The consultation on the new rail service for Fishguard will start “at the beginning of May”.
On March 29th in addition to announcing new trains for Fishguard, Ieuan Wyn Jones launched a community consultation on the timetable, to begin in April. It would “look at how the additional services will connect for travel further east of Carmarthen to the rest of the rail network.” Today Welsh Assembly Government’s Rail Unit told Fishguard Trains that the community consultation will now start after Easter, at the beginning of May. It will run for two months. “We want the service to start in September, and we have to give Arriva adequate notice”.
So what is a community consultation? “It’s not a formal consultation. It’s a method we’ve used before to consult on improvements to local transport facilities. After the preliminary meetings we have various methods, including providing information and giving talks.” They plan to mail every local interest group and organisation – including schools – seeking our views on alternative timetable options for the five extra daily trains. And what if people need more information? “Where groups want us to come along and present, we’ll do that wherever possible”.
Is the outcome more or less known in advance? “We don’t have all the answers. We need to learn what kind of service is needed. For example is it seasonal? Is it mainly for local travel, or do people want to go further afield, to Cardiff, London? We know there have been many past studies of the potential traffic. We need people to respond.”
One thing is clear: the consultation is focussed on the timetable; when and where are the trains going to run? And as a sign that there’s still much to decide, there are at least two timetable models on the WAG table, including one from Arriva Trains Wales. One version is a basic shuttle between Fishguard and Carmarthen. The other would include some through services to and from Swansea. North Pembrokeshire Transport Forum today announced that “stations at Clarbeston Road and Clunderwen will also be getting the extra services”. However Fishguard Trains understands that Clunderwen is not in Arriva Trains Wales’ draft timetable.
There will be no lack of opinions once the consultation starts. For some people what counts is the quality of links at Carmarthen to the rest of the network (London, Cardiff and Swansea were the most wanted destinations in NPTF’s 2004 passenger survey). For others, its how well local buses connect with trains at Fishguard (though buses are beyond Welsh Assembly Government’s remit). Yet others are pressing for reopenings at Letterston and Wolfscastle, and many worry that without reopening Fishguard & Goodwick Station, local people will struggle to use the inconvenient Harbour station.
Behind all is the concern that the new service is to be reviewed in 2014. So all voices are united in wanting the new service to succeed. Was Welsh Assembly Government aware of the great impact the new service will have in north Pembrokeshire? “Yes, we believe so, and it’s good to hear it”.
* Keep checking fishguardtrains.info for all the latest rail news, and the Welsh Assembly Government website for consultation news