On the First Day of Christmas …

cartoon of train carrying presents

Santa Special





Fishguard Train’s festive gift list – we’ve posted it safely in a hidden recess in Spittal Tunnel. Will Santa find it in time? Ho ho ho!


There’s a food trolley on every train. Phew. No more dying for a cuppa as we speed through Ferryside.


The 412 bus is re-routed to pass Fishguard & Goodwick, and retimed for good connections from the train to the 412 to Cardigan.


The 17:40 Sardine Express is retimed to leave Cardiff Central 15 mins later. Rush hour passengers for Bridgend and Swansea will now take the First Great Western 125 (where there are plenty of seats), leaving plenty of room for us passengers to the west to sit on Arriva’s last daily Fishguard service.


Money (or clever timetabling) is found for a mid-afternoon service to fill the vast service gap between lunchtime and evening.


A live train indicator display appears outside the Town Hall on Fishguard Square, to keep our rail service highlighted in the centre of our community.


Welsh Government agrees to oppose the singling of the Swansea District Line – an act of vandalism (were it to happen) to precious rail infrastructure that must be preserved for a future high speed service between south-east and south-west Wales.


At long last all guards announce to passengers from Carmarthen that there’s a service at Clarbeston for Fishguard, and they also announce to passengers at Fishguard and Goodwick that the Harbour is the next station. Amazing that it still isn’t happening.


Every time you travel from Fishguard and Goodwick the conductor sells you a ticket from Fishguard and Goodwick – not Fishguard Harbour. It’s the only way to prevent passenger numbers using Fishguard and Goodwick being under-reported.


Clarbeston Road gets train indicators (is it the only interchange station in Britain without any?). No more waiting in the dark – in every sense of the word.


Swansea Jack names the May 1982 axeman. It’s time we were told.


Ireland finally gets its act together and restores rail-sail-rail journeys through Fishguard not just to Wexford and Dublin, but to Waterford and beyond.


We get a bigger car park at Fishguard and Goodwick. We’ll be needing it in 2013.

 Nadolig Llawen, a Blwyddyn Newydd Llwyddiannus, Abergwaun ac Wdig !


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40 Responses to On the First Day of Christmas …

  1. Rob

    For day 6 (Swansea District Line) do we need a petition on the Assembly website?
    Nadolig Llawen pawb!

  2. Rhydgaled

    I have comments on nearly all of your Christmas list. I hope you don’t mind them all going in one comment here…

    I don’t think a trolley is necessary on services only to/from Carmarthen or Clarbeston Road, so long as the connecting service does carry a trolley. However, everything with and longer journey should have a trolley, which means that in the current Fishguard timetable every train would need to have a trolley, since every diagram involves either an arrival from or departure to somewhere beyond Carmarthen.

    I think it would be good to bring back the ‘Alphaline’ brand on selected services, with a trolley and a class 158 unit guaranteed for the whole journey unless there are multiple class 158 failures or mass illness among trolley staff.

    I don’t think diverting the 412 is actually the right solution. Richards Bros, in their reply to one of my letters or e-mails said they had decided not to divert many 412s via Goodwick saying something like passengers do not want/like the extra mileage. In my opinion, the way to remove the change at Fishguard Roundabout is to take the northern half of the 412, the 413 to St. Davids and the X50 (Cardigan – Aberystwyth) and combine them all into a single TrawsCambria service, diverting via Fishguard Harbour on occasion to connect with trains due to the lack of suitable public transport interchange facilities at Fishguard & Goodwick. There should be a 7-minute connection at Fishguard Roundabout from this service into the 412, which would run between Fishguard and Haverfordwest only in the hours the Aberystywth – St. Davids TrawsCambria service runs and all the way to Cardigan, via Fishguard but not Goodwick (as now) in the other hours. Richards Bros now have all four of the original TrawsCambria X1260 Optare Tempo buses, which should allow them to run the new Aberystwyth – St. Davids TrawsCambria.

    I don’t think delaying the sardine express is the best solution for South-West Wales passenger, since it would make the arrival times in the west later. Much better would be a separate service Cardiff leaving just before 18:00 and travelling via the Swansea District Line to overtake the 17:39 and connect into it at Carmarthen. This frees S.W. Wales passengers from the sardine express and gives a later last departure from Cardiff, and probably latter last connections from London and a few other places, with the same arrival times in the west. As an added bonus, two services arriving at Carmarthen would mean one could continue to Milford Haven and the other to Fishguard, removing the evening change at Clarbeston Road. This one new service is probably the best first step on the track to using the Swansea District Line for regular services.

    It might also be an idea to terminate the 3-car 175 on the 17:39 at Swansea or perhaps Carmarthen, providing a 2-car unit from there to Fishguard and running the SDL service from Cardiff through to Milford Haven with a class 158. It probably isn’t the easiest option to diagram rolling stock for though.

    I would like to add services on Sundays to this (either a 09:56 or an 08:04 departure from Fishguard, and an evening service into Fishguard).

    Have you established whether using the bus indicators to display trains (with some sort of clear indication that it is referring to a train at Goodwick rather than a bus outside the town hall) is possible?

    Singling is not the only thing which could be done to parts of Swansea District Line to jeopardise the future prospects of the south west Wales railways once the Gowerton redouble is complete. Any act to reduce the capacity or capability of the line must be resisted.

