Speed to the West

Eight months ago today, Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones announced up to £1.4m funding annually for extra train services to Fishguard. Eight months later we have the new trains, and soon we’ll have a new station for them to stop at. Many questions remain, but everyone agrees we need this to succeed.

To mark the day, Fishguard Trains offers a few figures from official sources:

poster for beach camping holidays in railway carriage

Mind the Gap

Between April-September this year, Welsh Government paid £85,748,275 to Arriva Trains Wales (source: wales.gov.uk). That’s an annual rate of £171,496,550.

If Welsh Government were to spend the maximum £1.4m on Fishguard’s subsidised service (it would be interesting to know what they are spending), that would represent just over 0.8% of all Welsh expenditure on Arriva.

The population of Wales has recently topped 3 million (3,006400 to be exact). What’s the local population served by the new service? Extending our patch as far as Dinas, Newport, Scleddau and Letterston, there are 11,274 of us. We amount to just under 0.4% of the Welsh population.

So if the maximum was spent, we would have a generous share of the national spend: 0.8% for only 0.4% of the population.

But that does not account for seasonal visitors, the mainstay of our economy. If you add them – let’s say our population doubles in the summer – then 22,548 people are served by the new service. That’s nearly 0.8% of the Welsh population.

Of course, that argument depends on our success in persuading our seasonal visitors to leave the car at home and come by train. Are we gearing up to do that in 2012?

P.S. Have you used the new Fishguard Trains INDEX yet? It’s a quick way of searching this site for the stories that interest you. Click INDEX above. For example, this post is indexed under MARKETING.


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6 Responses to Speed to the West

  1. Rhydgaled

    Something you may have missed in one of my very long comments (sorry, I should really try harder to be more consise), which I think could be more relevant here: Regarding useful advertising, I have been wondering why there is no marketing name for our area. Wales has the “Heart Of Wales Line”, “Cambrian Lines” (“Cambrian Coast Line” and “Cambrian Main Line”), “Borderlands Line” and “Conwy Valley Line”. However, our area has to make do with “West Wales Lines”. First of all, West Wales could equally be taken to include Holyhead and Aberystwyth (both on the west coast) as well as our area. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to come up with much, “Pembroke & Tenby Railway” is the best tag I can think of (didn’t make it up, clearly) for the Pembroke branch, and Whitland to Wolfscastle could be the “Landsker Line” except for the fact Wolfscastle is halfway along the rail route not at either end.

    I’m not sure if you can include Scleddau and Letterston in our catchment area, since they are heading in the wrong direction (which is the reason I’ve suggested re-opening Wolfscastle station in the past). However, if afternoon/evening bus connections were sorted (nothing north of Newport by the time the 15:14 from Cardiff arrives) you could add Eglwsurew (too hard to spell that) and part of the population of Cardigan instead. Cardigan would then benifit from a later last departure from Cardiff/Swansea. At the moment reaching Cardigan from the south-east means you have to reach Carmarthen by 6pm for the last 460 bus. That’d mean leaving Swansea somtime around 5pm and Cardiff around 4pm. A connection to Cardigan from the last train into Fishguard would make Cardigan within reach of the same 17:39 train from Cardiff.

  2. Swansea Jack

    Try Eglwyswrw! I was speaking to someone from there today – They tend to use Clunderwen as a rail-head, as do many from the Crymych and Maenclochog areas, especially now that Clunderwen has gained a couple of additional Carmarthen bound services in the morning and a useful 17:35 one back in the evening.

    I gently suggested they catch the 10:25 in the morning (our new 09:56 Fishguard to Carmarthen) and the 17:35 back from Carmarthen in the afternoon, and they agreed that those times looked useful to them. We need to remember that the new trains are adding passengers at places like Clunderwen and Clarbeston Road too, we’ll need to remind the powers that be about that as time goes on too.

    I agree about the spending per head of population, but remember that rural areas tend to be more expensive to serve with public transport anyway. It is good to see investment in Pembrokeshire’s railway, it has been many years since that has happened. Well done to all those who have pressed for these improvements, and to those battling towards getting Goodwick station re-opened. Personally I cannot wait until the banner is cut across the first train to stop at the station. I’ll certainly be on it having waited the best part of 47 years for this!!

