Ghost train

error in Arriva's summer 2012 timetable

spot the ghost

“Ah, two trains on the single track at the same time – that can’t be right.” – Arriva’s comment when Fishguard Trains pointed out a new timetable problem.

Page 38 of Arriva’s new West Wales Timetable (from May 14th) shows a Saturday train leaving Cardiff at 15:14, into Fishguard Harbour at 18:34. Then on page 39 another train leaves Cardiff at 16:04, into Fishguard Harbour at 18:51. A seventeen minute service interval is just not possible on Fishguard’s single-track branch, even if it was intended.

What has happened is that the current 15:14 service to Fishguard from Cardiff has been retimed to leave at 16:04 – an improvement all round, as it is faster and better timed – but while the new service is shown correctly, the service it replaces has not been removed. Today Arriva confirmed to Fishguard Trains that the error (which just affects Saturday times) will be corrected on line, but – and here’s the problem – it is too late for the printed timetables to be corrected.

So anyone checking Arriva’s printed West Wales Timetable for the afternoon departure from Cardiff and Swansea to Fishguard is going to be misled, until a new edition in September. We can’t help being disappointed. Our new service and new station need all the support they can get. An official timetable showing times for a train that doesn’t exist is not helpful.

In the circumstances, perhaps it would be unkind to point out another error in the same timetable: Arriva misspells our new station Abergwuan ac Wdig.


Filed under News & weather, Timetables

18 Responses to Ghost train

  1. Irishman

    Perhaps a solution to this problem would be an inserted flyer slipped into the timetable books or a sticker slapped on the front cover? The latter would be the cheaper option. However an inserted flyer could also double up with some other info (e.g. correct the timetable but also perhaps feature an ad for some aspect of rail travel – perhaps the West Wales Day Ranger).
    Hope this might be of help.

  2. DBJ

    On the subject of timetable anomalies, travelling on the 12.10 CDF-MHN today, went via the Swansea District Line. In the 30 years or so I have been getting the train to and from Hwest that’s definately a first for me. Am I right in thinking that line is under threat of closure? Could the extra trains going to Fishguard be bought into play and routed via there, stopping at new stations at Morriston etc?

    • Spad

      Welcome to the delights of the Swansea District Line!
      Whether it’s threatened or not, it is vital that the rail lobby wakes up to the importance of this line. It is a key part of a future express rail route between south-east and south-west Wales.
      We can discuss exactly how this is to come about. But there is no better way of using existing heritage infrastructure to build the Welsh railway of the future.
      Half way along the line, Fishguard Trains backs a Swansea Parkway Station located at Swansea West M4 Services, to become a new road/rail hub. Others back Morriston Parkway.
      Fishguard Trains also backs use of the SD Line for direct fast Cardiff-Llandeilo services, for transfer to a dedicated express bus link to Aberystwyth.
      You’ll have your own ideas. But the big point is to raise the profile of the line and make Cardiff Bay take its potential seriously. Watch this space.

  3. Rhydgaled

    Why did 12.10 CDF-MHN go via the Swansea District Line, that isn’t a regular timetabled thing is it? Problems on the main line? Work on the single track through Gowerton?

    I don’t think total closure of the Swansea District Line is on the cards, but some offical Network Rail documents have certainly mentioned that rationalisation of the SDL was under consideration. That rationalisation, if it happens, is to take place once Gowerton redoubling is complete, and that’s supposed to happen next year.

    I’d support a Morriston/Swansea parkway, but not calling trains from Carmarthen/Pembrokeshire there and Swansea Jack doesn’t think my alternative suggestion of Swansea local services using it would work.

    The AA journey planner says Carmarthen – Cardiff is 1hr 18min by car, and Arriva timed their coach service 20 at 1hr 15min. This means, even using the SDL and calling at Llanelli, Port Talbot and Bridgend only (1hr 22mins) rail isn’t quite fast enough. Using the SDL should safeguard its future though so we can work towards linespeed improvments on it to get journey times down a bit more. Adding any extra stops would ruin it.

    • Spad

      New express services using the Swansea District Line to by-pass Swansea would obviously be opposed in the Second City – UNLESS there is a good Swansea Parkway Station (on the model of Bristol Parkway).
      So that stop is a political necessity.
      Fishguard Trains is not convinced by alleged road travel times. Ever heard of tailbacks on the M4? Of queues to park in Cardiff? Of the cost of petrol? Rail wins in many ways, not just speed.

  4. Swansea Jack

    The Swansea District line is ideally suited to fulfil the purpose for which it was built, namely to provide a fast link between Cardiff and West Wales. I was involved in ensuring at least one train passed along that line back when the HST operated through West Wales trains (to Pembroke Dock and Fishguard Harbour at that time) were curtailed or diverted via Swansea. That was an important first step to ensuring the existence of the SDL for the future, the next step is to fulfil its use for the future as it is a very expensive section of route with 2 major viaducts (over the Louchor and Tawe) and 3 long tunnels – Lon Las, Penllergaer and Llangafelach.