    My travel between Pembrokeshire and Manchester (near where I am on an industrial year placement) is normally via Aberystwyth as this is much faster than from Fishguard. However, I took the day off on Friday 14th so I could go to Fishguard for a change, catching the 07:30 from Manchester and the 10:57 from Fishguard. I decided that, like the trip along the Towy past Ferryside, the Swansea District Line deserves more fame as an interesting scenic section of line, in addition to its speed benefits.

    On Friday’s trip, the guard did announce on the approach to Fishguard and Goodwick that Fishguard Harbour, for the boat, would be the next station after Goodwick.

    I don’t think depending on passenger numbers at Goodwick is a good idea, local passengers using the harbour are important too. This is partly because the Harbour station is a better public transport interchange, if only the buses served it. Fishguard & Goodwick is great for Goodwick residents and car-users though. However that’s not the only reason. On Friday I booked a ticket to the Harbour even though I was planning to alight at Goodwick because there was no advance single to Fishguard & Goodwick available on the boat train when I booked, but there was one to the Harbour which saved a fair amount.

    Even better would be to extend all services at least to Carmarthen. I have already mentioned my solution to the sardine express (as far as south west Wales passengers are concerned), which would eliminate the evening change and the morning service seems poorly planned. I think a 412 timed to connect with the first train from Goodwick could reach Haverfordwest in time to connect with the same train the Fishguard service meets at Clarbeston Road. Also, it seems to have been timed to provide a commuting option for 9am work in Swansea, but a connection at Carmarthen into the 07:30 to Paddington would serve that objective better.

    On the subject of platform Passenger Information Systems (PISs), the one at Llanelli was showing a new station on the list of calling points on Friday. “Fishguard Goodwick”, what happened to the ampersand (‘&’).

    This item seems a little minor, so I’ll add my own. ATW does not sell off their mark2 coaches and instead puts them to use to allow the Fishguard daytime boat train to be a class 158 ‘Alphaline’ rather than a woefully inappropriate class 150 and either ease crowding on Manchester services and/or eliminate the all to frequent occurrence of 150s and/or 153s substituting for 158s and 175s due to the shortage of the latter two classes. It would be nice if a third set of mark3 coaches was also acquired, making three sets of class 67, coaches and DVT (they already have 3 class 67s and 3 DVTs, but only 2 rakes of mark3 coaches) and two full mark3 + 67 diagrams introduced instead of the present 1 diagram with an eight hour downtime in Cardiff during the day.

    The boat train seemed quite on Friday, at least in the carriage I was in. I wasn’t the only one for Goodwick though, and the car park was quite full. The question is, how many of the cars in the car park are for rail travellers and how many are just taking advantage of the free parking?

  3. Swansea Jack

    I’d agree with Rhydgaled over sorting out the overcrowding issue on the 17:39 from Cardiff. A 17:55 Cardiff to Carmarthen service via the Swansea Districts would serve the dual purpose of providing Llanelli and Carmarthen with a fast evening peak through train while also giving an option for Pembrokeshire bound travellers to then connect into the 17:39 Cardiff which will have travelled via Swansea. An added bonus is that it would provide an additional Westbound mainline service West from Cardiff, where the 5% increase in passengers to/from Cardiff each year will need more services soon anyway. There is some provisional evidence that Cardiff is a more popular destination on the new trains rather than Swansea, so there may well be a demand for at least a morning Eastbound and evening Westbound service via the District line direct to Cardiff.

    As for the North Pembrokeshire 1980’s version of the mad axeman Rob might be heading along the right track. All I’ll say is that another of his cuts will be finally undone over next Easter when Brunel’s final wooden trestle viaduct gets replaced as part of the redoubling of 5 miles of the South Wales main line that in a sane world would never have been singled in the first place. It seems that we are living in far more enlightened times than even the early to mid-1980s.

    On other points – diverting the 412 would seem unlikely, I understand the 413 from St Davids will provide a later connection for the 18:46 arrival that gives a through service to Newport from next month – so connecting buses are certainly being improved where possible.

    Arriva have started using Y Gerallt Cymro stock on more than the daily Holyhead to Cardiff return service – it worked Cardiff to Carmarthen and back a couple of weeks back to cover disruptions, and for the last 2 Saturdays in December it worked / will work additional Crewe – Holyhead trips.

    Trolleys – yes, and the mid afternoon gap is certainly an issue, and it is to be hoped that Clarby Road gets its CIS as soon as possible – after all Clunderwen’s PIS has been working for weeks already, and as a connection station Clarby is more important surely….

    As far as the ticketing issue, local passengers who have used the trains for years have been used to using Fishguard Harbour – it will take somewhat longer to get them all to think of Goodwick instead, and some advance ticket deals may favour the Harbour rather than Goodwick at times. Normal tickets are a little cheaper from Goodwick by the way.

    Getting IR to finally improve the train connections between Rosslare and Dublin is certainly long overdue, while I hope we will need a bigger car park sooner rather than later…..

  4. Graham

    Im trying to find information on the irishrail.ie website of the changes to the boat train connection. From what I can see there is no change and NO train to connect with the 14.30hrs fishguard sailing getting you to Rosslare 5mins after the Rosslare-Dublin service leaves. Any ideas please???


