The 17:39 from Cardiff to Fishguard is an important train. It is the last daytime service to north Pembrokeshire. It provides return travel to Fishguard at the end of the day from all the cities and valleys of south Wales. It is every bit as important as our three morning services eastbound from Fishguard. But the value of this service is seriously compromised by gross overcrowding between Cardiff and Swansea. Standing room only is the rule. Sometimes the crush in the entrance lobbies is as bad as the Tube at rush hour.
If there was no easy answer, we might take Swansea Jack’s advice: ” Too many negative stories about … overcrowded services out of Cardiff will simply make those contemplating a journey from Goodwick to remain in their cars.” But we won’t stay silent, because the problem could be sorted tomorrow, all at no cost, no timetable revision, and to everyone’s advantage.
Here’s the proof. Bridgend station at 17:58. Twenty or thirty people get off. It’s the same story minutes later at Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea. If these passengers waited just nine minutes at Cardiff, they would all comfortably get a seat on the First Great Western to Swansea – freeing up space and seats on the west Wales service nine minutes earlier.
So why don’t they? Inertia – it’s natural to catch the first train unless you know better; lack of information – do they know there’s a much longer train only minutes away?; lack of encouragement – a friendly word of advice is all it takes.
On the day we took these pictures, staff at Cardiff seeing the crush, came along the platform telling passengers that a Swansea train was due in nine minutes. Several took the hint and got off. Others on the platform trying anxiously to get on crossed over to platform 4 with relief. It was not enough to relieve the crush on board, but it was a start.
So all that’s needed is a clear, consistent station announcement to accompany every 17:39: “Passengers for Bridgend, Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea, your most convenient train is due in nine minutes on platform 4. Passengers for west Wales please join the train standing at platform 3.”
Isn’t that reasonable, and wouldn’t everyone be happier?