    I believe its future use will involve a West wales version of the Holyhead – Cardiff and return peak hours working as well as continued use for Milford Haven oil traffic and the Trostre Tinplate works freights. A Morriston Parkway or Swansea Gateway type station to tap into the Morriston / Swansea valley park and ride market to Cardiff is the key, the provision of 1 station along the route would not impact seriously on Carmarthen to Cardiff Central journey times, but would assist in reducing traffic flows along the M4 from the West Glamorgan area to Cardiff which is increasingly seen as being the main driver of economic growth in Wales.

    Politically it will be difficult however, SWWITCH would probably be unwilling to prioritise a scheme that would further reduce the competitiveness of Swansea, and SEWTA would find it is outwith their area. What I’m hoping for is that the uplift in traffic densities following electrification to Swansea may make providing for Pontardawe / Morrison to Cardiff traffic and through West Wales to Cardiff traffic would secure the future of the last main line built in the UK before the Selby diversion was built in the 1980s.

    I feel the only possible other Swansea area rail scheme (other than a Morriston – Mumbles/ Dunvant tramway) would be restoration of the Gowerton – Gorseinon – Grovesend line which would bring the Ammanford area back into the rail network fully – the detour via Llanelli destroys any hope of rail being competitive on the Ammanford / Landeilo – Swansea corridor.

  5. anthony

    I know one train is booked via the Swansea district line on Sundays which is a bit of a pain as Pyle gets a train to Neath & Swansea at 10:20 and the next one is then 14:30 as the 12:40 service runs via the Swansea district Line.

    I deally I would ike to see stations built on the Swansea ditrict Line at Morriston & Llandarcy both of which could offer good bus links to Neath, Neath Abbey, Morriston & the DVLA etc

  6. Rhydgaled

    Spad – I understand road travel times into Cardiff are probably longer than claimed, due to Cardiff traffic, though remember that Arriva’s coach is timed FASTER than the AA claim for a car journey. However, anyone going from Carmarthen/Pembrokeshire to England will not have Cardiff traffic to contend with, they can blast past on the M4 while rail passengers will probably have to change trains in Cardiff. It is this, more than the journey time to Cardiff (1hr 22mins might be enough to match the car on Carmarthen to central Cardiff trips) that makes me concerned that the SDL needs to be even faster than it already is.

    Swansea Jack – You say adding a stop on the SDL wouldn’t impact Carmarthen – Cardiff much, but then say the detour via Llanelli destroys any hope of rail being competitive on the Ammanford / Landeilo – Swansea corridor. Ok, so diverting Ammanford trains via Llanelli adds more time than an extra stop would, but you are illustrating that time is important for rail to be competetive. Also, as I asked when you brought the Gorseinon line up before, what would serve Llangennech and Bynea? The only solution I can think of would be to run a Llanelli – Port Talbot service calling at Llangennech and Bynea along with any stations on the SDL, which would connect with trains to Cardiff and Swansea at Port Talbot. The trains from Carmarthen/Pembrokeshire would still call at Llanelli, Port Talbot and Bridgend only.

  7. DBJ

    It is a scheduled service, there is a FGW train to Carmarthen that departs Cardiff at 12, the MHN service follows 10 mins later until Briton Ferry, uses the SDL to leapfrog and then waits for it at Carmarthen. Presumably the reason it does this is to do with available paths and avoid duplication, as the FGW serves Swansea at about the same time. I honestly can’t remember ever seeing a MHN service use the SDL, I nearly fell off my chair when it was announced that it wouldn’t be calling at Swansea!

  8. Swansea Jack

    Rhydgaled – Look at a timetable for the 1950s and you’ll see that Pontardulais to Llanelli wasn’t over blessed with trains. The combined populations of Glanamman, Ammanford and Gorseinon however do justify a regular service to Swansea, and would involve the re-instatement of far less railway track than Ebbw Vale did. The option to have a Swansea – gowerton – Gorseinon etc service was there in 1964 when BR closed the Southern end of the CWL but WR management of the time just wanted to eradicate as much of the CWL in the Swansea area as possible, probably as a prelude to closure of the CWL in the later 1960s. I’d be looking for an hourly Glanamman – Ammanford – Pantyfynnon – Pontardulasis – Gorseinon -Gowerton – Swansea service, the option to run CWL trains via Llanelli would remain if it was felt that Bynea and Llangennech warranted it.

    Most of the track remains in situ and in use, except for the Gowerton North to Grovesend Colliery Loop Jcn piece at Hendy.