  5. Irishman

    Whether the 2013 Irish Rail timetable sees any improvements in rail – ferry connectivity on the Rosslare-Wexford-Wicklow-Dublin line remains to be seen. The draft timetable which was presented during the Irish Rail online public consultation process in recent months was a carbon copy of the existing timetable. Am inclined to think the 2013 Rosslare line timetable will be implemented at some stage during January so it shouldn’t be too long until it is published. We can but hope…

    On the plus side all trains over here are now wifi equipped and the service is free of charge.

    The Rosslare to Dublin Airport express coach service was discontinued in the Autumn (shortened to Wexford Town to Dublin Airport). Current bus provision is a handful of buses to Waterford (including the South Wexford rail replacement bus route), a once a day cross-country route to Dublin and an occasional local bus. This is a return to the situation of a few decades ago when the train was the dominant mode of transport to/from the port. Not a bad thing in my view given that from time to time rumours seem to have been around that the Wexford to Rosslare stretch of the line was at risk of closure.

  6. Graham

    Lets hope they do change it.
    In the summer, i done the Sail/rail ticket at it was superb, but when i arrived at Rosslare, I had to resort to a hire car, as the 1430hrs ferry does not connect to the rosslare train. Seems silly to run a train all the way to Dublin, which im sure is run near on empty, not to be timed with either Stenaline or Irish Ferries from Wales. The same problem, is theres no train from Dublin to Rosslare to meet the 0900 departure to Fishguard. Seems such a shame. Other wise it would be possible to do a rail/sail/rail tour of Ireland with no need of a car!
    Lets hope they change it.

  7. DBJ

    Just travelled on the lunchtime boat train from Fishguard, hoping for another spin along the SDL, but alas no, sent via the Swansea West Loop instead. Another nail in the coffin for the SDL?

  8. Swansea Jack

    DBJ – not at all. The Swansea loop line is an alternative to the SDL – and has been used turn and turn about with the District line for years. There are many reasons why the train went on the other route – train regulation as something is running out of course, or there could be engineering work on the District line – they have been refurbishing Morriston Viaduct etc recently.

    What the Swansea loop line doesn’t do is to avoid the steep gradients up to Cockett tunnel from both directions especially for the heavy oil trains from Milford, it also doesn’t provide an alternative route for engineering work, such as in Cockett tunnel itself, or as well see over the Easter break when the Gowerton line and new Loughor viaduct are completed.

    Trains for Trostre tinplate works and any freight heading to / from the Ammanford and Gwaun-cae-Gurwen routes are rather difficult to serve via Gowerton too, while freight for the Onllwyn, Cwmgwrach and Swansea docks lines can only be accessed from the Eastern end of the SDL anyway.

    • Spad

      Thanks for that impressive list of reasons for the Swansea District Line to remain open, SJ.
      So is fretting about its future wasted effort? Are dark rumours about it being due for singling just fantasy? Is its future safe, so we can focus on talking up its role as a future high-speed link between south-east and south-west Wales?
      We do need to know the realistic starting point for any future talk: must we campaign to prevent its run-down before we can campaign for its exciting future? If a petition was launched, what would be its immediate aim?
      So in a word, what more can you tell us, SJ (or anybody)?

  9. Swansea Jack

    The positive sign is that Morriston viaduct and the Tawe river bridge are presently being worked on, which probably explains the diversion via Swansea Loop West last week. The District line is heavily engineered with 3 tunnels – Lon Las, Langyfelach and Penllergaer, 2 viaducts – Morriston and Hendy together with the swing bridge at Giants Grave. I’d say its future as a through route is secure as long as Trostre and the Milford Oil trains continue. as for singling part of the route, that has been rumoured in the past but I’ve seen nothing firm on that.

    When the last remaining passenger service train to avoid Swansea and Carmarthen was withdrawn a few years back, a few of us formally complained that both sections of route had not gone through a formal passenger closure notice, although the Swansea District / Swansea Loop were bunched together as one. That is why the morning Cardiff to Fishguard boat train started missing Swansea and Carmarthen stops which I realise can be an issue, but at least it gave some legal protection to the 2 sections of line.

    Where do we go from here? – well I think any lobbying should focus on the idea of getting a morning Carmarthen to Cardiff (arrive about 08:45) and evening Cardiff to Carmarthen (depart about 17:55). This would help to show that the District line can provide a strategic fast link from West Wales to Cardiff. In the longer term it would be good if the Swansea area could pick-up on the experience of Cardiff and the Valleys and look towards improvements between Pontardulais and Gowerton via Goreseinon and a more regular service along the SDL with a park and ride in the Morriston / Felin Fran area although that could be a good few years time.

    The daytime boat train is a start, a peak Carmarthen – Cardiff would be the next step and the use of the line for an extended period this coming Easter while Gowerton and Loughor are redoubled is certainly worth highlighting.

  10. Swansea Jack

    I notice that the evening St Davids to Newport 413 bus service will provide a later connection at around 19:00 to Fishguard out of the 18:46 train arrival at Goodwick station as from tomorrow (monday 7th January). Unfortunately the service isn’t diverted to call at Goodwick square and the bus stops on station hill, so intending passengers will need to get to the bus stop opposite Tescos. An improvement for when the train misses the Goodwick to Fishguard service at least.

  11. Rhydgaled

    From Network Rail’s Wales RUS: “the Swansea District line is lightly
    used and has ample freight capacity for trains to west Wales and around the connection at Hendy Junction to the Heart of Wales Line for the Pantyffynnon to Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen branch line (due to be reopened in 2008/09).”

