Meet the bus or meet the train?

map of Fishguard bus routes

On the buses

Rhydgaled’s reply to How to write a timetable #2 raises a fundamental timetabling problem: Should the Fishguard-Carmarthen shuttle meet the buses at Fishguard or the trains at Carmarthen? It can’t easily do both, across the day, and in each direction. So there are difficult choices to make.

The example Rhydgaled points to is the breakfast time train out of Fishguard. Spad timed it to leave at 7:24. If the journey is 56 minutes (could be a bit less by missing intermediate stops), this reaches Carmarthen by 8:20. That’s good because 10 minutes later the 8:30 through train to Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Shrewsbury and Manchester leaves. At Cardiff you get good connections for Bristol, Birmingham and London. That’s a lot of important connections from a single trip out of Fishguard.

Rhydgaled’s alternative service, leaving Fishguard at 7:50 would reach Carmarthen at 8:46. There’s a 9:00 departure arriving Swansea at 9:51, but then nothing out of Swansea until 10:28. Compare Spad and Rhydgaled for Fishguard – Cardiff:

Fishguard   7:24    7:50

Cardiff       10:22   11:22

The delay is similar for all other destinations east of Carmarthen. But what of Rhydgaled’s point about a 7:24 train leaving before the first bus from north of Fishguard? In fact the first 412 now leaves Newport at 7:10, arriving Fishguard at 7:25. So just time it ten minutes earlier (and extend it to Fishguard station, wherever that is) to meet the train. (You could start that bus from Cardigan at around 6:30, but there’s less need, as there’s already a direct bus from Cardigan at 6:45 reaching Carmarthen in time for the 8:30 train).

Two general points come out of this example:

1) Just because we’re getting a shuttle to Carmarthen doesn’t mean that Carmarthen is where Fishguard travellers are going. London, Cardiff and Swansea were the most wanted destinations in NPTF’s 2004 passenger survey.

2) When it comes to flexibility to change connection times to suit the Fishguard shuttle, which do we think is more likely – retiming north Pembrokeshire buses or retiming long distance rail services from Carmarthen and Cardiff?

Once there’s an official draft timetable to study, we’ll have to test every departure and arrival at Fishguard against the bus timetables – 412, 410, 413 and, yes, the Strumble Shuttle too. This is going to be an interesting test of everyone’s commitment to an integrated transport policy.

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