Scallops and oysters

Scalloping trawler in Fishguard Harbour

Oyster Card

The Irish Sea scalloping fleet is a familiar sight in Fishguard’s harbour. But it is another shellfish – the Oyster – that is pointing to new public transport opportunities for our community.

Oyster Card

Scalloping trawler

With only 5,000 people, we have plenty of public transport in Fishguard and Goodwick: eight bus routes, local and long distance rail services, a ferry to Ireland, a world-famous coast path, a growing network of cycle routes. and dedicated services for schools and mobility-impaired users.

 

What we don’t have is a transport network. The transport services just don’t join up. Very little connects reliably and consistently with anything else. That lack of an effective network is a huge obstacle to greater use of public transport in the twin towns. The car delivers end-to-end journeys on demand. Public transport which doesn’t work as a network of interconnections can’t hope to compete with the car – for those who have one.

Fishguard Trains has always urged that our new rail service, and the new Fishguard & Goodwick Station, must be the catalyst for decent links between transport services. Buses should be re-routed past the station, and timed to meet the trains. It’s a simple thing to ask for, but apparently not so simple to deliver. There are a few hopeful signs – the temporary bus service to the Harbour Station, and the cycle route extensions into the Station. But it mustn’t stop there. Buses which now use Fishguard Square as their terminus must extend to the station, and at the very least the 412 and 410 must link seamlessly with trains. If Fishguard & Goodwick Station becomes the catalyst for transport integration, we may begin to persuade people that public transport is a viable alternative to the car.

Instructions for using Oyster cards

Touch and go

But that’s only part of it. Transport Secretary Justine Greening this week announced “a nationwide rollout of Oyster-style technology” – smart technology to travel at the touch of a card.

Here at Fishguard Trains, we have no less than three Oyster cards between us. And considering we all live 250 miles from London, it’s remarkable how useful they are.

Oyster card statement

for the record

Here’s a recent Oyster statement. It shows the many ways these smart cards can help speed a journey, make it more affordable, or even make it possible. Arriving at Paddington at 17:00 on a Sunday evening, no need to join the huge queue for tickets – just touch and go all the way to Gospel Oak in north London, using both tube and overground trains. Next day, all the way from north London to Heathrow and back, plus local bus journeys, never once having to search for change, wondering if we’re being charged over the daily railcard limit. The card automatically controls what you pay, ensuring the daily cost is capped.

leaflet promoting Oyster on National Rail

Oyster going National

Three modes of transport – tube, train and bus – journeys at peak time and off-peak, no queuing for tickets (and no waiting while the bus driver issues tickets and change to a long queue), no need to work out the right fare (we hope), no need for ready money, and everything recorded if you need to check it or claim expenses. We have our Oyster cards set for automatic top-up, so every time the balance falls below say £20, an automatic debit from our bank account tops up the balance. It really does work.

 

So how might it work in north Pembrokeshire? With your Cerdyn Wystrys in your purse or wallet, you touch-in on the morning 412 from Dinas. The bus takes you straight down to F&G Station (without needing to change at Fishguard Square), arriving seven minutes before the next train. At the platform barrier, another touch-in lets you on to the platform. If there’s a conductor on the train, they have a Wystrys reader to check you’ve paid. At Swansea, the cross-city No 4 bus arrives within 5 minutes, you touch-in, and off you go to Singleton or Morriston Hospitals, the universities or the LC. If you’re an oldie with a bus pass and senior railcard, they’ve already been loaded on to your card, so you are only charged the railcard rate for the train journey, and nothing for the bus trips. If you have no discounts, through ticketing still means you will pay less than you would for the same journey today. You’ll want to check online that they’ve got it right, and you can for up to eight weeks.

Sounds good? Yes there are disadvantages. There’s a new database tracking your every movement; there’s sometimes confusion about where and when you have to touch-in. And inevitably, smart card ticketing means less ticket offices, which means less travel advice, fewer opportunities to book advance travel face-to face, and of course job losses. It is not all gain. But the big question is: are we serious about public transport? If we are, this is the card that can make the world of public transport our oyster.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Scallops and oysters

  1. Rhydgaled

    I believe the smartcard technology that Greening announced a roll out of is actually ITSO, not Oyster (though perhaps a similar concept, there was a debate on rail uk fourms about what this would actually do for passengers, and whether it would actually be an upgraded version of ITSO with more Oyster-card-like features). I think ITSO is already deployed more widely than Oyster. There is, in fact, an ITSO logo on the back of my Concessionary Travel Pass (basically the same thing that pensioners use).

    While bus drivers and passengers do sometimes have trouble finding the correct change for cash payments, ITSO-equipped passengers seem to take about the same length of time on average as those paying cash who know what ticket they want and have plenty of change on them. The cards can fail to read, often because it has actually been touched to the machine (one driver told me to hover my card slightly above the machine rather than actually touching the machine, and that works far more often)).

    As for ticket office closures, their sales are apparently falling in the face of increased online purchases and use of ticket machines, and there was some talk about making rail tickets available from places like post offices instead. If that happens, I think the face-to-face advice might be the only thing, other than the jobs, which would be lost by closing ticket offices. However, if closing ticket offices means stations become unstaffed this could cause vital facilities like toilets and waiting rooms to be lost, which would be a dreadful move. If all facilities other than the ticket-sales service at stations are retained (and ideally enhanced) and the staff at the post office/wherever are trained to enable them to deliver the kind of valuable advise ticket office staff provide then this suggestion might actually be an improvement.

  2. DBJ

    I am good friends with a family member/employee of a certain local bus company, and I have mentioned some of your concerns to them. I can assure you they are fully up to speed with these new railway developments, and of course they want to have a fully integrated network of connections. The problem is they cannot just change bus times on a whim, as they provide services on behalf of PCC they have to go through a full consultation process which can take weeks and months in order to make even minor adjustments to their timetable. But they are not stupid and do realise that linking up with the trains will improve the transport situation in the Fishguard area, and provide better revenues for them!

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