    ‘Lightly used’ and ‘ample freight capacity’ are the key words there. If there is a surplus in capacity, then capacity may be reduced to save cost. Swansea Jack says, the number of freight services that require the SDL probably secure the future of the line itself, but if the current services are all Network Rail sees as needing it they may reduce it’s capacity/capability to handle an increase in passenger traffic, in order to provide for existing services at lower cost.

    More concerning is another network rail document:

    This says: “Arriva Trains Wales’ Standard Pattern Timetable,
    which commenced in December 2005, introduced
    long distance services between west Wales and the north west of England, via Cardiff. This and higher frequency local services west of Swansea
    have increased capacity utilisation between there and Llanelli, and puts pressure on the 5 mile long single line section between Cockett and Duffryn,
    which traverses Loughor viaduct. Loughor viaduct is planned to receive major repairs in 2010 and will be exploring the potential for re-doubling this section of single line. Consequentially, we shall be reviewing the usage of the Swansea District Line, west of Llandarcy, which requires major structural investment over the next five years.” It also says they are considering “rationalisation of the Swansea District Line west of Llandarcy;”

    So, east of Llandarcy the line sounds safe, west thereof it will remain but possibly with reduced capability. The document dates from 2006, we need to know what, if any, rationalisation their reviews and considerations have proposed.

    I would say an initial petition could read something like: “Introduce an express service to Carmarthen, Milford Haven or Fishguard Harbour leaving Cardiff Central between 17:55 and 18:00 operating via the Swansea District Line with a journey time of no more than 1hr 25mins between Cardiff and Carmarthen*, connecting with the 17:39 ex Cardiff at Carmarthen, and safeguard the infrustructure necessary to permitt hourly such services at some point in the future if so desired.”

    * Ideally the journey time would be 1hr 23mins, 1 hour to Llanelli from Cardiff, a 1 minute dwell at Llanelli and 22mins from there to Carmarthen

    Another early step could be to get the daytime boat train operated using a regional express unit (class 158 or class 175) and timed for the same 1hr 23mins between CDF and Carmarthen, to really show what the SDL is capable of.

    I find it interesting that both Swansea Jack and the NPTF’s Hatti Woakes suggest the other extra SDL service that would be particularly useful would be one arriving in Cardiff around 08:45. While this probably has at least some merit from Carmarthen, I would expect Cardiff is too far to have commuters from Pembrokeshire, even with the SDL. More useful for Pembrokeshire, I would have thought, would be a service arriving in CDF about 10am (if it came from Fishguard it would depart FGH/FGW around 07:50).

    • Spad

      Once again Cardiff proves to be the top destination for Fishguard travellers. Hatti Woakes (NPTF December 2012 News Briefing) reports Cardiff is the destination for 115 out of 520 travellers surveyed lately. What’s more, London is quoted as destination by a further 70 (nearly as many as Swansea at 75). That confirms a long-established pattern from previous surveys, all the more significant as the new service is now established.
      The Swansea District Line and its future therefore concerns a significant proportion of Fishguard travellers (and we suspect the same goes for Haverfordwest and Milford).
      We need to factor this in to any campaign.

      • Rhydgaled

        These figures would not supprise me in the least if they were destinations passengers wanted to travel to, rather than actual destinations. I thought that, although demand for travel to Cardiff is higher than for travel to Swansea, there would be more actual rail journeys from Fishguard to Swansea than to Cardiff because, without the SDL, rail appears much more competetive against private cars for journeys to Swansea than it is for journeys to Cardiff.

        It would be interesting however to know how many of the 18% of passengers using the service for work/business are regular commuters, and how far these passengers travel. I doubt the destinations for regular commuters are as far flung as the overall figures, hence my point about suggestions for a morning SDL service arriving in Cardiff before 9am perhaps not being the most useful timeing for a morning SDL service as far as Pembrokeshire travelers are concerned.

        Another interesting point to make in the SDL campaign is that, when Arriva wrecked the TrawsCambria/TrawsCymru bus network by removing the core X40 (Carmarthen – Aberystwyth) service from that network they also introduced their own CymruExpress commertial coach service to replace the former Cardiff – Swansea – Carmarthen – Aberystwyth TrawsCambria bus, but unlike the TrawsCambria the commertial CymruExpress does not operate via Swansea. I believe it uses the road equivelent of the SDL, the M4.

  12. Swansea Jack

    The number for Cardiff, Swansea etc are actual journeys, not aspirations! As far as the Wales RUS much water has flown under Loughor viaduct since that report was published. firstly we know that the decision was taken to re-double in its entirety the 5 miles through Gowerton and Loughor. Secondly, yes the Swansea district line did need heavy engineering work to be carried out – a quick view of the state of Morriston Viaduct adjacent to Junction 45 of the M4.

    It will also be noticed that work is presently ongoing to refurbish this section of the SDL and I am not aware that singling of the route is planned as part of the present works. The SDL is an expensive section of line because of the number of structures, the important thing is getting more traffic along there to justify its continuance as a double track through route, rather than pushing for it to be maintained ‘just in case a use is found in future’ keeping it as a through route, and getting some useful, quick through Carmarthen to Cardiff services along there is the important bit.

