change at Clarbeston Road for Fishguard”.
19:15 Passing Ferryside, a stretch of railway which deserves more fame. In a south-westerly, the line is drenched by Atlantic waves. On this peaceful evening, the view just does you good.
19:30 Coming into Carmarthen the conductor is more forthcoming: “Passengers for Fishguard please remain on this service and change at Clarbeston Road.” Could that be because someone has already made that mistake and got off at Carmarthen expecting a train to Fishguard?
19:59 The new conductor probably announced Clarbeston Road, but his brief words failed to break through the tannoy system. If we hadn’t told the ferry five that it’s time to change trains, they’d be in the dark.
20:00 Nine passengers climb out and into a near-black platform. “Where are we?” they say, astonished that this primitive platform is where we change trains on an international route. We assure them all is well, and point out the shuttle train waiting to pull in to the platform.
But as the pictures show, the scene is unsettling. Without helpful words from fellow passengers, some travellers would find this daunting.
20:05 The shuttle pulls in, the conductor opens the door, saying “Fishguard?”, surprised to see nine of us step out of the gloom on the platform, five for the ferry, four for Fishguard.
20:25 Early into Fishguard Harbour. A local taxi driver has turned up to see who needs lifts.
The presence of five ferry passengers on this journey is unexpected. But it seems likely to happen often, when people miss an earlier connection. Indeed some might prefer to arrive in Fishguard in the evening to eat, drink and relax, and get on the night ferry as soon as possible after it arrives at 12:30 rather than at 1:30 in the morning when the night boat train arrives. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and taxis please note.
GOOD THAT – all trains ran to time, the Fishguard service is already being used, and the connection at Clarbeston Road is as efficient as it could be. And we arrived early.
SHAME THAT – the service is marred by poor or non-existent information, and by an interchange station which (as we reported before) is unfit for purpose.