    The addition of a Morriston Parkway type station (and possibly llandarcy) would add 4 minutes or so to Carmarthen – Cardiff times, the diversion of CWL trains via Llanelli adds far more. Pontardulais to Gowerton (Sth) in 1963 was 11 minutes while via Llanelli takes 29 to 34 minutes today. That 34 minutes means trains from Ammanford to Swansea cannot compete with any form of road transport and results in Ammanford being remote from Swansea by rail transport.

    There is a need to provide a rail option for the Swansea Valley area which a Morriston Parkway railhead would provide. However the option of providing a rail link up the Swansea Valley to Ystalyfera etc is just not going to happen.

    • Rhydgaled

      The Gorseinon link would make Ammanford – Swansea about half an hour then would it? Are you suggesting Bynea and Llangennech would be closed or remain only served by HOWL trains then?

      I’ve just tried to make a guestimate of how long Ammanford – Swansea/Morriston Parkway – Swansea Docks (using only existing lines) would take. I may have made some silly mistakes, but I came up with 18 minutes Ammanford to an M/S Parkway near the junction of the M4 and A4067, and 12 minutes from there to Swansea Docks. Of course Swansea Docks station would be nowhere near as conveniantly suituated as High Street is, so I’d need to add some time so it would not be as fast as reinstating the Gorseinon link. The Gorseinon link would require 4.5 miles of reinstated line though, my route to Swansea Docks requires none. More to the point though, is 12 minutes from Morriston/Swansea parkway to Swansea Docks quick enough to make that service the one that serves Morriston/Swansea parkway, allowing the trains from Pembrokeshire/Carmarthen to sail through non-stop?

  9. Rhydgaled

    I’m not sure Cardiff-Llandeilo services would work. There’s 2.5tph between Swansea and Cardiff at the moment, given the large population I think that’s a bit low. In the medium-long term, the all-stops Swanline service should really be hourly, combining with the proposed second Maesteg train each hour at Bridgend. Depending on what you’re thinking of doing further west, I think the Cardiff – Carmarthen express would eventually be hourly also. That’s 5tph out of Cardiff without a semi-fast Swansea – Bristol service, which makes 6tph. Add in frieght and the line will be full (in fact, although theoreticly possible those 6tph plus freight would work, I haven’t managed to make up a timetable that the frieghts really fit into).

    So, the only option left for Cardiff-Llandeilo services is to send the 175s to another operator in return for 158s for the Manchesters, which could then have a Llandeilo portion attached at Cardiff and detached at Port Talbot. Not very practical I think.

  10. DBJ

    I think anyone who has tried to get to Morriston Hospital by Public Transport would agree that a stop near there would be a massive plus. If you look at the timetable the Carmarthen – Cardiff trunk route is pretty well served, with some potential for re-routing via the SDL. I would have thought the Carmarthen – Manchester trains could be the best option, as passengers from Carmarthen, Pembrey etc could use Milford, Pembroke and Fishguard services to get into Swansea. You could also have a similar situation as you get at Bristol sometimes, where services re-routed away from Parkway stop at Patchway, with a bus link to Parkway. Morriston could be utilised in this way, with connecting buses into Swansea.

    • Rhydgaled

      Re-routing existing services away from Swansea is out of the question I would think. SWWITCH objectives (see: include 3 trains an hour between Swansea and Carmarthen. The Railfuture report on the SDL also said there would be no question of diverting any existing services away from the present Swansea (High Street) station.

      Personally, I think there should be three or four trains an hour from Swansea to Llanelli, with two continuing to Carmarthen and the third train each hour between Llanelli and Carmarthen coming from Cardiff over the SDL. The trains from Swansea to Carmarthen would be 1tph all stations and 1tph Gowerton, Llanelli, Pembrey & Burry Port, Carmarthen. The latter could be the existing Manchesters, or everything from the west that goes into Swansea could terminate there. The occasional Intercity trains from Paddington would ommit Gowerton and perhaps Pembrey & Burry Port. As I’ve already said, the SDL train would call at Llanelli, Port Talbot and Bridgend only, would any of these stops be worth axing to stop at Swansea/Morriston Parkway instead?

      What is the main purpose of the Swansea/Morriston Parkway proposal anyway? As I’ve said, I propose it be used for services from there to Swansea, SPAD and Swansea Jack seem to think it is for passengers from that area to get to Cardiff and you seem to be saying it is for passengers from Carmarthen/Pembs to get to Morriston.

      I think the long-term aim (assuming the road option doesn’t get any faster) for the SDL trains should be 1hr 10-15mins, if that can be acheived with a stop at Morriston/Swansea Parkway then great. For now, the best can be managed is probably 1hr 22mins, the only capital required is refurbishing stored rolling stock to get some suitable trains for the service.