    I do not see the likelyhood of an hourly service along the SDL, as Swansea remains one of the major traffic generators in Wales with 2.16 million passenger journeys in 2010-11, making it the 4th busiest station in Wales, behind Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street and Newport. No train operator is going to ignore that busy a station for anything more than a handful of trains a day, such as the daytime boat train (because it has to) and possibly a peak hours flow. ATW gain nothing financially as the timing of trains from West Wales means that connections into FGW services are made at Cardiff rather than Swansea anyway.

    The advantage of pushing for a 17:55 Cardiff to Carmarthen is because the 17:39 Cardiff (ex Manchester) to Milford is rather full leaving Cardiff, so an extra service would be useful for ATW to spread the passengers. Carmarthen as a destination works because that is where you need to provide more space and it also allows connections to Milford and Fishguard. In an ideal world the 17:39 ex Cardiff could run to Fishguard, the 17:55 could run to Milford perhaps. A balancing working in the morning would provide a similar relief to morning arrivals inot Cardiff from the West.

    • Spad

      The Sardine Express and the Swansea District Line: are two stories merging into one?
      Swansea Jack – are you suggesting that overcrowding on existing peak services between Cardiff and the west gives Arriva the commercial incentive to schedule a new daily return express via the SDL?
      Because if so, this ceases to be a political decision for Cardiff Bay (where there are no votes to win without elections pending), and becomes a simple commercial judgment … does it?
      One way to test that would be to ask Arriva.

      “Dear Arriva Trains Wales Commercial Manager
      Have you ever thought of running a new return express service between Carmarthen and Cardiff over the SDL … because we have … “

      Hmmm, how should that continue?

      • Rhydgaled

        I have suggested that using the Swansea District Line could allow S.W. Wales passengers to avoid the sardine express several times already. The two stories certainly are connected, at least in part. I’m not sure whether it would be a commercially viable operation however.

        I suggested it to ATW’s Sept 2012 timetable consultation, among other things. The relevant part of their responce ran as follows:

        “1739 Cardiff-Milford Haven Service. We are attempting to increase the capacity of this service to a three-car Class 175 but I am unable to confirm this at present. I am very aware however of the current capacity issues on this service and I can appreciate your commentary on its effects overall. The main purpose of our changes and this consultation is to try and resolve as much as we can the capacity issues we know about albeit with the same number of trains we have at present. We have not been allocated any additional rolling stock and we are using everything available. This therefore means that regrettably, and physically, we are unable to run additional services as you have helpfully suggested.”

        So they are pleading inability to act due to shortage of rolling stock.

        However, another point I made to them in the same letter was that they were shortly to be not using any of their mark2 coaches, including the six refreshed for use on the “Y Gerralt Gymro” Holyhead – Cardiff premier service, which have now been replaced by mark3 coaches, I believe leased from another part of DB. ATW’s response was:

        “No decision has yet been made on the future of the Mk II coaching stock”

        It would appear to be that the imediate future of the Swansea District Line, as a possible solution to the sardine express for S.W. Wales passengers, is also closely linked to the future of ATW’s fleet of mark2 coaches (which numbers at least 16 vehicles).

  13. Anthony

    Seen on NR Strategic Plan Wales Route Plan p26 that the Swansea district line is to be cleared as a diversionary route for IEP along with the Tondu – Margam line which incidentely is to be upgraded for use by IEP and regular passenger trains.

    Most of the Swansea district line is pretty straight so i would like to hope it will be pretty easy for network rail to sort out the clearance issue’s.
    Hopefully this will help go towards keeping the Swansea district line as it is althougfh if west wales services are cut back to Swansea I can see there being justification for a a hourly/2 hourly service over the Swansea district line with a station built near to Morriston/Llandarcy to serve those twns/villiages and all the nearby devlopments. With road traffic bad on the m4 during the peaks I can see a good number of people using the train if it offers a fast journey to Cardiff.

  14. Swansea Jack

    Rhydgaled. I don’t believe the future of the SDL rests on the mark II coaches. It’s future depends upon the continuation of steel / tinplate traffic to / from Trostre and the oil traffic to / from Milford Haven. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century to speed Fishguard boat trains past Swansea and for heavy freight to avoid the steep inclines either side of Cockett tunnel. With cheap Ryan air type flights to the Republic of Ireland the passenger numbers via Fishguard ferries are nowhere near their past peaks, so the only true reason for the SDL line at present is for heavy freight. If that is lost then I would be worried for the future of the SDL.

    Passenger train wise the SDL will never be more than an incidental – as noted previously there really is not sufficient traffic from West Wales at present to justify separate trains for Swansea bound, and Cardiff bound flows – that is why the train service to Milford is presently 2 hourly in a 2 or 3 coach train, and even East from Carmarthen services of 2 or 3 coach trains are little more than hourly.

    I’d say passenger numbers would need to increase by rather more than 100% on the Carmarthenshire to Cardiff corridor to justify regular trains direct between Llanelli and Port Talbot (realistically by 250% – 400%). We all know the time savings, but these come at the price of missing the 4th biggest traffic generator in the country!

    Morriston Parkway would be useful, but again, many Morriston area travellers head to Swansea, which will not be served by services along the District line. I realise that congestion on the M4 between Penllergaer and Margam on the 2 lane M4 is an issue, but a look at traffic flows would probably suggest that much of the congestion is caused by local traffic travelling short distances on the M4 rather than longer distance through traffic which could be served by the District line.