    • Rhydgaled

      My family used to use Clunderwen as a railhead too, on the rare occasions we are going somewhere by train. Now we tend to use Whitland beacuse of the slightly more frequent service (thanks to Pembroke Dock trains). Either way, there is no bus, intergrated public transport it is not. To connect Eglwyswrw to an intergrated public transport network would I think be best achived through extending 412 operating hours north of Newport to link it to Fishguard, rather than putting on a whole new route to Whitland or Clunderwen.

      Once they are taking the car to Whitland, Clunderwen or even Fishguard it becomes more likely that they’ll decide to take the car to Port Talbot Parkway (avoiding the uncompetive rail journey time via Swansea), or all the way to the destonation. Three members of the family have in the past very occasionally gone to watch rugby in Cardiff, and they tend to use Port Talbot Parkway then.

  3. Swansea Jack

    There is already a 430 Cardigan to Narberth bus that runs 3-hourly past Clunderwen station, but bus-rail integration doesn’t appear to be on the agenda. A Narberth bound bus service passes about 5 minutes after the 09:56 Fishguard to Carmarthen passes by so doesn’t help the Crymych area to Carmarthen, Swansea etc traveller! The 3-hourly bus service doesn’t work in well with what used to be a 2 hourly service, but the 09:04 and 09:56 Fishguard services nicely fill the gap between the Milford services to effectively give an hourly service in the morning Eastbound, while the 15:14 Cardiff to Fishguard does a similar gap filling exercise in the afternoon.

    17 passengers on the 09:56 out of the Harbour this morning, 6 additions at Clunderwen, of which I know 4 came from the Eglwyswrw area!

    • Rhydgaled

      I know of the 430 yes, I even used it once to get to Narberth to video an Intercity 125 on the Pembroke Dock branch. The 430 may be 3-hourly, but only the middle three services per day run south of Crymych/Hermon if I remember rightly. Anyway, it is good to hear that the Fishguard trains are filling gaps nicely, rather than running just in front of or behind some other service.

      Of course it is also good that passengers from the Eglwyswrw area are boarding at Clunderwen, rather than going further east by car. Wouldn’t it be even better if they could leave their cars at home and board the trains at Fishguard though? There is already (on paper at least) a nice connection into the 08:04 from Eglwyswrw and Cardigan, but nothing in the evening.

  4. Rhydgaled

    A little something that appears to be relevent to the title of this post:

    http://www.assemblywales.org/calendar-document-content?id=58373 This appears to be SWWITCH Evidence to the National Assembly, the final point reads:
    4.2 Competition with road – A comparison of journey times between rail and road shows that rail continues to be competitive on the main east-west rail route from Swansea to Haverfordwest. It is likely that the rail route between St Clears and Haverfordwest will become increasingly less competitive when the recently announced improvements to the A40 trunk road at Llanddewi Velfrey and Robeston Wathen are completed. For rail to remain competitive against road travel considerable work must be done to promote the non-journey time benefits such as cost, convenience, joint ticketing and initiatives such as off-peak and family travel.

    We already know that west of Llanelli to east of Swansea is not time competitive, and now the A40 works threaten to undermine the railway in Pembrokeshire too. The two benifits SWWITCH give are not going to be good atractive marketing tools though:

    Convenience – you can’t market rail convenience, if a private car is available it will win every time.
    Cost – Rail fares are still rising above inflation, the goverment has just decided to start throwing several billion pounds annualy into keeping motoring costs down however.

    Rail certainly has enviromental benifits, but to attract passengers it would help if it could beat the car in some more aspects. Journey time is one aspect where rail somtimes has a chance to fight back. Down our way, I think there are two options to keep rail time competitive.

    1. Restrict Clunderwen and Clarbeston Road to a 2-hourly stopping service from Milford Haven to Swansea alongside 2-hourly services to both Milford and Fishguard which don’t call at Clunderwen and Clarbeston Road. This would give an hourly service non-stop from Whitland to Haverfordwest / Fishguard & Goodwick / Wolfscastle, which could therefore be upgraded to 90mph.
    2. Don’t build the A40 bypass, which saves the cost of upgrading the railway to 90mph and the cost of the bypass.

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