Nine minutes: a reasonable request?

crowded rush hour train

in the crush

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.

passengers getting off train


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.”

platform staff at Bridgend

that's better




Isn’t that reasonable, and wouldn’t everyone be happier?







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5 Responses to Nine minutes: a reasonable request?

  1. Rhydgaled

    Will the Bridgend, Neath and Port Talbot passengers wait nine minutes even if they are told about the IC125 to Swansea? Before the fairly recent series of timetable changes, there were two TrawsCambria services timed to depart Aberystwyth southbound at 16:10 (X40 to Carmarthen and X50 to Cardigan), nearly all of the many passengers for stops to Aberaeron boarded whichever appeared first (normally the X50), even though both were scheduled to depart in the same minute so the wait for the other shouldn’t have been all that long.

  2. Paul

    As a previous regular commuter between Cardiff and Bridgend, I have to admit, I am guilty of getting on the first train available, especially when we used to have a 1710 to Milford, after the 1700 Swansea which used to regularly be 20 minutes late!

    Perhaps a solution could be (if the demand between Cardiff and Bridgend is the highest) to make the stop at Bridgend a “pick up only”.

    I guess this could be do-able at the September change if there is enough campaigning?

    • Rhydgaled

      Making Bridgend, Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea pick-up-only on that service would certainly be one way of solving it. However, by the time the campaigning needed is complete we’d probably be looking at the December change to implement it.

      There should be slightly more regional express stock available from the September timetable change though, assuming the loco-hauled Holyhead – Cardiff via Wrexham is finally introduced to release that class 175 back to franchise work. Hopefully that would allow a class 158 to operate a Swansea District Line service as I’ve suggested before.

      Trying to get a series of announcments broadcast at Cardiff Central between 17:30 and 17:39 about the IC125 nine minutes later (a note on the LED train information signs would be helpful too) AND my proposed district line service might be a good plan. This is because, although I expect they will have limited impact, the information provision tactics can be implemented as soon as the powers that be are persuaded without having to wait for a timetable change, to improve the suitation slightly until the extra service can be introduced to properly solve the problem.

      The thing with my suggestion of a SDL service is that it has many benifits:
      1. It allows passengers for Llanelli, Carmarthen and stations west of Carmarthen on the Fishguard and Milford Routes to avoid the 17:39
      2. It provides a reduced journey time service from Cardiff to Llanelli and Carmarthen, and hence a later last departure from Cardiff for Fishguard
      3. If extended to Fishguard rather than terminating at Carmarthen, it allows another disincentive for use of Fishguard services (the evening change at Clarbeston Road) to be eliminated.


      I was on the 17:39 ex-Cardiff on Tuesday 5th, which was pretty full out of CDF even though it was a bank holiday and happened to be formed of a 3-car unit rather than the 2-car unit I think is normal.

  3. Swansea Jack

    2 car 175 on Wednesday when I picked it up at Carmarthen – that would have been rather cosy from Cardiff I suppose.

  4. anthony

    Things are not helped with the 17:39 also being booked to stop at Pyle which has become more popular with commuters since it has free parking and is closer to their homes than Bridgend station is.

    I certainly agree with a a 17:55 departure from Cardiff to west wales the only problems is when the 17:48 FGW hst to Swansea is late.

    I think a lot of problems with the 17:39 Milford Haven train could be solved if there was a FGW service at around 1718 wihich would also help some of the overcrowding on the 17:20 Cardiff – Maesteg service which is just as bad if not worse than the 17:39 and that has three carriages.

    Of course if we see a number of 5 carriage IEP’s being used on FGW services between London & Swansea then that could be problematic is some passengers are put off using the FGW service and use alternatives such as the ATW services. Of course ATW could get further units if the swanline services are transfered to FGW and extended to Bristol providing there is electrification to Swansea.

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