    I maintain that it is only possibly in the morning and evening peak when passenger densities could approach the point at which a direct Carmarthen to Cardiff train service could possibly be justified – pressing for that would seem to be a reasonable objective, pushing for an hourly or so train along the SDL is certainly not, and anyone pressing for such a service at this time would be seen as being out of touch with reality, Sorry!

    I too, wish to see a thriving, expanded rail network in Wales, and across the UK, but it has to be one fit for the 21st Century, rather than traffic flows from the 1950s or earlier.

  15. Rhydgaled

    Swansea Jack, I agree with you that it is frieght traffic which will keep the Swansea District Line open. However, I was refering to the “imediate future of the Swansea District Line, as a possible solution to the sardine express for S.W. Wales passengers”. I think we agree that a 17:55 SDL service from Cardiff to Carmarthen/Fishguard/Milford Haven would be very useful NOW. My comment meant that I expect even this one extra train is impossible in the immediate future without use of the ATW mark2s. In the longer term (say 2016ish), other stock could be found to enable the service, but otherwise resourcing an extra train with suitable stock would be difficult.

    While the train service to Milford is presently 2-hourly, and Carmarthen – Swansea is only 1.5tph, a study SWWITCH commissioned (that incidently recomended Fishguard & Goodwick reopening and extra Fishguard services) recommended increasing this to 2.5tph between Carmarthen and Swansea (the report is no longer available as far as I know, but if I remember rightly an hourly service to Milford Haven was also proposed). The Gowerton re-double is a pre-requisite to that, and that is now happening along with the Fishguard service improvement. We also have electrification coming to Swansea from the east by 2018, and as you say the Swansea – Carmarthen/Pembs trains are only one or two carriages. You say Swansea is the 4th biggest traffic generator in the country, if so use of paths on the electrified line between Swansea and Cardiff for the 2/3 coach diesel trains approaching from the west needs to be considered very carefully.

    I agree that pushing for an hourly or so train along the Swansea district line AT THIS TIME would be too much to ask for. However, I beleive that at a later date (certainly not in the current franchise, meaning 2018 at the earliest) a more frequent service over the SDL (maybe 2-hourly rather than hourly), instead of trains to Cardiff via Swansea but as well as trains to Swansea itself, might be worthwhile. As Anthony says, if the S.W. Wales services to Swansea terminated there, rather than continue to Cardiff, maybe there would be a case for an SDL service and it would remove the need for 2/3-car trains from Pembrokeshire to form part of the service eastwards out of Swansea.

    Returning to SWWITCH’s numbers, I would simply allocate the proposed 2.5tph departing southeastwards from Carmarthen as 2tph to Swansea (where they would terminate) and 0.5tph to Cardiff over the SDL. That is no more trains than SWWITCH thought justified, except over the SDL.

    I’m always saying “hourly SDL service” because there is currently an hourly Carmarthen – Swansea – Cardiff service and I’m trying to maintain that frequency of through trains to Cardiff but at the same time making everything that goes into Swansea terminate there. Maybe reducing through trains to Cardiff to 2-hourly (via the SDL) wouldn’t be too bad though, with every half hour trains to Swansea where you can change for Cardiff. But as I say, until electrification and the new franchise there’s no justification for more than 2 or 3 SDL services each way per day.

  16. Rhydgaled

    Found something: http://online.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/agendas/eng/EXEB20090622/REP05_01.HTM

    This is “The Regional Transport Plan for South West Wales 2010 – 2015”
    Under Rail Priorities in this document the following improvements are listed as “priority 1”:

    Redoubling the line west of Swansea to secure improved services to west Wales including:
    3 trains per hour between Swansea, Gowerton, Llanelli and Carmarthen

    Hourly services from Carmarthen to Milford Haven

    5 trains per day to Fishguard Harbour

    The last of these has of course already been delivered (although I still don’t count it as 5 trains a day, due to two morning ECS moves into Fishguard, the Fishguard line has seen introduction of a useful service), with the redoubling soon to follow. If SWWITCH thought they might get three trains per hour between Swansea and Carmarthen by 2015 then perhaps my asperations for 2tph Swansea – Carmarthen and a 2-hourly Cardiff – Milford/Fishguard SDL service (optionally with Cardiff-Carmarthen workings in the other hours) in 2018 or soon after are not as unrealistic as Swansea Jack believes. West of Llanelli I’m not actually asking for any more trains than SWWITCH are, except perhaps for boosting Fishguard to every two or three hours.

    Following that, the next thing on the list in the document above, “priority two”, is:
    Reducing the journey times to Cardiff, London and beyond
    Improving access to and facilities at mainline stations drawing on all sources including National Station Improvement Programme funds and EU Convergence funding

    Using the SDL would deliver reduced journey times from Llanelli and points west to Port Talbot and points east, hence delivering part of the 2nd priority at the same time as the priority 1 improvements.


    I live abroad and have been following your comments with interest. I was in Wales in December and travelled a few times to the west and noticed that work on Loughor redoubling is quite well advanced. As use of the SDL is perhaps partly linked to this once it’s complete (when?) are there any actual plans for an increase in services or extra stops at Gowerton? On a slight aside I also made a trip down to Goodwick from Bridgend last september and it was only when I actually studied the tt with a view to making a journey that I realised that to make a visit TO the area for a day trip the tt is not so good. I actually caught the boat train, got off at Goodwick and then came back on the return train. perhaps of interest was that 18 of us got off at Goodwick with 10 joining on the return……as far as I could see I was the only idiot who had just got off the previuos train so they were all “real” passengers! Good numbers would you not agree? But isn’t there a big potential for day trippers into N. Pembs being missed out becuase of the current tt?