  11. Swansea Jack

    Rail is not going to compete on the Morriston – Swansea axis. Rail should however service the Morriston / Pontardawe area to Cardiff flows. The only way a rail based Morriston – Swansea solution would work would be for a Morriston Hospital – Morriston Parkway- Tawe Park – Liberty – Swansea High Street – Quadrant / Leisure centre – University – Blackpill – Mumbles / Dunvant & Killay tramway would be constructed. No-one will suggest another station in Swansea at East Dock etc, and running Morriston -Llandarcy – Jersey Marine – Swansea East Dock / St Thomas will not be competitive.

    Carmarthen – Cardiff times via the SDL need to be competitive, but you also need the numbers on the trains – a Morriston Parkway station to tap into the mid-Swansea Valley catchment area, and a Llandarcy stop (for the new housing development would add in the passengers.

    Existing hourly services from Carmarthen to Cardiff are either 2 or 3 coaches so on their own West Wales to Cardiff cannot justify an additional hourly service via the SDL. The provision of stations on the SDL would however go towards increasing passenger numbers enough to justify the additional trains, the speeding up of services from West Wales would then add to those numbers.

    • Rhydgaled

      Quite well said, Swansea Jack. In my opinon, the whole point of using the SDL for trains from south-west Wales is to make journey times (to England, not just Cardiff) competitive. Going to Cardiff via Swansea High Street is (sadly) not competetive and probably can never be s0. Because of this, I doubt many passengers on the current Carmarthen – Cardiff trains are going beyond Swansea, so I’d be supprised if pattronage on the existing services via Swansea would be effected much by introducing an SDL express service.

      I think a Carmarthen – Cardiff journey time of 1hr 20mins might, at a push, just be competitive for journeys to Cardiff. You can probably improve linespeeds on the SDL enough to make Carmarthen – Cardiff 1hr 20mins, and hence competitive, with one calling point on the SDL in addition to Llanelli, Port Talbot and Bridgend stops.

      However, to be competitive for journeys to England, Carmarthen – Cardiff really needs to be 1hr 10mins (perhaps 1hr 15mins at a push). If you can acheive that journey time with a stop on the SDL so much the better, but I think getting times down that much will be difficult even with the trains calling at Llanelli, Port Talbot and Bridgend only. Hence a stop on the SDL, let alone two, would probably make south-west Wales to England uncompetitive. As I think I’ve already said, you could drop Bridgend/Port Talbot to compensate for an SDL stop, but I doubt that’s a good idea.

      • Spad

        Sorry, Rhydgaled, but for once you are mistaken. You write: “I doubt many passengers on the current Carmarthen – Cardiff trains are going beyond Swansea, so I’d be supprised if pattronage on the existing services via Swansea would be effected much by introducing an SDL express service.”

        During the long campaign for a decent rail service, local passengers (and potential passengers) were surveyed about their rail destinations. The survey results made it very clear that Fishguard passengers are in for the long haul. We go to every conceivable part of Britain by train.

          By a clear margin, Cardiff and London were the top destinations for Fishguard travellers

        That is why the through services we now have between Fishguard and Cardiff, Manchester, Cheltenham and Gloucester are so welcome, and that is why the Swansea District Line is so important for the future of rail throughout west Wales, not just in Morriston.

        • Rhydgaled

          I am well aware of at least one survey which came up with Cardiff and London as the top destinations for Fishguard travellers.

          However, I meant what I said. In other words, despite there being more demand for Cardiff, I’d be supprised if that demand is being captured by the present slow rail service. Just because we know more pepole want to go to Cardiff and London than to Swansea, it doesn’t mean that they are going by rail yet, the rail service might not be fast enough for them at present. Or maybe I’m wrong and pepole are choosing rail despite it being uncompetitive.

          However, Swansea Jack is discounting my suggestions (and is probably quite correct to do so) for services around Swansea due to them being uncompetitive time wise, so seems to think that most pepole won’t use an uncompetitive rail service. Why would the current service to Cardiff from south-west Wales be attracting passengers either?

          And it is because that Cardiff and England are, as you say, a bigger market than Swansea, that we need the Swansea District Line used. Trobble is, I don’t think the express trains from south-west Wales to Cardiff can stop at Morriston and still be competitive for trips into England, stop at Morriston and you have to find more time savings elsewhere to get down to the magic time (which I’ve guessed is about 1hr 10 (maybe 15 at a push) minutes between Carmarthen and Cardiff) when rail becomes competitive. Or you could put lower speed limits on the M4 so rail becomes competitive with a 1hr 25min journey time from Carmarthen to Cardiff, then you can stop at Morriston and not have to raise any linespeeds at all.

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