    • Rhydgaled

      See my post above, there are certainly asperations for extra services, but anything will be difficult for the time being due to shortage of rolling stock. I think they want everything to call at Gowerton too, so (at a wild guess) that’ll probablly happen later this year (September December timetable change maybe).

      The reported usage of the first year seems quite good, as Fishguard Trains have posted it is quite close to the estimates produced by the consultants who developed the case. In addition, I was wondering whether the consultants’ estimates assumed an increase in rail-sail passengers due to the extra trains connecting with the Stena Lynx, which of course was canceled just as the extra trains began. If so, then the passenger numbers we’ve had look even better.

      As for day trips to N. Pembs. I do wonder whether a timetable that allows for this requires the SDL. Even the boat train leaves Cardiff at 10:57, with daytrippers not likely to reach a departure station much before 9am, the earliest they could reach Fishguard from Cardiff without using the SDL is probably getting on for 11:30, a bit late for a ‘day’ trip I would think.


    Sorry, I wasn’t specifically thinking of using the SDL to provide a “day trip” service to North Pembs just a slightly more adquate tt to allow for this. I was thinking more in the way of a service into Fishguard between the 0945 arrival and the boat train and, more importantly, a departure between the boat train and the 1900 departure. I am sure I am not alone in thinking along these lines…..or am I? I know that it’s not an ideal world and there are the obvious constraints of stock etc but is this not a market that is worth thinking about for the future?

    • Rhydgaled

      Appology not necessary, I think I know what you mean, it is probably I who should appoligise for not being clear. I was just saying that Fishguard is quite a way out from Cardiff, and the journey time is always going to make day-tripping over that sort of distance a little difficult. The 09:57 from Goodwick tommorow would only give somebody the afternoon in Cardiff, with arrival at 12:47. An afternoon in Cardiff’s not bad, but the attractions of north Pembs are likely rather more spread out… My real point was that giving ‘day-trippers’ enough of the day to explore north Pembs might be alot harder than just putting on more extra trains (which is hard enough as it is, and my feeling is the priority for extra S.W. Wales trains should be the SDL now that we have a wider selection of trains to/from Fishguard than just the boat trains).

      I agree that plugging the huge afternoon gap in services to/from Fishguard would be very helpful though. Plugging the morning gap would of course be nice too but it doesn’t feel such a gapping hole as the afternoon gap.

  19. Blocking Back

    As mentioned in another thread, the train information screens are going up at Clarby as we speak.

    On the subject of the SDL; the projected biomass/biodiesel importation depot at Milford Haven is mooted to be likely to add an extra 10-20 trains per day to Milford Haven within the next 3-5 years and the planning/funding for this is said to be already at an advanced stage. There are also wild rumours of a Stobart Rail/Tesco container depot moving into Milford Haven and/or Haverfordwest. These projects alone would make the continued existence of the SDL absolutely essential.

    • Rhydgaled

      15 freight trains a day on the Milford Haven branch would be a huge increase on the current one or two oil trains a day (I think). That certainly should help keep the SDL open but what about paths from Cardiff to Bridgend, a rather busy section if Maesteg – Cardiff goes half-hourly as proposed.

      Where would this new depot at Milford be, on one of the two surviving oil refinary branches (one still in use, the other unused)?

      • Blocking Back

        A reliable source informs us that NR has already done the timetabling for all these additional trains – they’re much more pro-active these days about getting freight back onto the rails.

        It’s no secret that the biomass/biodiesel depot will be going into the old RN Mine Depot at Milford Haven. Options for rail include re-opening the old RN branch-line through Milford Docks (the track-bed is still there) and re-opening the still-intact rail yard at the Petroplus (formerly Gulf) Waterston Refinery and running a tramway or conveyor from the mine depot up the hill to the refinery railhead. The more optimistic reports suggest that BOTH these options will be used.


    10 to 20 trains A DAY? Is that correct? Sounds incredible! And great news all round if it’s going to happen.

  21. Anthony

    Perhaps some paths could be freed up with electrification since emu’s have much better electrification plus you have the option of attaching/detaching swanline/maesteg services at Bridgend.

    some services could be send via the vale fo glamorgan line if the jct at Bridgend is sorted and finally you have the option of some freight trains running via the heart if wales line if required

  22. Swansea Jack

    The plan is that Swanline will run Port Talbot to Llanelli in the future, with Pyle served by the Manchester – Milford / Carmarthen trains. Maesteg to Cardiff goes half hourly, so the pinch point will be between Bridgend and Cardiff, for which the Vale of Glamorgan could prove useful for the additional freights if needed. Much of the freight traffic could be routed through South Wales at night too, in much the way that a large proportion of the oil traffic is nowadays. It certainly would be a positive development if this bio-diesel traffic was to commence, I would expect a re-use of the mothballed freight branch at Waterson rather than rebuilding the old Newton Noyes branch from Milford though.

    • Rhydgaled

      Making the Swanline service extend to Llanelli would be daft as it would be unable to make use of electrification. I also agree with Anthony that cutting the Swanlines back to Port Talbot in the easterly direction is not ideal, but if they can’t be pathed they can’t be pathed (run them into the bay a Bridgend if it’s possible but reaching Cardiff isn’t).

      In my opinion, the eastbound service from Swansea (after electrification) should look like:
      Hourly to London Paddington (electric, no bi-modes please)
      Hourly to Ebbw Vale/one of the Cardiff Valleys (electric, all-stations, Swanline service)
      Hourly to Bristol Temple Meads (electric, calling at Neath, Port Talbot, Pyle, Bridgend, Cardiff, then taking over from the present Cardiff -Taunton)
      Hourly to Manchester (Neath, Port Talbot, Bridgend, Cardiff) (since this would have to be diesel, it is this one I would drop if there aren’t enough paths).

      All the above would orriginate at Swansea, all Pembs/Carmarthenshire services would either terminate at Swansea or be routed via the Swansea District Line. The Manchesters would ideally be formed of four or five coaches. Given the absence of west-facing bay platforms at CDF, Maesteg – Cardiff services would run through to Ebbw Vale or one of the Cardiff Valleys also.

      I guess running the proposed bio-diesel frieghts at night would be useful, if they ran 10-20 freights during the day it’d make introducing an hourly Milford Haven passenger service more expensive (as you’d probably have to make it double-track from Clarbeston Road to Haverfordwest or Johnston).

  23. Anthony

    Cutting abck teh swanlines to Port Talbot I think will piut off a lot of people from using teh swanline stations if they have to change at Port Talbot to get to Cardiff.

    What is needed really is a train between Swansea & Cardiff every 20 minutes with a half hourly Maesteg – Cardiff service which should be able to get pathed between Bridgend & Cardiff especially with emu’s are being used they manage to path all the crosscity trains between the long distance services into Birmingham New Street and we are have all new signalling which should be able to cope with additional trains.

  24. Swansea Jack

    The plans for making Swanline Llanelli – Port Talbot surfaced a while back – before the electrification plans included Swansea. It was seen as a way of using the additional capacity through Gowerton after re-doubling. The idea of using the bay platform at Bridgend would be difficult as there is no line from the Pyle direction that accesses the up (northside) bay at Bridgend and it again removes the through service to Cardiff which the Swanline stations need. I would guess that electrification and the Cardiff Metro plans will have caused big changes to proposed service patterns and it will be interesting to see SWWITCH’s proposals over hte coming months.

  25. Well, how many of these presents were received during 2013?

    Also, if the future of the SDL depends on the oil traffic today has brought some rather worrying news: the Robeston oil refinery (the last one to using rail in Pembrokeshire) could close.

    Losing the SDL would be bad for Carmarthen, Milford and possibly Fishguard, as well as the prospects of making a strong case for a new railway between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth.

    • Spad

      Thanks for reminding us to check our present list … oh dear –

      Trolleys on all trains? NO
      412 routed past Fishguard and Goodwick? NO
      Sardine Express retimed to reduce congestion? NO
      Mid afternoon service to fill the gap? NO
      Live train display on Fishguard Square? NO
      Welsh Government opposes singling Swansea District Line? NO
      Guards announce change at Clarbeston for Fishguard? NO
      Fishguard and Goodwick passengers get Fishguard and Goodwick tickets? SOMETIMES
      Clarbeston Road live train indicators? YES!
      Swansea Jack names the May 1982 axeman? NO
      Irish Rail reopens to Waterford? NO
      Bigger car park at Fishguard and Goodwick? NOT YET

      So that’s nine NO, one SOMETIMES, one NOT YET and one YES.
      Does anyone want to apologise for the delay, and any inconvenience caused?

      • Nine NOs. Oh dear indeed. The YES and the SOMETIMES are good news though, and at two of least two of the NOs were to be expected given the rather locked-in-stone nature of our trial service…

        …Speaking of which, one hopes that Fishguard gets some form of present in September. However news out yesterday is that 3yr trials for enhance services on the Cambrian and Heart Of Wales lines will start in May 2015. Given the rumours/opinions I’ve read online, and the shortage of both government funds and rolling stock, that might not bode well for the Fishguard branch. Let’s hope it is the Anglesea – Cardiff air link, rather than the Fishguard rail service, that is axed to pay for the enhanced rail service in other parts of Wales.

  26. Swansea Jack

    Great news for both the Cambrian Line and the Central Wales (Heart of Wales if you prefer). Also good to see that HOWLTA will be involved in looking into further enhancements into services on the route between Swansea and Shrewsbury.

    • Just noticed that the new ATW timetable booklets are online. To my supprise, despite the heading SUMMER at the top of the timetable for our area (timetable 3), the timetable runs from May to December, rather than May to September in previous years. This means there’s no obvious timetable change date when the Fishguard trial service ends. However at least one column has a footnote to the effect that the 06:42 from Cardiff on Saturdays arrives at FGH at 09:43 until the 6th of September. From September 13th onwards, it is timed to arrive at 09:47, after a delay splitting from the Pembroke Dock train at Whitland.

      Just a careless blip, or confirmation-by-stealth that the Fishguard service after September will be similar to now? Still no announcment from WAG about the future of Fishguard’s rail service.

      • Spad

        Rhydgaled – have you stumbled across the biggest story since the start of our trial service? We are making inquiries …

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